For years now, Software has been an acknowledged and important part of HR management. This started with spreadsheets and employee data bases, and now moves through to complete HRIS mega-systems. The importance of software is borne out in the fact that the CIPD's HR Software Show consistently attracts 1,200 each year - as well as leading suppliers.
But, software is increasingly performing a real and pivotal role within the actual HR team. Employees and managers are often directed to HR solutions as their first port of call for process management, transactions and even issue resolution.
Self-service systems provide the 'Face of HR' when colleagues in an organisation need to interact with the team, and this is often a very positive experience. With the advent of second-life websites and social networking pages, people are used to managing their data and interacting within online communities. But it's the community that's key.
If an employer brand and a company's culture can be conveyed effectively through the look, feel, language and navigation of a HR software system, then the solutions can provide that extra pair of hands for HR. A win-win situation can develop whereby HR free themselves of low-value-add administration through automation, employees have a consistent, reliable and repeatable service from their HR team, and managers assume devolved responsibility in a way that's less onerous - using workflow, as well as self-service.
This raises the stakes for positive adoption of HR Software though; in order to recognise the benefits of introducing a new solution an organisation must be able to measure productivity improvements, as well as feel increased engagement. However as the CIPD reveal in their 2007 survey of HR professionals, 77% of UK organisations have some form of HR Information System in place, but 63% would do it differently if they started again.
Often this desire to 'do things differently' is focused on communication, training and change management, as much as it is on budgetary or project planning. This is because HR is intrinsically about people - dealing with people, managing people and interacting with people - which can sometimes seem at odds with introduction of software.
This doesn't need to be the case in a market as open as that of the HR software provider. Choice means the ability to find a supplier with cultural fit, as well as all the right features and functionality.
In a world where economy and productivity demand that technology plays its part in most, if not all, aspects of working life, the right Software can and should feel like an extension of the HR team, rather than something that's alien or distancing HR from its colleagues.