Best-in-Class vs Unified HR Technology

While it may not be as old as the question, “To be or not to be…”, the question of whether HR Technology is most effective in the form of a best-in-class model or a unified solution model has been debated for quite some time. However, only recently has the answer for me become less clear. I have always been a fervent supporter of unified solutions — and its cousin the integrated solution. I felt as though it was always better to go with a solution that automatically and consistently turned a single keystroke into multiple events (termination entered into HRIS automatically stopped payroll, initiated COBRA, notified carriers, initiated workflows for property return, etc). Actually, I still believe quite firmly in having all systems together and working in lock-step unison. However, some of the newer HR technology is causing me to take a step back and evaluate my historical perspectives a bit. The recent emergence in HR Technology that has caused me to reconsider my position is two-fold….1) the depth, breadth, and usability/engagement factor of the stand-alone, best-in-class systems; and 2) the growth of fully-unified systems (one database) and the speed at which some of them have come into prominence. Regarding #2, it used to be that there were one, maybe two, SMB providers that had a fully unified solution. That number has grown considerably over the last several years and, in doing so and as quickly as they have, those solutions may have cut some corners in terms of depth and breadth of a particular domain (benefits, e.g.). As a result, the benefits administration portion of a unified solution may be lacking some of the bells/whistles that a best-in-class solution offers. Additionally, and staying within the benefits administration industry, many of the best-in-class providers have invested considerable dollars into their decision support tools and user interface. They have leap frogged over many of the integrated/unified providers in terms of driving consumerism and achieving the objective of helping employees make better decisions around their benefit elections. So, the historical question of what’s a better solution, unified/integrated vs best-in-class, isn’t as cut and dry as it used to be. In my opinion, the answer lies in the obligatory vagueness of “it depends” (how is that for consultant speak?!?!). In all seriousness, I believe the answer lies in the requirements of the organization asking the question. If an employer is looking for efficiency gains and a lack of integration has been a problem over the years, then the answer is likely for them to seek a unified/integrated solution. If, however, an employer is primarily looking to drive consumerism and help employees take charge of their healthcare by utilizing targeted decision support tools, then the answer may be for the employer to look at best-in-class providers and work diligently with their payroll/HR company to integrate the solutions. Of course, the questions and answers are never quite as cut/dry as what I’ve described above, but the examples are intended to share with you a bit of how MillsonJames goes about consulting with a client and trying to help them answer this all-important question. With the hundreds of solutions available in the market today, I’m not surprised that many organizations throw their hands up and cry uncle when they begin scouring the market on their own. It can be overwhelming and frustrating. At MillsonJames, we can help make sense of the madness and can bring clarity to the evaluation process. Our goal is to Advance HR through Technology and we’re passionate about achieving that objective for our clients and the industry as a whole.

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