Help! I’m Implementing HR Technology and I Don’t Speak the Language

API, FTP, SOAP, REST and XML — If you’re not a computer programmer, it’s enough to make your head spin.  And yet, in today’s technologically advanced workplace, these acronyms may be bubbling to the top of your HR integration conversations, regardless of if your role is in payroll, IT or even finance.

For those of you who are interested in a deeper dive into integrating cloud-based software, check out my colleague Bob Riley’s blog post, “3 Keys to Successful Software Integration.”Bob covers the areas of flexibility, security, and documentation in his post, with web services being a common thread throughout all areas.

Did I lose you at web services? If so, then stay put because if you’re an influencer or decision-maker for the purchase and implementation of any HR technology for your business, you’re going to need to know what web services means and how this technology is going to help you be more effective in your role and in helping you achieve your goals.

Let’s start with the basics. Web services is a general term that represents certain technologies that can be used to transmit data across a network. Simply put, it’s a method of communication between multiple devices over the Internet that doesn’t require human intervention.

There are many different types of ways software integration can occur, but most of them require some kind of human action. For example, you download or export a report from your time and attendance software platform, save it as a .csv file, and then import that file into your payroll software platform. While fairly simple, if the file isn’t saved properly or any fields are altered, the import will fail. And, let’s remember, we’re talking about people’s paychecks … Everyone wants that data to be exactly where it needs to be.

With web services, your company can integrate software platforms seamlessly. Your systems can share data, either unilaterally or bilaterally, all depending on the needs of your business. Web service integrations can either be real-time or scheduled every night or every hour. Web services are also extremely flexible because they are both platform and language independent, and they allow organizations to communicate data without intimate knowledge of each other’s IT systems behind the firewall. Honestly, before web services existed, sophisticated software integration was very limited and extremely cumbersome.

What’s really important is that you don’t try to understand how software integrations work AFTER you’ve already selected your software provider. It’s imperative that during the discovery process all key decision makers and influencers know the true integration capabilities of the software that is being reviewed so they will be able to see a true picture of what an end user’s experience will look like.

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