Insight |

The all-in-one HR system vs the specialized: Which works better?


The all-in-one HR system vs the specialized: Which works better?

Insight |

The all-in-one HR system vs the specialized: Which works better?

As a HR leader working with a medium to large sized organization, you probably already have some form of HR tech in place – perhaps you’re using a tool for managing payroll, software for automating onboarding, or even a scaled platform that supports your many different roles across the business.

Whether you’re looking to integrate with your existing tools or change tactics and shift to a whole new HR tech setup, there’s likely one (age-old) question that you’ll want answers to: All-in-one system or specialized software: Which works better?

The challenges of choosing HR software 

As with any core business decision, the right choice all depends on various factors, including your employee headcount, industry, and unique organizational challenges.

And, when it comes to putting the “human” into human resources, choosing HR software is no exception. Choosing the right HRIS plays a critical role in employee engagement, performance, and overall organizational success.

What’s more is, as a leader, you have a huge responsibility for gaining stakeholder buy-in – from employees, the C-suite, and your workforce as a whole – which is often challenging and depends on you implementing the best-fit HR tools for everyone. For example,  a Productiv survey showed 39% of employees associate not having the right apps to reduction in productivity.

With the purpose, function, and role of HR having changed so much over the years, you want a HR platform that’s not only built for today’s business environment, but one that can also scale and adapt for future challenges as your organization grows.

So let’s differentiate the two types of HR systems to figure out which works best for you.

RELATED: How to choose a people management system

The all-in-one HR system: Does one size truly fit all?

The all-in-one HR system looks great at first glance:

  • It comes packaged as one unified system with everything you might need – from payroll to recruitment to performance management, and more.
  • You only need to deal with one contract and vendor.
  • Everything works “off the shelf”.

However, with these positives for this type of HR software comes limitations that are worth considering before you dive in and make your choice.

All in one HRIS systems can be less user-friendly than specialized software, and have lesser ability to scale alongside a business. They provide less flexibility as your organization is locked into one system and contract. By trying to solve all your problems at once, this kind of software usually fails to live up to the expectations and deliver on what was promised.

In short, the generalist nature of an all-in-one HR system results in a lack of comprehensive problem-solving capabilities for your biggest and most complex pain points.

Think of it like this: your mobile phone is a little machine that does it all. It lets you call, text, email, take photos and videos, install apps for work, etc. However, users still rely on specialized technology for many tasks. For example, a professional photographer will still have a professional-grade camera due to its advanced customizability and capability to work with other equipment like lenses and external flashes. A mathematician would opt for a scientific calculator over a mobile phone calculator for complex equations. Even the general office employee will prefer to work from their laptop over their phone.

The same logic applies to HR platforms. Although an all-in-one HR system sounds handy and efficient, it offers more breadth but less depth, making it a jack of all trades, but master of none.

Example of a business that could benefit from the all-in-one HR system:

  • 20 organization headcount
  • All employees work in the office
  • Minimal compliance requirements
  • Looking to automate the onboarding process
  • Keen to implement performance management and employee engagement functions like pulses and monthly check-ins

The all-in-one HRIS would likely be a basic working solution in this instance. However, what happens when this organization experiences exponential growth, hires more people remotely, and turns into a hybrid workforce? Or its HR leader needs to manage multiple levels of compliance in different regions or countries? What if a team needs a more comprehensive payroll system to manage new requirements?

Their challenges will grow alongside their business and the chances are that the all-in-one HR system won’t keep up with the depth of features required. The organization might wish to upgrade its payroll system, heavily customize its workforce management and compliance features to accommodate hybrid employees, and build upon its employee feedback processes to monitor employee wellbeing.

The reality is there is no “one size fits all” solution in HR tech. The all-in-one HR system can only do so much, until you realize you need something more. That’s where the specialized HR system comes in.

RELATED: Why choose specialized HR software over all-in-one?

Specialized system for specific needs

Specialized HR software is on the rise, and it’s unlikely to slow down anytime soon. Also referred to as a “best-of-breed” system, this kind of HR technology encompasses a highly customizable platform that consists of specialized tools and integrations to cater to your organization’s unique needs and challenges.

This means your chosen HRIS can integrate with your preferred payroll, applicant tracking system (ATS), learning management system (LMS), and more to create a comprehensive HR tech ecosystem that addresses every problem you’ve set out to solve – with the best tools for the job.

Key strengths of a specialized HR system compared to the all-in-one:

  • Scalability and adaptability: We firmly believe your technology should be built around your situation, not the other way around. The highly customizable nature of a specialized HR platform (like intelliHR) gives you the flexibility to tailor it to your business situation. Going beyond your current circumstances, it helps you future-proof your workforce for HR obstacles that are yet to appear. As a HR leader, it’s a worthy investment that can keep you and your people ahead of competitors when there is a business or industry shakeup.
  • A single source of truth: Although the all-in-one HR system is capable of this, the specialized HR system works to create a unified source of truth even with multiple different HR technology tools. This means there are plenty of opportunities to fill gaps in your HR tasks and processes with system integrations — and importantly, pull through your people data so your workforce insights seamlessly flow between adjacent tools.
  • Integrations: A specialized HR ecosystem offers the best integration partners that grow with you. Connected integrations allow your different HR systems to talk to each other, eliminate double-handling of employee data, and design a better employee experience. Integrations let you build the most efficient system tailored to your unique business needs.
  • Implementations: Although this step comes after you’ve chosen a system, specialized HR systems usually have smaller and more focused implementations that are heavily concentrated on problem-solving alongside you and your team. For example, intelliHR’s implementations include Design Thinking Workshops (DTWs) that dig deep into your business problems and identify which HR tasks and processes need to be rethought and restructured.

WATCH: Change management tips for implementing new HR tech

  • Vendor support: A specialized HRIS involves dealing with multiple vendors. However, it also means you will receive higher level of support for specific problems. The respective service providers will have the best knowledge of any issues with their systems and how to fix them.

Example of a business that could benefit from a specialized HR system like intelliHR:

  • 200 organization headcount and rapidly growing
  • Hybrid workforce with several fully remote staff
  • Needs include core HR, performance management, learning and development
  • Increased focus on employee engagement and wellbeing
  • Looking to revitalize employee experience, especially for remote employees
  • Wants real-time reports throughout the full employee life cycle

The above example shows a growing, forward-thinking organization that puts its people first and acknowledges that they are the driving force. It wants to identify the best HRIS software that scales and adapts with the unique business needs. It’s an organization that understands how the right HR automation software and tools can help its HR leaders refocus their time from HR admin to actually looking after their people.

Connecting your HR technology ecosystem

A seamless and specialized HR software experience starts with integrations. Integrations play a key role in building out a modern, functional, and future-proofed HR ecosystem – without them, your HR system could be basic at best – and hindering at worst. A recent report revealed Australian SMEs are currently wasting about one working day (seven hours) each week on average tasks due to a lack of integration between their digital tools.

One of the biggest pros to specialized HR platforms is that they integrate with your existing tools through an API (and enable you to connect with new ones), bringing your HR technology ecosystem together while retaining the specialist nature of a specialized platform. This means all your HR tools are talking to one another and as your people data flows through your system, you’re collecting meaningful data points along the way.

For example, here’s how that can look for:

  • ATS: Once you’ve hired your new employee, all their information (personal details, contacts, qualifications, etc) can flow seamlessly into intelliHR to generate a new user profile for them, letting them move straight onto the next steps for onboarding.
  • LMS: Once an employee completes any training assigned to them, it will show up on their personal intelliHR profile.
  • Workforce management/rostering: Maintaining unified rostering and HR records for accurate data and reporting.
intelliHR integrations

intelliHR has an industry-leading open API that allows our platform to be highly customizable based on your business needs. We do what we do best, and integrate with partners that excel in their area of expertise. By integrating intelliHR with our various ecosystem partners, you can provide a seamless real-time experience for your employees.

Take it from MICM Real Estate, an intelliHR customer that now saves up to 40% of their time by cutting back on superfluous admin tasks through automation, and a well-connected HR ecosystem that successfully and seamlessly unites their various HR systems.

We’ve just gone live with the contract automation through PandaDoc which has been a game-changer. Our contracts are now drawn-up automatically and our person and job records are done straight away through the API with JobAdder.

Amy Maiolo

General Manager, People & Culture at MICM Real Estate


At the end of the day, the best HRIS software for your organization will be the one that fits your specific business needs. As appealing as the all-in-one HR system might seem, a specialized system will stand the test of time and grow with you alongside your business.

Visit the intelliHR Marketplace to see which specialized ecosystem partners we work with.


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