When to Abandon the Excel Spreadsheet for an HRIS

Melinda Keegan

HR professionals often struggle with Excel spreadsheets and old software programs to organize people, dates, codes, numbers, policies and other important HR related data. They know that other options are out there, including programs and packages that promise to organize, streamline, make you more efficient, analyze and integrate your HR functions. These options are better known as "human resources information system" or HRIS. Is it the right time for your organization, and how do you know if you are a good fit for an HRIS? Here are a few items to consider when thinking about giving up your Excel spreadsheets:

  • How much time does HR spend on administrative tasks such as collecting information for reports, metrics and presentations? Is data being pulled from multiple systems?
  • Does HR participate in key decision making around new programs, employee development, employee retention, employee recruiting, employee compensation guidelines and analysis, HR metrics, succession planning or employee benefits design?
  • Has the company ever been at risk of HR compliance fines due to the inability to track and organize required information?
  • Does HR spend significant time answering questions that managers and employees could answer through self-service modules?
  • Are there certain times of the year or certain projects (i.e., employee benefits statements, open enrollment or succession planning) in which HR employees must work overtime just to get the necessary data for these projects?
  • Are you looking to link information and utilize it to help make business decisions?

If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, you may be ready to consider an HRIS. Next, ask yourself an additional set of questions to further narrow down what type of HRIS to consider:

  • What would you like the system to do; what is your goal?
  • If you currently have a system, what works well with your present system and what issues exist?
  • Who on your team and in the company will have access to the HRIS?
  • Will the HRIS need to be compatible with any other systems at your company?
  • What security requirements do you have?
  • Are there any anticipated major organizational changes that may impact your HRIS choice over the next few years?
  • Do you expect to use this system in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years?
  • What kind of a budget do you have to work with?

While this is not a comprehensive list, it is a good place to start with the sometimes overwhelming idea of implementing an HRIS. Pick your HRIS carefully based on the capabilities you need in your company and take your time when evaluating systems. Remember, purchasing a new system should always be a business decision (never solely an HR or IT decision!), and you should seek to find how a new or upgraded system will help your organization perform better. This value added approach highlights the role of HR as a business partner in attaining your organization's strategic business objectives. Now are you ready for an HRIS?