You have lots of HR software with lots of acronyms.

And you have ambitious visions of team members using cool visualizations to improve outcomes and efficiency.

But your reality is far different.  Data is all over the place.  It’s not consistent.  And you’re not really sure if it’s secure.

Strategic visions are great.  But you need to make sure your basics are in order first.  The Seven Basics of HR Data Success:

  • Consistency vs consolidation
  • Ownership Before Automation
  • Validate, Validate, validate
  • Security from the start
  • People before technology
  • Infrastructure and applications
  • Learn, learn, learn

Consistency vs consolidation

Data integration means two things:

  • Making sure that data is consistent across all your systems
  • Bringing data from diverse systems together so that you can have a “single source of reporting truth” and fully understand everything you might want to know about your team members in one place.

You start with consistency.  Meaning, for example, that every employee has one name, one position, and one start date in every system you use.  And if that person changes position, that position change if reflected everywhere.

It’s only when this is done that you can move on to consolidation and building that single source of people analytics truth.   This post is about getting consistency and security right.

Ownership before Automation

  • Someone on your team needs to own the data.  Owning the data means:
  • Knowing what HR systems you have.
  • Knowing what outside systems or non-HR systems use data from your systems
  • Knowing every integration point between all these systems.
  • Knowing how all that data is validated on regular basis. 
  • Knowing how access is controlled.

Being the tough one when people try to push ahead on new initiatives without making sure the nuts and bolts are taken care of.

Saying “that has to stop” when you see a data problem – and having the authority to make that happen.

Yes, we believe in team work.  And no one person in a decent size organization.  But someone needs to own all this. 

Looking at the list above, do you have someone who clearly has the knowledge.

Validate, Validate, Validate

In the previous point, we mentioned validation. Here’s why that’s so important.

Data is complex.  Data changes.  Organizations reorganize.  

You cannot assume that because you tested an interface between systems extensively when you implemented a certain software that it will work for the rest of time.  You need to have ways that data is compared and validated on a regular basis. And that it can be fixed when a discrepancy is found.

Too often, folks build interfaces that work great.   But then fail silently in the future.  Or can’t be reset when a problem arises.

As with most things in life, so with data. Things will go wrong. And you need to be ready.  And that’s what validation is about.

Security from the start

In 2023, most business people have heard of the importance of a single source of truth.  You agree instinctively that you want to have one place where people look for a certain piece of data.

Unfortunately, if you’re like many folks, you don’t apply the same logic to security.  So, if you have multiple systems, security is handled separately in each system.

This is not a good thing.  Especially if you push data to multiple reporting systems like Power BI and Qlik.
You need to think from the beginning how the security that you set up in your primary system (HCM or Payroll) is reflected throughout your other systems.

Of course, there will be exceptions.   For example, recruiters will have move access to an applicant tracking system then they will in payroll.  But in general, if Jane manages Bob, Jane should see Bob’s info in pretty much every system. And not Dan’s

People before Technology

You work in HR.  So, you get that good people are hard to find.

And you’ve been in business a while, you probably know that when a salesperson tells you that this new software doesn’t need any special support skills, you’re a little skeptical.

But too often, organizations pick technologies and forget these basics.

They don’t ask – how will we support this after we’ve gone live?

Are there good learning resources? Is a skilled business analyst enough or do you need development skills?   Are the required skills easy enough to find?

This is why we believe in “the data you need from the software you already have”. 

We recommend using the most widely used technologies available.   Technologies that are either included with your existing systems or that are freely available.   Technologies that you can find other folks to support if you decide to hire internally or switch to another resource.

So, if anyone, in any part of your business, suggests a new technology, ask, ask and ask again: who’s going to support this latest shiny solution to all your problems.

Infrastructure and Applications

Software as a service has often been a way for folks to get new technology without a lot of IT involvement.  Someone else is supporting the application so IT shouldn’t need to be involved.

This is a bad idea.  You need to cooperate.  Yes, we believe that ownership of the data should reside in the business.

But there are all kinds of ways that data can go astray without proper technical oversight.   Are your laptops secure?   Is everything encrypted?  Does the software coordinate with your general windows authentication so if someone leaves, there access ends in all your systems?  Do you have someone with the expertise to say “Don’t put that in a google doc!”

We call all these things “infrastructure” issues as opposed to the applications where users do their work.

But if there isn’t good coordination between folks who know infrastructure and folks who know the business applications, you’re not going to succeed.


Have you ever seen a situation like this?

You have a learning management system (for example) which basically works.  But no one on the staff has ever really learned to use it?   Ironic.  And sad.  You haven’t learned the learning system.

But just like you have to validate, validate, validate you need to learn, learn, learn.  We asked earlier if someone knew all the systems and all the touchpoints that your organization has.  But for all those systems, when was the last time someone went to formal training? Or a conference?  Or a user group?  Or even looked at an on-line forum?

And when people don’t learn, data degrades.  Because then the problem gets solved in Excel.

If you want good data, you have to keep learning.


We’ve made no mention of great metrics or the best analytics tools in this post.  Because again, this is about the basics.  Without the basics in place, you’ll never get to your vision.  And if the basics are done right, getting strategic is then possible.

If you want to talk more about getting the basics right, let’s talk.

Adam Jacobson

Adam focuses on making enterprise software work for my clients. He’s consulted on financials, procurement and HR/Payroll. Currently, he and his small team focus on UKG Pro, especially Workforce Management (WFM). For more, check out his profile on LinkedIn


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