Data Interfaces: How Can I Share Information with My HCM Solution?

Today’s business systems are most efficient and effective when they work together and share information. Depending upon the HRIS (Human Resources Information System) that you are using or evaluating for purchase, you may need to have a data interface specially developed to allow data to effectively flow between your HRIS and other business solutions within your systems environment.

What’s a Data Interface?

The simple translation: Data interface is the communication between systems – more specifically, in this case, the sharing of unique HR data. Many HRIS solutions include an optional feature to interface HR data with other systems, including, for example, payroll applications. This allows you to input data once that is then shared among your enterprise systems. Data integration is often required when HRIS and payroll systems from different vendors are being used by a customer.

Although an ideal solution scenario may be using a unified solution that satisfies all of your requirements within a single-vendor supported system, for a variety of reasons, many companies opt to retain existing legacy applications such as payroll management software rather than replacing all of their systems at once. Most HRIS and payroll software vendors are experienced at developing and maintaining these interfaces to efficiently exchange data through established export and import routines so that new, upgraded applications can sync and integrate with these legacy systems.

What’s the Process?

Generally, the new HRIS will act as the “point” system, i.e., the primary system of record within this type of interfaced solution. That is, the HRIS will be the primary entry point for entry of new employee information and updating of existing employee records. During an HR data export process, to share the data with the payroll system, an interface routine is periodically run. This identifies, captures, and shares common information, reducing redundant input and highlighting contradictory information between the applications. Depending on the design of the interface, this may be automated to some degree, but often it requires some level of user intervention to select and run the process.

After running an export from the HRIS, the exported data is imported into the customer’s payroll application as appropriate during the pay-period cycles. The timing and frequency of when to run the payroll interface routine is based upon parameters such as pay-period timeframes and convenience, for which the designing vendors and the client will provide guidance. The general design of these types of established data interfaces includes a field-to-field data mapping, to ensure that the correct data is formatted and mapped correctly between the HRIS and the specific applications used by the customer.

Setup and Testing of the Interface

The customer works closely with the HRIS and payroll system vendors during the interface implementation to determine variations or exceptions to the components within the vendors’ standard interface configurations.

The employee records within the HRIS are aligned with those in the payroll application, and a series of parallel tests are performed – ideally over two successive pay periods. After the interface has been implemented and tested to the satisfaction of the vendor(s) and the customer, the process generally becomes systematic and routine and allows for the efficient sharing of information between the two systems.

Are Data Interfaces “Old School,” i.e., Outdated Technology?

Not at all. Many HRIS customers today, including those using highly-complex solutions, are using data interfaces to share information among other business applications, which may include systems like recruitment or performance Management solutions. Depending upon the HRIS and the other systems in your overall solution, additional automated features and database designs may be available to provide a more transparent interface to share data and reduce user intervention in the performance of data exchange procedures.

When considering a new HRIS application, ensure that when you are gathering information and evaluating solution providers you include a review of your data interface requirements. If you are retaining legacy systems and are hoping to incorporate one or more of your existing HR systems into your new solution, it’s an important component to include in the solution evaluation process.

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