The usual conversation among HR technology consultants invariably centers around the problems with integrating legacy HR systems with new best-of-breed apps. Such was the case today on the Bill Kutik radio show in which he interviewed Jason Averbrook of Minneapolis-based Knowledge Infusion.
I’ve written about Bill’s show before, in fact it was after his previous interview of Jason in 2008. Both guys are super-articulate and fun to listen to as well. I don’t think I heard one um or stutter during the entire 30+ minute program. Also, they are hard-core HR technology people. So if you’re going to listen to an HR technology discussion, this was it.
Nevertheless I felt that they gave application integration – the glue that integrates say an SAP HR app with a Taleo or Monster – an easy pass. As a programmer (and not-coincidentally the vendor of a fully integated HR/payroll/talent suite), I’ve worked on no small number of such integrations over the decades, and they only get harder as the integrator needs to weld together increasingly sophisticated systems based on entirely different toolsets.
I suspect that when consultants get together with a client to talk about such integrations, they gather requirements and plan and come away with a conclusion like “That integration will take approximately five many-years.” But such analyses obscure the fact that only a small percentage of software developers are highly competent, and of them only a small percentage of them happen to be hyper-fluent (the fluency required to do an integration) on the different platforms in question.
And even in the case of marginal success in such projects, you then have the problem that the integration code itself becomes a maintenance nightmare. All this is a big reason people hate IT, but it’s not IT that brought it on. Rather it’s a lack of coherent corporate vision combined with a hornets nest of political infighting.
Here’s the comment I left on the HR Technology Linked In page concerning their interview:
“I enjoyed the show but would have liked a more developed discussion on the problems of integration.
The undertone was that if only the best-of-breed talent app integrated better w legacy HR then all would be peachy king. However, such integrations besides being nasty to implement carry long-term problems in and of themselves as it gets harder to move the upgrade the glue than it is the components it binds.
These integrations also tend to camouflage more deeply rooted problems like a lack of organizational resolve to execute on core ERP. I could be mistaken but there was an unfortunate hint of ERP-is-bad (the cousin of isn’t-SAAS-wonderful) all to common to HR technology discussions.”