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How to Select Human Resources Information Technology

Questions to Ask to Determine HR Information Technology Needs

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Human Resources information technology (HRIS) is essential for companies to manage their benefits plans and their employee information. Benefits management technology is no longer a nice to have, but a necessity to help HR manage both a sea of information and the money spent on benefits plans, as HR faces limited resources and constantly changing data. But how do HR and other executives know they are selecting the best HR information technology to manage all of the details, and that the solution they select will stand the test of time?

Following are the key questions to ask and answer in the process of selecting Human Resources information technology.

  • What is the degree of flexibility and scalability that the HR information technology software provides? HR professionals should determine if the software can import data from multiple Excel spreadsheets, databases, and paper documents and the level with which it can interface with all kinds of systems and data.

    The software should be able to take in and filter information from multiple sources. Ideally, this process should also be automated. Many online enrollment solutions require that data be manually manipulated before it can go to a carrier to update their systems. Automation of the update format, transmission schedule and delivery method can help to eliminate billing and eligibility issues.

  • Will the software be able to accommodate HR's company and benefits carriers rules? A truly capable enrollment engine will evaluate each enrollment activity and apply any necessary combination of rules, messages, prompts, and options specifically designed to meet the exact eligibility requirements desired. The software should accommodate any eligibility rules that the company and carriers have.

  • Will the HR information technology be able to grow and scale with the organization? HR should assess the technology's ability to grow as the company brings on new employees, offices, benefits changes, and rules. HR should ask about the thresholds for each of these elements.

  • Is the HR information technology software able to integrate with other systems? Payroll and other functions often share much of the same information as benefits management. HR can obtain greater efficiencies when data and other employee information entered into one system can be shared with another system.

  • Who is responsible for implementing, or building, the solution? What level of training is involved? Some solutions require the client to be very involved with the initial implementation, which can be overwhelming for already busy HR administrators.

    HR should have a clear understanding of the level of training and technical expertise that will be required and the amount of time expected. Questioning solution providers on this topic can provide insight into subtle areas that might initially appear simple, yet involve significant technological expertise. HR can then determine specific tasks that may be so cumbersome as to realistically impede completion, potentially reducing HR information technology value and ROI.

  • If training is involved, is there a charge? Costs of training should also be assessed - including time away and travel expenses for off-site travel. HR needs to become aware of all hard and soft costs involved in the HR information technology adoption.

  • Who will own the data? The answer to this question should be the Human Resources organization. Companies should be able to transport their data to any Application Service Provider (ASP). If the data resides on a carrier's proprietary server, the company may sometimes be charged additional fees should it switch carriers.

  • What types of maintenance and upkeep are required? When software is installed on a company's on-site workstations or servers, regular updates to that technology are often required and may be cumbersome to plan for and manage. Updates to HR information technology are often made automatically with software available online through an Application Service Provider (ASP) or Software as a Service (SaaS) model.

  • What security measures are built into the HR information technology? If the software is available online, through an ASP or SaaS model, the provider should offer daily backups, backup servers, and added protective layers. Additional systems and procedures should be in place to safeguard information from being lost or accessed by unauthorized personnel. HR, in consultation with other managers, should have exclusive authority to decide who will be allowed access to the HR information technology and to what degree.

  • Will employees be able to enroll in benefits plans and make changes in real-time to their personal data and plan choices? Employee access should be a given, considering the widespread, general access to computers; 70% of the population has Internet access at home. Employee self-service provides huge potential to save time and money. A good self-service system will guide employees smoothly through entering information about themselves and their dependents.

    The system should clearly present the plans available and enable employees to make selections at their convenience, simplifying these actions throughout the process with wizards. Employees should also be able to add dependents and change information as necessary, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
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