Yes I know what you all are thinking. Ever since the idea came to write a blog on this topic, I have been preparing myself for another kind of onslaught of questions unkind and scepticism galore. Alfresco as an HRMS? Really? Why? But bear with me for a minute and let us look at what exactly is a human resource management platform and why Alfresco can be an integral part of such type of solution.
As of now every third person reading me here would be wondering why we should use Alfresco when there are many prebuilt HRMS solutions available? Every second person of you must be thinking that even if they are going to use a custom solution approach, like most of the enterprises, then their focus should be more on web portals and similar stuff. And that remaining person, besides wondering what other two are wondering, would be nodding his head in agreement anyways. He would be the person involved with upgrading and scaling his enterprise’s HRMS solutions and writing blogs like this highlighting why it’s important to integrate a document management system before the system has to be scaled up to handle complexities. Maybe.
In our experience, we have seen many enterprises looking to use document management tools like Alfresco and SharePoint for their HRMS. But the most difficult cases were the ones that were already built, without keeping in mind the fact that sooner or later the system will have to handle hundreds of documents for thousands of employees.
So here are the main reasons why you should use Alfresco in your next HRMS project.
1. The obvious reasons: Document management in general
I was doing a proof-of-concept research for an HRMS solution for an Airline company. I counted down the number of documents related to per employee that need to be stored, indexed, and linked to the solution. Documents ranged from standard stuff like employee contract to custom stuff like pilot licences. The average number came around to something like 24 separate documents per employee. And this is when they were very much into the paperless approach.
So imagine the number of documents for around 10000+ employees. And in the fact that the software had to maintain records for temporary contractors as well and the number of documents became overwhelming.
The task of maintaining these many documents, along with user permissions required a specialized software like Alfresco.
2. More specialized reasons – Easy to integrate
Alfresco is Java based with very detailed set of APIs. This in itself make it a whole lot easier to integrate with any pre-built or custom solution that you may be considering for your HRMS solution. Considering the cloud age, my advice is to use a web-based portal solution leaving the workflow management part to the Alfresco itself, which bring us to the third point.
3. Workflow management
The main reason why I am recommending Alfresco as document management system is because Alfresco is so much more than a simple ECM. It also has advanced workflow management capabilities. For example, let’s look at an employee induction process in an organization. It requires gathering CV, sending to appropriate team heads, organizing and documenting interviews or tests, getting approval, once approved building and storing the employee contract, get it signed by the new employee and storing the signed copies, creating and storing all related employee documents like degrees, Insurance policies and payslips, and finally creating fresh performance documents. This whole process is a workflow that can be easily tackled by Alfresco.
This process of storing paper documents also creates an interesting point.
4. Scanning and storing copies of paper documents
Only a human resource intern knows how many documents per day they have to scan. Thier life would be a whole lot easier if their system was smart enough to store the scanned the documents in organized folders and on cloud, with multiple backups. Not only that you can configure your program to add predefined tags to the scanned documents which will make the searching part easier. The system would store and organize electronic documents, images, and files in user-configurable folder hierarchy or equivalent structure and do that without a click of button.
My personal favorite. We once had to integrate Ephesoft with Alfresco and somehow make the job of scanning and tagging a ton of documents daily easier. So we leveraged the CIFS system of Alfresco for optical character recognition (OCR) capability and now the documents were digitized even from just scanning. The use would indicate the type of document scanned and based on the scanned and digitized values we dynamically tagged them. For example any document containing words like Internal Revenue Services, IRS, and IRS USA, was tagged finance. The system could even highlight if the document is not scanned properly enough to pass Scanning of Evidence Act (EA) compliance.
Now imagine creating a system that can scan the reimbursement bills submitted by employees and automatically tag them based on the content in it, like medical bill, travel bill etc !
5. Document Management Access and Security
The biggest concern of large enterprises is access. Alfresco and its like are great in managing access and creating strict and even complex document access hierarchies. Managers will have access to information related to their subordinates and admin can define groups that can have access to the Manager’s information and vice versa.
6. Employee and HRMS document audits
This is the place where a system like Alfresco really shines. The Alfresco have the capability to track and highlight the status of each document along with all versions of the documents. You can store and track small stuff like last 10 activities, or the big stuff like complete employee performance appraisal records. You can configure the system to delete non-essential documents that are older than a specific age or archive the critical docs so that they are kept safe.
Why start early?
If your organization is small, you may not feel the need for a ECM right now, especially for something as seemingly trivial as employee management. But once your organization reaches 300+ mark, you would start to feel the need. And based on our experience it is very difficult to scale the HRMS if it was not designed to facilitate advanced ECM systems like Alfresco, and will incur additional costs in migration and integration. So our advice is to integrate a ECM in your system as early as possible. Or better yet, keeping in mind the cloud age, you can create a portal like web based system that uses a relational database for structured data and Alfresco for unstructured documents.