The ABC’s of HR Technology
Earlier this week I was engaged in a discussion on twitter with a few individuals debating the value of all the acronyms in the HR Technology space and what it all really means. HRIS, HCM, ERP, ATS, CRM, BI, EDW, TA, TAS, TM, TMS, LMS, et al. Those of you who know me know how hard this is for me to admit, but … I find the various acronyms for HR technology to be confusing. There… I said it.
If someone who follows the space for a career can’t keep it all straight, how is the typical HR or IT professional able to keep track? In addition to worrying about the technology in their areas of responsibility, these folks have day jobs which encompass things other than technology. In short, the market is complex and confusing – but does it need to be?
I’m not sure that the market needs to be as confusing as it has been, and more importantly as there is continued consolidation of point technology solutions towards fully integrated suites, the individual capabilities attributed to each of the acronyms become less relevant. Until the point in time in which this becomes reality, I’m proposing the following standard definitions for industry acronyms:
HRIS – Human Resource Information Systems: Typically a transactional system designed to house employee demographics, current and historical job information, salary information, as well as often including capabilities to track & administer benefits enrollment/elections, and payroll processing. While there are a host of other capabilities that these systems can provide, the capabilities listed above are the most common.
ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning: ERP systems are typically those provided by vendors such as Oracle, SAP, Lawson, etc. They often have HR capabilities in addition to features to support financial management, supply chain management, inventory and much more. Many times an organization will have a single vendor for ERP and “bolt-on” HRIS capabilities through the vendor-provided modules
HCM – Human Capital Management: The term HCM is a broad-based definition for any technology which is used to track and manage the people in an organization. This can often include HRIS, ATS, TMS, LMS, and much more.
ATS – Applicant Tracking System: Technology used to track job requisitions, applicant flow, applicant status, communications with candidates, interviewer notes, plus online job postings and integration with 3rd party job boards & job distribution partners
CRM – Candidate Relationship Management: Technologies used to help facilitate the marketing/search elements of recruitment such as delivering email campaigns to maintain contact with candidates and potential candidates. This is an interesting segment of the market and one that has been growing fairly rapidly
BI – Business Intelligence: With a host of disparate applications being used to run a business, there has to be a better way to aggregate and correlate data between systems. Fortunately someone else saw this opportunity many years back and have evolved solutions to where you can not only report on information across multiple systems, but have more robust analytical capabilities through this technology. Utilizing BI tools for talent management capabilities and decision support lends itself to an emerging market called Talent Intelligence (TI). Vendors who operate in the BI space include Oracle, Cognos (IBM), Hyperion (Oracle), Business Objects (SAP), etc. Interesting to note that the three largest independent vendors in the space have been acquired by IBM, SAP, and Oracle.
EDW – Enterprise Data Warehouse: If you have several ERP applications and/or other business applications to leverage, where do you store all the data to be analyzed by your BI tools? In your Enterprise Data Warehouse of course. An EDW would typically include sales data, financial data, people data, performance/talent data, etc. Data in an EDW is stored differently than would be stored in its native application to help facilitate easy reporting and analysis. Additionally the data can very easily be reviewed from a trending perspective as well as a high-level summary which can “drill-down” into transactional details which make up the high-level numbers.
TA – Talent Acquisition: Business processes and practices related to the recruitment function.
TAS – Talent Acquisition Systems; Historically referred to as the ATS Talent Acquisition tools enable the recruitment process via technology from job requisition to job postings all the way through new hire on-boarding. TA tools generally have the ability to configure job libraries, online screening/assessment questions, automated email templates, and allow recruiters to easily search candidates and track (hence the ATS name) who is in consideration for which job. Big players in this space are Taleo, Kenexa, iCIMS, Silk Road as well as the ERP solutions, and many more.
TM – Talent Management: While there are several schools of thought on the scope of what is included under the definition of Talent Management, I typically define it as “managing, optimizing, and understanding the supply and demand of talent within the enterprise” Processes which may fall under the TM area of functionality range from talent acquisition, performance management, succession/talent review, learning & development, career development, and compensation. While technically TA and Comp can be included in the definition of TM, most organizations have not yet adopted this broad of a definition ad instead consolidate the functions listed above except for recruiting and compensation.
TMS – Talent Management Systems: Technologies that assist with functions related to the business processes of Talent Management. Functionality ranges along a spectrum from transactional to strategic. Transactional meaning automating processes formerly conducted on paper such as performance appraisals, merit reviews, bonus allocations, etc. Strategic meaning analysis of rich data related to people in the organization, correlating performance reviews to business results, matching talent with opportunities through career development and succession processes, to analysis of bench strength, talent pipeline, critical roles, etc. Leading vendors in this space include SoftScape, StepStone, SuccessFactors, Taleo, Authoria, Halogen, Plateau, Sum Total, Saba, Cornerstone OnDemand, and a host of others
LMS – Learning Management Systems: While technically LMS is a subset of TM technologies, it has long been a stand alone function related to course management and eLearning content delivery used by corporate learning professionals to administer the educational process in-house. Since the core capabilities of these solutions have largely become a commodity, the vendors have been busy evolving their products to become more complex, and more tightly engaged in the talent management and development processes. As a result, many of the leading LMS vendors are also listed in the TAS vendors; Sum Total, Saba, Plateau, etc. Additional options here include Learn.com, GeoLearning, and others.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of definitions it should serve well as a foundation from which to grow. I encourage readers to add to the list, debate/dispute the definitions, etc as this can become a valuable resource for others. I look forward to everyone’s comments