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HRIS administration requires close IT-HR collaboration

There's no single ownership strategy for HRIS admin, but there may be some preferences. HR departments with on-premises systems are more likely to keep the tech management duties.

Where the line is drawn between data and technology ownership for HR depends on the organization.

At Cargill Inc., a 160,000-employee global food company, Jamie Mackenzie is the HR process, data and technology leader. For its HRIS administration, he owns HR process and data management, but IT is responsible for the technology, he said.

"I'm the advocate between HR and IT," Mackenzie said. "I push back on IT when they're not delivering on what we need from a product perspective."

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for HRIS administration, which refers to the repository of HR data, as well as the overall HR technical administration. Some HR departments maintain full management and ownership of all aspects of the technology; others move it over to the CIO. No matter how an organization does it, the cooperation between HR and IT to keep things running smoothly needs to be strong.

The Cargill HRIS administration model, where HR owns processes and data and IT owns the technology, works for the firm in another way.

Cargill has standardized its HR IT on SuccessFactors and doesn't run any on-premises systems. Cargill is increasing its automation across the enterprise, which brings a need for people with data and business intelligence skills.

Two months ago, Cargill launched a data platform "focused on delivering the promise of data," which is used by HR, as well as other business areas, Mackenzie said.

Mackenzie acts as an advocate for the new data platform, a role that's similar to the technology side.

HR capabilities

But HRIS administration tells a slightly different story at Avanade Inc.

Dave Gartenberg was hired in 2017 as Avanade's CHRO. The firm is a global IT services provider with 39,000 employees. The HR department used to be responsible for its own technology, but after a year on the job, Gartenberg ported the HR IT operations over to the CIO.

I push back on IT when they're not delivering on what we need from a product perspective.
Jamie MackenzieHR process, data and technology leader, Cargill Inc.

"HR's core capability is not technology," Gartenberg said.

For the HRIS administration partnership to work with IT, "it needs to feel like it's a strong solid line to both departments -- it can't be heavily one or the other," Gartenberg said, who is now the firm's HR transformation director. The firm has standardized on Workday.

Gartenberg said the shift to the CIO reduced some costs because some HR IT support services were duplicates of what IT offered. The two departments designed a governance relationship between HR and IT "to make sure that our voice and interests were heard and acknowledged," he said.

No dominant model

There's no dominant model for HR technology management, said Harry Osle, principal in charge and The Hackett Group's global HR practice leader. About 60% of HR departments manage their own technology and 40% don't, he said.

"There is no wave going one way or the other as I see it," Osle said.

HR departments with customized on-premises systems are more likely to control HR tech management than IT departments, Osle said. On premises "without a doubt is probably costing organizations a lot more money" because of customizations and the fact that vendors no longer support some systems, he said.

Osle believes the 60/40 split will continue. Some organizations inherently believe that the CIO should own everything under the technical umbrella. Other organizations feel that the tech hubs should be within those functions, whether it's procurement or HR, he said.

No matter HR's direction, "the relationship with the CIO has to be forged very well and tightly," Osle said.

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