Managing the Most Important Assets

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"The magic formula that successful businesses have discovered is to treat customers like guests and employees like people."- Thomas J. Peters quotes (American Author and Consultant)

ON July 21st this year, the Dilbert strip had a profoundly important message. Dilbert requests to keep his management job so that he can narrow the gap between executive and worker. He gets bodily thrown out of the top floor through the window. While this may seen like a humorous situation, it is in fact what HR departments have been doing all over the world. Ever since one human employed another, the question of what's fair has been answered in many ways.

managing-mostA couple of decades ago, the HR department or Personnel Department as it was called then, were the vanguards of the company. Truthfully, people either hated it with a lot of loathing and venom, or at best bore the department as long as they were in the organization. Today, the HR department of most organizations are much more friendly with the employees and are focused on how to keep them in, rather than out. There are many reasons for this huge change, but most of them have had the support of technology.


You can very well imagine the HR department of yonder years who maintained huge files and took ages to process any request. Large organizations and PSUs had computers that ran payroll and other systems, but it took special skills to use them. The MIS department was the sole controller of these large, monolithic hardware and software. Therefore the HR department had no time or inclination to be socialize with the other employees. Probably, the finance department was the only other department that was worse than the HR. These days, in the age where my 4 year old knows how to use the computer and the Internet, the HR team is probably spending less than half their time on the business processes that require mundane task completion. They have time to meet people, identify issues and in many cases anticipate issues that can be resolved. They can, in short, change the way they and others work. And for the better too...


Applications that power your Assets Management (Human Assets that is).


PeopleSoft is the world's best Human Resource Management System. They understand the human element so much that they now call it Human Capital Management. It is huge set of applications that can support almost any conceivable business process in the HR department. Right from Talent Acquisition and Management, all the way to Pension and Retirement Benefits, it has modules that will streamline your enterprise and reduce non productive time for your HRM team. But, on the other hand, it costs an arm and a leg. If you can afford enterprise software, nothing like PeopleSoft for your enterprise. It is so good that Oracle refused to sunset the application when they acquired PeopleSoft.


There are a variety of home grown software in India that probably cater to the needs of most small and medium enterprises for a much lower cost. But there might be other issues that I can envisage with such closed source software. Considering that this is probably the most important element in your organization, you cannot afford to make a mistake. Many organizations I work with, have so far not implemented a HRM system due to either the steep cost, or lack of trust in the other software to keep things on the level. Most organizations still do their payroll manually or using spreadsheets. One company adopted an innovative way using Google docs to achieve their distributed payslip creation. They don't have a HRM system though.

There are a variety of home grown software in India that probably cater to the needs of most small and medium enterprises.

What is the HRM system?


A Human Resource Management System has to essentially cater to the following aspects, at a minimum, to be considered good.


1. Employee Personal Information System: It should be able to store employee information in a central database. It should not only store the currently pertinent information, but should also support storing historical information.


2.   Employment information: The application should be able to capture the employment details in an ongoing basis throughout the time the employee is employed in the organization.


3. Leave management system: There should be at least a rudimentary leave management system that will take the burden out of the employees' and HRM team's hands. The days of the leave letter passed us by over a decade ago.


4. Attendance management system: This is a timekeeping function and is critical to the organization. It should ideally support a variety of time and attendance capture mechanisms, and at the least a manual time entry method. Nowadays, there are many security concerns and tying the attendance management system to the access control system.


5. Payroll system: When you have all the details needed for payroll, why would you not have this? This is important since it takes a big load of the HR department. While we are at it, why not self serve the pay slip as well. Who needs to kill trees for pay slips anymore. If I can get it in my email, I can save it forever.


6. Self service: Considering that most people now know how to use the computer, it makes sense for the employees to lookup most things themselves. Asking the HR department for information that already exists in the database is a waste of everybody's time. If you can check you bank details online, you should be able to do the same for your employment information.


7.  Reports: Last, but not the least, reports are the most important aspect of all management information systems. At least the basic reports should be available with an option to create additional reports as needed.


There's more to the HRM system that these simple requirements dictate. We'll see more of those and some open options for HRM systems in the next installment. Ta.


venkat-mangudiVenkat Mangudi is an Open Source Evangelist and Strategy Consultant based in Bangalore. After having worked across Europe, Asia and the US, Venkat returned home to set up a consulting firm called quite unimaginatively, Venkat Mangudi Consulting ( He can be reached at


Issue BG94 Jan09


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