Reasons for the low level usage of human resource information systems (HRIS) have been examined from various perspectives in the HRIS literature including organizational size, the HRIS’s time in use, culture, strategy, power, politics, and IT skills (Ball, 2001), but these do not include any attempt at studying the decision making aspect during project planning and the consequent impact on the level or type of usage of HRIS. In this article, the role of planning in ensuring consistent and high quality use of HRIS is discussed. Also, the article emphasizes methods for improving the HRIS planning process by understanding the factors that might promote feasible and successful HRIS projects.
HRIS is a “system used to acquire, store, manipulate, analyze, retrieve, and distribute pertinent information regarding an organization’s human resources” (Tannenbaum, 1990, p. 27). It is a computer-based technique for collecting, storing, maintaining data, and retrieving information about employees and their jobs (Targowski & Deshpande, 2001). HRIS was originally used to produce pay check and payroll reports and maintain personnel records with most of the HRIS having been developed in-house on mainframe computers. But, the recent development in IT such as client-server networks, LAN’s and WAN’s and the Internet’s World Wide Web, have enabled HR to build a far more accurate picture of their workforce and produce more accurate information for better decision making.
The revolution of Internet-based human resources or e-HR for instance has created a real-time, information-based, self service, and interactive working environment that allows HR to use human resources both effectively and efficiently (Lengnick-Hall & Moritz, 2003). HRIS is basically directed toward the HR department itself and the users are mainly the HR staff, while e-HR targets the group of people outside of the HR department (Rüel, Bondarouk & Looise, 2004). With e-HR, managers can have the opportunity to access relevant information and data, conduct analyses, make decisions, and communicate with others in a much faster way. Similarly, employees can control their own data without having to consult with the HR department, unless it is necessary. In short, the automation of the human resource function does not only improve human resource management efficiency by reducing the number of people needed to perform routine tasks, but the human resource staff also can now spend less time on day-to-day administrative issues and more time on strategic decision making and planning (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, & Wright, 2004).
Even though the literature continually emphasizes the potential benefits of HRIS, the reality shows that many organizations are not using their HRIS as effectively as expected and the usage is somewhat limited (Bassett, Campbell, & Licciardi, 2003; Bortolon, 2003; Broderick & Boudreau, 1992; Hall & Torrington, 1986; Rüel et al., 2004; Russell, 2006). Research indicates that most organizations have not moved beyond using HRIS as an “electronic filing cabinet” for keeping relevant staff information such as age, gender, years of service, classification, qualification, and previous work history and processing routine administrative tasks rather than facilitating a strategic focus for HR within the organization (Bassett et al., 2003; Kinnie & Arthurs, 1996). For example, in the training and development area, HRIS has been used most frequently for monitoring and administrative purposes (such as to store course administration and evaluation information) rather than for analytical tasks like skills matching (Ball, 2001).