If you’re a business owner, HR professional, or are part of a management team, chances are you’ve heard the term “single database” when dealing with your payroll or human resources systems. You perhaps have even dealt with the frustrations and limitations of not having a single database system, requiring you to work with different software that are patched together via integrations or data imports in hopes of making them work seamlessly together.
Over the years, more and more employers have sought integrated solutions to manage multiple aspects of their workforce such as payroll, time and attendance, HR, and employee benefits. For this reason, major players in the payroll and HR industry began combining systems that were once stand-alone software, such as payroll and time and attendance, via extensive software integrations. Although this software patching has been highly successful in combining separate system that work almost effortlessly together, there are still various areas where the people who manage these systems continually find frustrations. For this very reason, employers are looking for a truly integrated solution when they’re considering making a switch to a new Human Resource Information System (HRIS) or Human Capital Management (HCM) software. Hopefully the following can provide guidance in your decision and highlight the benefits of using a single database system.
1) Real-time data available in all areas of the system
With a multi database system, employee data that is entered in a time and attendance system, for example, is then transferred over to the payroll software’s database. This is seamlessly accomplished via patches and integrations that automatically transfer the date. The data, however, is not transferred over in real time. The systems periodically speak to each other to transfer new data that has been entered. The time it takes for the system to transfer data varies and depends on how the integration was coded. Systems can talk to each other every minute, which is undesirable because it drastically slows down the systems, so most software developers opt for longer intervals such as every 5 minutes to upwards of an hour. What this means for users of the system is that they have to wait longer periods of time for the data to appear in both systems.
Most integrated systems do have a sync button to speed up the data transfer process and bypass the automatic syncing built into the system which happens periodically. Although it’s a small step, it does become a manual process which can become cumbersome if you are entering data throughout the day. With a single database system, the concept of transferring data between two databases does not exist. If an employee is entered into payroll, for example, they immediately appear on the time and attendance side.
Another major frustration users encounter with patched up systems is the need to enter employee data twice into two or more systems. If there is a data field that appears on one system, but has not been coded to flow into the corresponding field on the other system, the need to manually enter that piece of data arises. Additionally, there could be data fields which appear on one system but are nowhere to be found on the other system. As an example, time off balances which might appear on the time and attendance software might not appear on an HR management software. A user would therefore need to log into both systems in order to make comparisons or decisions. With a single database system, a user is only logged into one system and information such as time off balances can easily be referenced.
2) Build any report you want
When data resides in a single database, it becomes extremely easy for a system to allow users to create highly customizable reports via built in tools such as a report writer. These custom-built reports have the ability to cross-analyze data from payroll, time and labor, and the rest of the modules in the system whose date resides in the one database. This cross analyzation allows for easy and real-time reporting to monitor critical aspects of compliance such as ACA Reporting, where an employee’s benefits eligibility is highly dependent on the number of hours the employee has worked.
3) Ability to scale as your company grows
Scalability is a major factor which business owners should take into account when selecting a system to manage their workforce. As a company grows, the system should have the tools to either eliminate or reduce the pain that comes along with a growing company. If a company finds the need to begin using a previously unused module, such as an employee benefits administration module, a single database system makes it as simple as “turning on” that module. All existing employee information from payroll that is necessary for the benefits management side becomes instantly available.
4) A wide array of workflows can be set up
A single database HRIS system gives users the ability to create a wide array of workflows. When a system is receiving centralized real-time data from a single database, workflows are able exist because the entire system is continually communicating. This communication is essential for rules and triggers to be set off, which is the core of how workflows operate. The benefit of workflows is that it automates certain steps and procedures, thus freeing up time for the users of the HRIS system. Workflows also alert users the minute their attention is required for review or approvals, thus speeding up certain processes which require immediate action.
Although an integration between two or more systems has the ability to make the software work together without much friction, there is no denying that having a single database system is better than a multi-database one. Data that is centralized in one location creates a wealth of benefits, making managers more efficient by allowing tasks to be accomplished in the best and fastest way possible. Not only does this free up more time for managers to concentrate on other duties, this directly translates to a company reduction in administrative costs.