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The case for change the growth of HR software

Bersin by Deloitte have a well-publicised model of how the HR software market has evolved over the past 20 years. First came the HR Process Automation, then Integrated Talent Management, followed by Engagement and Productivity. The recent explosion of ‘mobile apps’ is arguably the greatest change of all, with rate of innovation accelerating, leading to the proliferation of choice.

There are currently three big technology shifts changing how people buy HR software :

  1. Any device, any place, any time. This is about responsive design ensuring the same version of the software can work seamlessly on desktops, tablets and smart phones. There is no longer the need for complexity and cost of maintaining multiple mobile Apps for iOS, Android and Windows
  2. Single platforms fit for digital age. These are based on a shared software foundation, on top of which various product modules and features are built. A customer specific layer then enables a tailored solution and user experience. In addition to offering greater flexibility and choice, platform based architectures are readily extensible, enabling rapid, low cost software development
  3. People analytics – enabled by easy access to all data. Readily accessible data is essential for the next big trend on ‘predictive’ analytics and readiness for artificial intelligence. This is all about joining the dots across the employee lifecycle and understanding lead indicators that underpin performance outcomes. Traditional HR data needs to be combined with more socially oriented data sets relevant to employee engagement.

Stick, Twist or Bust?

With all this technology change, for those in the hospitality sector the choice is clear – ‘Stick’, ‘Twist’ or ‘Bust’.

‘Stick’ is staying with your current HR/Payroll solution and trusting that your provider will develop their product and integrate them over time.

‘Twist’ is taking the decision to supplement your HR/Payroll solution with new point solutions, incorporating additional features but accepting higher costs and lack of integration.

‘Bust’ is the hard choice of accepting that your HR/Payroll solution, likely developed in the era of HR process automation, is not fit for the digital age – and it’s time for change.

At the heart of this debate, is the need for a better understanding on the trade-offs between single platforms versus multiple best in breed or integrated solutions. This is a hot topic – according to Bersin: “HR software buyers today want systems with fewer features and less complexity, not more. Research shows that 47% of companies will replace their multiple HR systems with one unified solution, 67% will select this system based on ease of use rather than quality of features”. So why is this?

Best in Breed / Integrated Solutions

Whilst it is always possible to find a best in breed solution for a given area such as Engagement, Recruitment, Learning or Workforce Management, this normally comes at a cost. It can prove problematic (or impossible) to integrate with other systems, and prove difficult to access and merge data. The user experience can also be great on one system, but overall engagement compromised as employees have multiple log-ins, undermining uptake for all but mandatory use.

As nn alternative, many HR / Payroll vendors offer ‘Integrated’ solutions (not to be confused with ‘Single Platforms’). These integrated solutions are often a combination of various software acquired by the HR / Payroll vendor to complete their product set, or in-house developments that layer a modern user experience on top of dated software. Whilst this can enable companies to consolidate vendor management, it is not without its own problems. The user experience is rarely seamless, and underneath the covers, the various integrations increase maintenance costs, risks outages and limits data access. Over time, speed of innovation slows and costs increase, as development becomes harder. It can become a trap that is difficult to escape.

Single Platforms – Win / Win in Bite Sized Chunks

For start-ups or smaller companies looking to invest in their first HR / Payroll solution, the choice is easy. There is no baggage, and the promise of a single platform fit for the digital age has huge appeal. For others with legacy HR systems it is not so simple. The case for change is usually driven by immediate business needs, each of which might be met by a ‘best in breed’ solution or the current HR / Payroll provider. Biting the bullet to partner with a Single Platform vendor may seem like an idea for the future. However, what is often missed is that these platforms are modular. This means that any transition can be broken down into bite-sized chunks, focusing on immediate business needs, whilst creating options to fill capability gaps or replace legacy systems over time. For larger corporates, it may start with a unifying engagement portal – providing a layer of user experience calm as legacy systems are replaced over time. For smaller / medium sized companies, it may start with specific needs in Recruitment or L&D, a productivity challenge requiring Workforce Management or a contract renewal prompting a review of HR / Payroll. Whatever the trigger, the time is right for considering the win / win opportunities of single platforms


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