The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology

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System of Record: Everything in its Place

systematicHR Avatar

I’m sitting on a plane (delayed of course for 4 hours) thinking about the people around me.  I have the fabulous exit row seat on the A319 where there is no seat in front of me.  The guy in the middle next to me is great.  He’s not a talker, he’s slim, does not intrude on my space at all, and basically minds his own business and his own space.  (My policy on planes is that the guy in the middle seat gets both armrests unless s/he happens to be rude, in which case any “nice” policies go out the window.)  The guy sort of in front of me has decided that since there is no seat in front of me, that he will use my foot space as his trash bin.  He’s basically been dropping his garbage literally on top of my feet for the last couple hours.  I basically kick it back at him at which point he turns around and gives me a nasty glare.  I don’t know why, but I really like order.  Things should go in their appropriate place.  When things go elsewhere where they don’t belong, problems seem to start.

For some reason, this has be thinking about systems of record and why this is such a hard thing to implement well.  There seem to be lots of battles around system of record.  Should your employee address reside in your HR or payroll system?  Assuming they are actually different systems, some people will argue that all core employee indicative data resides in the HR system as the primary and gets interfaced to payroll and everywhere else.  In general however, if the address is not current in the HR system, the ramifications are relatively minor.  In the payroll system, local taxes can go awry, garnishments are not paid or are calculated incorrectly, and year end tax statement go to the wrong place.  Then there is the never ending argument that comes from Payroll departments.  HR just does not care as much about these things.  Let’s say things are still entered manually (god forbid).  HR departments might sit on an address change for a while, but Payroll departments are all over it.

I also think about competencies.  Do competencies belong with job data in core HR? or do they sit better with all the talent stuff in a talent system?  Wait, wait, you have multiple talent systems?  Which talent system?  Are the competencies designated with the job analysis?  And do we care where the competencies are designed if they are only utilized at the talent process level?

It really comes down to data governance (do we hate data governance yet?  We should, but we don’t because not enough of us are doing it well yet).  I was recently speaking to an organization who decided that the global employee addresses were owned by the legal department in the organization.  They decided it was not HR or Payroll simply because there were enough compliance issues from global safe harbors to payroll compliance and data privacy that it could only be owned by legal.  In turn, it would then be legal’s right to decide where the system of record would be.  When it comes down to competencies, who owns this thing?  Is it compensation?  More often than not it’s talent, but this is indeed one of those data elements that get defined in such a cross functional way that it’s hard to navigate the waters.

The hope is that with the continued evolution of real time API’s and middleware, integration of data elements keeps getting easier and the conflicts that arise due to systems of record ease.

systematicHR Avatar

4 responses to “System of Record: Everything in its Place”

  1. Andrew Avatar

    At the moment my preferred solution is for there to be someone responsible for HR data (not systems, but data and data quality). At the last firm I’ve seen this work they were responsible for analysis and reporting so cared about the quality. Which system it sits in is relatively unimportant, as long as there is a clearly defined correct version and confidence in the processes. I guess it needs to sit where it is most likely to be needed in a time-critical manner.

    Otherwise you are best giving ownership to the person who has most to gain from it being correct. In the address example you give this is likely to be the employee so I would suggest that self-service is needed. With ownership comes responsibility and accountability so whoever wants to own it has to be accountable as well.

    Teams generally want ownership when there is a break-down in trust in whether others can maintain it correctly, hence you get your legal example (I have worked for firms where I could see that sort of thing happening).

    I remember way back, when I was working for a consultancy, studying the claims processes for a huge insurance broker with the aim of moving towards a document management / workflow system. We showed the client one case (not too unusual) where there were something like 12 different photocopies of the documents residing in personal filing systems. There wasn’t the trust and therefore the whole system broke down.

  2. Martin Snyder (Official Recruiting Blogosphere Beadle) Avatar

    well developed control objectives include, as a core element, data classification policies.

    It would make some sense that the people who decide which systems shall control (master) which data should be the same as those enforcing the data classification system, as they will have the most familiarity with the meaning and application of the various data.

    In practice, all but the largest organizations have one “key” system (the ERP/ERP-like system) that generally holds master data. The breakdown is in data governance indeed, but it is simple economics: until quality data warehousing, normalization and analytics are everyday subjects for everyday businesspeople, its just cheaper to clean up messes than to avoid making them in the first place.

    Do you have young kids Dubs ? The cost/reward ratio of keeping things in order at all times slides like an extra-greased sausage McMuffin….

    Two comments in two days- your blog is always interesting !

  3. Naomi Bloom Avatar

    You may want to have a look at the whitepaper I did on this subject, which can be found on Workday’s Web site and listen to the accompanying Webinar. Also, best of luck on your new position with KI.

  4. Meg Bear Avatar

    My [clearly biased] view is that competencies belong with the Employee Profile and that we need to think about increasing the motivation of the EE to care about this record in a similar way we look at address self service.