Greenfield or rabbit holes: the case for unification vs integration

Date: 11 Feb 2020

Author: Chris Radley

I’m not setting out to ‘diss’ integration. It’s a great, practical way to drive value from unique systems.

But if you had the choice (and the benefit of hindsight), would you invest in a system that’s been stitched together from a bunch of disparate applications? Or would you choose a single, modern, solution that was unified from the outset?

One that required zero integration. No afterthoughts. And no workarounds.

Down the rabbit hole

It’s possible to integrate virtually any systems with the liberal application of time, effort, money, integration tools and know-how.

However, given that most platforms are designed and built to fulfil a specific function, and therefore handle and present data in different ways, you also need to be willing to compromise on outcomes. And in truth, it’s how most of the HR and payroll solutions in the market are put together and operate.

The majority of payroll and HR products started as a single needs-based product, delivering payroll (the traditional starting place for most businesses), or T&A, or rostering, or general HR, or onboarding/recruitment functionality. Many were designed using a singular approach; taking the development down a defined rabbit hole to solve a specific problem.

But ask any terrier. Once down a rabbit hole, it’s hard to back out.

A rabbit in the middle of garden

Rabbits you might know

Let’s talk about Rabbit X. ‘X’ started life as a T&A rostering system. Based on market demand, payroll got tacked on, followed by HR. Now, while ‘X’ presents itself as a single solution with a consistent UI, it has in fact been integrated to pull together and process data from individual products.

While this may sound fine, you need to remember that each function of the overall solution was originally built using a different framework. For example, payroll solutions are natively built around costing and compliance parameters, whereas HR systems are built around people and the way they work. Chalk and carrots.

The challenge faced by ‘X’ was to get disparate frameworks to jell into a single solution. While you can easily slice and dice payroll data, it takes a different approach to handle people data.

Looking around, big brand Rabbit Y faces the same issues. It started life as an HR framework and had everything else added later on through a process of building the required functionality, or simply buying and bolting on other products. 

Now, if you read the marketing material from Brand X, Y, or even Z, they present their solutions as integrated and unified. But that’s not a reality. The rabbit hole may have a new flashier welcome sign than before, and even an elevator, but the end layout is the same. Separate rooms with a single narrow corridor.

Rabbit stew, anyone?

I repeat. You can make almost anything work with enough integration (and sufficient money). But when you try to design one large comprehensive solution by simply adding on more functionality, you have a problem.

You see, the reality is that most payroll and HR applications were born and designed in different eras. So, you’re integrating old technology to new, which is only ever a workaround, not a sure-fire recipe for success.

And the outcome? The way the overall solution behaves is fragmented. The more you integrate, the deeper and increasingly convoluted the rabbit hole becomes, and the more risk to the application’s performance. For example, cross-reference data has to be pulled from the point of origin into another tool, so it can then report to you. Yes, you solve the reporting problem, but you also create a number of other knock-on performance issues as well.

How deep is the rabbit hole?

Based on market knowledge and experience, I would say that 75% of the HR and payroll market uses two to four products to solve what could be really one problem. And most of them have to navigate different user interfaces and apply manual processes to bridge the gaps.

And be warned, these old applications will struggle to successfully use AI and machine learning in the future because of the legacy solution structure, the order of the data and its inherent lack of cleanliness.

As the next evolution of tools arrives, many companies with an eye on tomorrow will come unstuck. I confidently predict that the use of Excel to manage data and reporting will remain alive, well and kicking.

A rabbit free landscape

We took a greenfield approach. No rabbit holes to fall down, just a clean, unsullied landscape.

We built Jemini from the ground up as one holistic application. It’s an integration-free zone. We didn’t start with one function and develop from there. From the outset, Jemini was a construct (i.e. an image, idea, or theory, especially a complex one formed from a number of simpler elements). It hasn’t been designed around recruitment or performance, instead it is based on the user journey and experience - albeit that it has elements and functions that different organisations use.

At the risk of sounding ageist, ‘young’ and ‘new’ has a lot going for it. Even more so, when like Jemini, it combines green fields innovation with a lifetime of experience and knowledge. ‘What if we try this’ is the overriding Jemini philosophy, not ‘do it this way, because we have old stuff that will fill the gaps.’

So, we’ve embraced the new. Like using AI to predict who should be promoted, or which courses your people should consider in order to advance their careers.

Best of all, everything is driven from one place. The AI tool doesn’t have to sort through three or four applications to find the data it needs, or to sort out duplicated data. Jemini’s innovative platform means that users will and can benefit from new and innovative technology as it is introduced.

Going greenfields

When Jemini customers talk to us, they unfailingly mention the wide range of seamless functionality. The fact that they will save money, and provide their people with a better, more engaging user experience. And the fact that they when and if they want to integrate Jemini to their line-of-business applications, it’s a single project. Not many.

As everything in Jemini is unified, our customers can count on a certain, rabbit-free future.

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