Which is the Best Human Capital Management System, All in One or Best of Breed?

By: | Category: Employee Experience

If you are a Saturday morning denizen of the local Lowe’s or Home Depot like me, you know there are tons of different tools available for every job.  When I tackle my DIY projects, I try to think if I need to lug around a bag of specialized tools or can I do the job with my reliable Leatherman multi-tool?

In Human Capital Management (HCM) systems, users need to ask themselves the same question – should I go with a best of breed approach and fill my HR toolbox with different tools from different publishers? Or should I rely on a handy all-in-one HCM system with all the parts designed to work together?

The answer, of course, is that it depends on the requirements of the job – what do you need from your HCM system?   At Net at Work, we believe in offering choices to our clients, based on their needs. No one system is necessarily better than another, but the differences are worth noting as you select your next system.


Best-of-Breed solutions like Sage HRMS, strive to partner with developers and publishers who have superior functionality in their specific area.  The idea is to find the best module – recruiting, training, performance management, timekeeping – and marry it up with all the other modules – HRIS, Payroll, paid time off management.  Best-of-Breed solutions offer users the chance to ‘pick and choose’ which modules most appeal to them.  And Best-of-Breed offers users the ability to stagger their investment – new modules for employee engagement, for instance, can be added to an older recruiting or payroll module.

With All-In-One Systems, like Criterion HCM, the modules evolve together.  If the database technology changes for one part of the All-In-One, it changes for all.  Sometimes All-In-One Systems can lack the functionality for very specialized needs – certified payroll or Payroll Based Journal (PBJ) entries for long term care facilities.  Since specialized functionality is not easy to ‘bolt onto’ All-In-One Systems, they may not appeal to organizations with complex needs.

Database and Security

However, with a Best-of-Breed approach, there are typically multiple databases that must communicate with each other.  That can create bottlenecks in data getting from one module to the other or, worse, require double or multiple data entry.  In addition, multiple systems often require multiple logins causing multiple points of entry for cyber attacks.

All-In-One systems utilize a single database with no latency between focus areas of the system.  Looking at an employee’s payroll history and training history can be done on the same screen without leaving one module and logging into another.  Moreover, a single database facilitates reporting and analytics since time and effort is not spent combining and normalizing data between different systems and database.  From a security perspective, All-In-One systems typically offer just a single login and role-based security to determine what parts of the system are available to different users.

User Experience

The end user experience has become especially important as systems move to greater employee and manager self-service.  With Best-of-Breed solutions, different modules may have very different interfaces and navigation.  This makes it harder for users to learn the system and use it to its full potential.

With All-In-One systems, the interface is the same throughout the product, making it easier for users to find data, modify items and report and analyze.  User training becomes much easier, and users are more likely to use more of the system, increasing the company’s return on investment.

Implementation and Support

When it comes to implementing a Best-Of-Breed approach, the implementation process can be complex with multiple project teams dedicated to individual modules.  That may mean that companies are dealing with multiple vendors during the implementation process, with different methodologies, timelines and communication styles.  Best-Of-Breed approaches can certainly mean that critical modules – like HR and Payroll – can be stood up more quickly, while other modules can come later in the process.

With Best-Of-Breed implementations, project management is critical as various teams of consultants and company staff cycle through the project as their area is implemented.  The success of a Best-Of-Breed implementation depends on keeping an eye on the broader goals of the project and there is higher probability that there may be slips in the overall project timeline.

Once implemented, Best-Of-Breed support often comes from multiple sources.  Payroll may be supported by one publisher, but time and attendance may be by another.  Updates of the programs have to be coordinated so that there are no compatibility issues.  And there is always the danger that the publishers will begin pointing fingers and blaming other part of the system they do not have control over for failures.

With and All-In-One system, the implementation and support teams are consistent throughout the project.  With Net at Work implementations, clients have one Project Manager and one source of truth about the status of the project. This provides continuity as the focus areas are rolled out and no delays due to consultant resources or unintended delays.

Since in an All-In-One, the publisher is the same for all of the elements, there is a single voice for support as well as development. With an All-In-One tool, your opportunity to develop a better relationship with the single vendor and Business Partner is greater, leading to your Business Partner becoming a more trusted advisor.

Define the Job Then Select Your Tool

Sometimes it is important to carry around a bag of tools and hope you have the right one ready to hand.  Sometimes have an agile multi-function tool that you can change on the fly to accommodate the task at hand makes the most sense.

Likewise, when considering changes to your HCM system, start by considering what are the goals of your HR department and the company as a whole.  Is your business growing and needs to be agile?  Are you having difficulty recruiting and engaging employees?  Have your systems become old and inefficient? Are you committed to digital enablement and technology adoption?

If you understand what your goals are, then you can make the appropriate choice of the tool that makes the most sense for you.  As always, we want you to consider us your trusted technology advisor.  Let us help you as you digitally enable and grow your business.  Now, where did I put down that screwdriver?