APIs, Are They the Complete Answer?

Integrating disparate HR applications—such as time and attendance, payroll, and talent management systems—can add tremendous productivity gains. For instance, a common scenario is to integrate an applicant tracking system (ATS) with an onboarding system. By automatically transferring information captured in the ATS about newly-hired employees to the onboarding system, companies can eliminate redundant data entry, save time and cost, and reduce errors.

The availability of broad-based, accessible APIs (application programming interface) is a prerequisite for integrating HR applications. But simply having these APIs is only a stepping stone to a successful integration. It’s rarely as easy as everyone in the delivery chain expects.

Diagram - CM

The Limitations of APIs

Companies that wish to integrate HR applications face three core challenges with APIs.

Lack of technical skill. An API by itself doesn’t do anything but expose data. It takes technical skill and experience to leverage the full capabilities of an API. This is complicated by the fact that every API is unique—there is no universal API standard in the HR world. Most vendors don’t have the time, acumen, or desire to acquaint themselves with all the other APIs with which they might need to integrate, and precious few customers of those systems have that knowledge, either.

Lack of business process skill. Integrations aren’t simply about getting two systems to talk to each other. Integrations must support business workflows. But it takes HR expertise, business acumen and functional understanding to determine how best to integrate systems into those workflows.

Integrations are typically performed by IT professionals, who may lack the business insights to build integrations that support the company’s needs appropriately. API work is not exciting and often falls to the more junior IT team members who can easily overlook a host of subtle idiosyncrasies that an experienced professional would anticipate. Even minor errors can negatively impact critical business processes, such as payroll and benefits.

Not all APIs are created equal. Not all APIs have reliable and comprehensive designs so that all the relevant data elements are transparent, available, and accessible. The best APIs offer:

  • A means to connect the API from a source endpoint to a target endpoint system.
  • The ability to create and manage the workflow of data between these points effectively.
  • The ability to execute processes in a timely fashion and generate alerts with the accuracy that companies expect.
  • Detailed documentation.

The Right Approach for HR Systems Integration

Companies should be able to focus on running and growing their business—not on integrating HR applications. Likewise, vendors of HR applications should focus on building great products, including their own API—not on trying to understand every other HR vendor’s product or every client’s integraion business requirements. The best approach is to collaborate with a partner that has the broad technical and business skillset to make product integration through APIs work to support companies’ business processes.

The ideal partner will offer a data integration platform solution that supports the seamless automated integration of all HR applications—for any client or end-user—with virtually every type of system on the market, both new and legacy. This integration will remove the burden on the end-user to manually combine and automate new applications, which eliminates the risk of revenue and productivity loss, and achieves a better relationship between vendors and clients.

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