Open Source free Hris Software

In December of 2008, I was emailed by a writer with HR Magazine and asked for my opinion on open source HR software. Truthfully, I didnt know much about the subject or the products when I first received the email. I set up a meeting for the next week and then began doing some research.

The concept of Open Source Software has been most successfully implemented with the Linux operating system. IT people were looking for something other than Microsoft and created the project and code. The way an open source application works is that the source code is free and available for modification. As programmers make modifications and additions to the code, others using the system receive the benefit. From a users perspective, its very attractive because it can be modified by the user; as opposed to a boxed system where the source code cant be modified.

The question is will the concept of Open Source work in the HR software industry?

Linux was successful because there were needs not being met by Microsoft or anyone else. Many IT professionals tend to be almost defiant toward Microsoft. I am sure the search for anything but Microsoft fueled the motivation for the work that went into Linux. The elements that made Linux successful arent factors in the HR software industry. There is an awful lot of extremely well written software packages designed to fill practically any need. There is no monopoly within the HR software market. Customers have a large number of options. The sometimes defiant attitude that exists between IT and Microsoft does not exist within the HR profession toward any particular HR solution.

Pros of Open Source HR systems

Yes, there is a market for an open source HR system but, in my opinion, it is very small. The companies that might adopt an open source HR product are going to be those who want to either create their own system or have the source code to modify a system to match their exact needs which cant be met by any other product on the market. Over the last fifteen years, I have encountered very few, if any, companies who would be in the market for an open source HR system.

A very low cost HR system will attract business. However, I am not sure how successful these companies will be with maintaining a system that requires greater work and IT involvement than do other systems.

Cons of Open Source HR Systems

U.S. and Canadian HR departments tend, on the whole, to be understaffed. Are these personnel going to have the time necessary to self implement the system, maintain it, and deal with the constant upgrades that are required with an open source HR system?

Additional concerns:

What type of support is available?
If you dont have the internal programming resources, what type of fees will be associated with modifying the system?
How adequate is the documentation for a product that is constantly being updated by a large number of programmers?
How bug free is an open source HR system?
Are new programming changes adequately tested?
Without adequate support or documentation, how will the product be implemented?

After my interview, I did speak with a prospect was looking to replace an open source HR system. The concerns I laid out above were directly confirmed by the prospect. He said they were looking for a new HRIS system because the open source HR product did not have adequate support and that it did not contain any type of functionality toward U.S. government compliance for EEO, OSHA, COBRA, or anything else. He contacted the company about adding these elements and the cost to add these options was as much as he was going to pay for a system that already had this functionality. So he was again in the market for an HRIS system that would do everything out of the box. I assured him there are many alternatives.

If you are the type of HR professional that drives a kit car you created in your garage, open source HR software might be an option for you. If not, you might want to continue to look at the completed HRIS systems on the market.

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