Bruce Thew, President of Ceridian Centrefile, describes how he believes the ASP model for delivering HR software means much more than just a saving in IT resources.
HR, along with other business systems, now has the technology to communicate on-line with all its customers. Line manager and employee self-service is the key to the e-HR revolution. Now managers can have on-line access to information about their staff, and can directly produce reports themselves without involving the HR department. Similarly, on-line data input, combined with workflow to control authorisation, means that routine HR and payroll tasks, such as updating employee addresses, can be delegated to the people directly involved. Employees, too, can view and update their own details where appropriate. The net result is improved efficiency all round.
To implement such a system may well require an expensive upgrade or change to your payroll or HR software, as well as considerable time and effort from your IT department. Yet the benefits are clear, both in terms of manager and employee empowerment, and reduced administration within the HR department. Is there a more economic solution? The answer lies with ASP.
What is ASP?
ASP (Application Service Provider) is a way of providing users with an E-HR solution, without getting involved in software implementation and hardware upgrades. The software is implemented by the supplier on a highly secure datacentre, which provides an exceptional level of resilience, security and back-up. The users access the software from their own PC (or even a palmtop) either by direct line or via the Internet. To the user, it appears as if the application is running on their own PC, when in fact all the action is at the datacentre. The benefits of this are:
- Reduced implementation timescale so the system goes live sooner
- Software is implemented and maintained by the supplier
- Little IT investment is required and users need only a very low level specification PC
- Very little involvement required from in-house IT staff
- The datacentre hardware is constantly upgraded to maintain service levels
- Commercial datacentre level of security and disaster recovery
- Continuous back-up which means that the system can always be rolled back to within a few minutes of an error being made
- Access available via the Internet, allowing users to work anywhere
- Charges are on an ‘as used’ basis, requiring little investment up front.
The diagram illustrates the basic concepts of the ASP solution, with different types of user all having access to the system. The supplier obviously needs direct access to maintain the system, but the user can also authorise the helpdesk staff to have access. This can be very useful, allowing the user and helpdesk to ‘shadow’ each other, so that they both see the same screen and can follow what the other is doing, just as if they were sat side by side.
One data source
The ease with which different users can access the system through ASP, subject of course to authorisation control, opens up the opportunity for the payroll and HR database to become a universal source of information. Over the last four years, take up of Ceridian Centrefile’s HR and payroll solutions delivered through ASP – as opposed to in-house software – has increased from 4% in 2000 to 62% in 2003.
ASP facilitates the integration of the payroll and HR processes, since all users are sharing one and the same system. Not only that, it also improves the accuracy of information for everyone in the business because they are accessing the live payroll database, which is always the most accurate source of employee data. Everyone knows they are working with up-to-date information, including the line managers and employees who have access through self-service.
Where the payroll administration or other HR processes are outsourced, the ASP model works particularly well. While managed payroll outsourcing has proved increasingly popular in recent years, exchange of data between the company and the outsource supplier, usually working on different HR and payroll systems, can lead to some logistical challenges. Now, with ASP, both the company and the supplier work on one shared HR/payroll system. Data flows from its source, is authorised as appropriate through workflow, and updates the shared database. This ensures that business processes run with maximum efficiency, and that all data is up-to-date and available to everyone – delivering the vision for e-HR.