Topics: Human resources, Information systems, Management Pages: 14 (3329 words) Published: October 21, 2013
Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies

CAHRS Working Paper Series
Cornell University ILR School

Year 1996

HR Information Systems: Exploiting the
Full Potential
John W. Boudreau
Cornell University

This paper is posted at DigitalCommons@ILR.

CAHRS / Cornell University
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Ithaca, NY 14853-3901 USA
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HR Information Systems:
Exploiting the Full Potential
John W. Boudreau
Working Paper 9 6 - 0 2

Advancing the World of Work

HR Information Systems

WP 96-02

HR Information Systems: Exploiting the Full Potential

John W. Boudreau
School of Industrial and Labor Relations
Department of Human Resource Studies
Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies
Ives Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York

Working Paper #96-02

This paper has not undergone formal review or approval of the faculty of the ILR School. It is intended to make results of research, conferences, and projects available to others interested in human resource management in preliminary form to encourage discussion and suggestions.

Page 1

HR Information Systems

WP 96-02

Human resource management has always faced a fundamental paradox: Top managers in any company will readily agree that the people are the keys to success, but few believe they know whether their people are well managed or if they are prepared to fortify and enhance the transformations facing the organization. The information tools applied to the employees of an organization pale by comparison with the tools used to analyze markets, financial resources and production design.

This knowledge gap might logically produce lavish investments in technology and research to improve information and management of people. We might expect to see human resource departments becoming larger, better-funded, and staffed with leading "research and development" specialists dedicated to discovering what works to benefit both the organization and its employees. Reality is different. Investments in HR information are often small, and they typically address tactics and administration, rather than HR strategy. The trend is clear, if not painfully evident for any manager: Managing people must become better and faster, use fewer resources, and gain greater involvement from key constituents and customers. The ultimate future human resource function may be "virtual HR," where organizations tap HR resources and HR experts wherever they exist. "HR Departments," "HR Managers," and "HR Specialists" may become as arcane as writing payroll checks by hand. Already, organizations are allied with Universities, consulting firms, software developers, and even their own former employees to achieve "HR only on demand," rather than "HR always at the ready." Even organizations that retain an in-house HR presence expect HR managers to be facilitators, change agents, all while ensuring that the day-to-day essentials are accomplished at ever decreasing costs. The challenge is to preserve the best today's HR, while embracing new opportunities to deliver it more efficiently, and to tear down traditional boundaries. For example, IBM and General Electric use their HR expertise as a marketing tool: If you choose to purchase your power plant equipment from GE Power Systems, your employees will have the opportunity to participate and learn the "change acceleration process" or "CAP" through the GE learning center. HR managers in the GE Power Systems business often spend more than 50% of their time working with customers and suppliers. Clearly, traditional HR systems must change to encompass these new designs.

To become radically more efficient at the basics, and more effective at strategic change, and more boundaryless with internal and external constituents, HR needs help. Logically, technological advances...

References: John W. Boudreau, "HRIS: Adding Value or Just Cutting Costs?" HRMonthly, May, 1992,
pp. 8-12.
Michael Hammer & James Champy, Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto
for Business Revolution (New York, NY: Harper Business, 1993).
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