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Whether you’re an HR professional or a business owner, understanding the ins and outs of HCM software is essential in today’s competitive landscape. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about HCM software, from its features and benefits to how to choose the right solution for your organisation. 

So let’s dive in and discover what HCM software is and how it can revolutionise your HR practises.

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What does HCM Software Do?

What exactly is HCM software? Human Capital Management (HCM) software is a comprehensive solution for managing employee data, automating HR processes, and optimising talent management. Human capital management software aims to maximise productivity and enhance employee engagement, fostering a competitive business environment by better aligning the skills and performance of the workforce with organisational goals.

Categorisation of HCM: Tier 1 and Tier 2 Vendors

HCM vendors are broadly divided into two categories based on a variety of factors, such as the scale, scope, and breadth of solutions offered, market presence, and customer base. This categorization, also known as tier 1 and tier 2 HCM vendors enables organisations to match their vendor selection to specific needs and expectations.

Tier 1 HCM Vendors 

This category typically includes large, well-established companies that provide extensive and sophisticated features that cover the entire spectrum of HCM capabilities, catering to clients in a variety of regions and industries.

These vendors stand out for:

  • Global Presence: These vendors have a vast global presence, are committed to local compliance in major markets, and offer their software in multiple languages.
  • Advanced Technology. Typical players in this category invest heavily in research and development to ensure that their products incorporate the most recent technologies and innovations.
  • Customizability and Scalability: Their products are highly customizable and scalable, enabling them to meet the requirements of large enterprises and expanding organisations.
  • High Initial and Ongoing Investment Costs: The advanced and comprehensive nature of their solutions frequently translates to higher initial and ongoing costs.

Vendors in the category include SAP SuccessFactors, Ceridian, Workday, and Oracle.

Tier 2 HCM Vendors 

Tier 2 HCM vendors, on the other hand, are typically smaller companies with a more focused set of solutions. Tier 2 vendors typically have the following characteristics: 

  • Specialised Solutions: Frequently, they specialise in specific areas of HCM, providing targeted solutions that excel in their niche.
  • Regional Focus: These vendors may have a strong presence in specific regions or markets, offering tailored solutions to meet local and legal requirements.
  • Cost-Effective Options: They typically provide more cost-effective options, making them appropriate for small to medium-sized businesses.
  • Rapid Implementation: As their solutions are less complex, they can often be implemented more quickly, providing agility and a quick return on investment.

Tier 2 and 3 HCM vendors include Personio, HiBob, CIPHR, MHR, and numerous other regional players.

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Core Functions of HCM Suites

HCM suites provide a wide range of functions, including Core HR, which manages organisational, job, and employee data throughout the employment life cycle. 

Payroll and benefits administration are critical components in ensuring employees are paid accurately and on time. 

Talent Management applications include recruiting, onboarding, performance management, and talent mobility, all of which contribute to the development of a well-rounded and engaged workforce.

Workforce Management (WFM) includes time and attendance tracking, task tracking, and scheduling, allowing organisations to allocate resources more efficiently. 

HR Service Management provides personalised policy and programme guidance, which is supplemented by integrated case management and virtual assistants. 

Reporting and analytics, aided by advanced technologies such as AI, are embedded to ensure compliance and provide actionable insights.

HCM suites role in organisations

HCM suites are critical for organisations for attracting, developing, engaging, retaining, and managing workforces. The solutions support a wide range of capabilities, providing a personalised and efficient experience for both employees and managers. They enable the streamlining of administrative functions, improve talent management, and support compliance with local and international regulations. 

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How is HCM different from HRIS systems?

Conceptual Differences:

While both HCM and HRIS are focused on human resource management, HCM encompasses a broader range of functions. HR traditionally focuses on administrative tasks such as payroll and benefits, whereas HCM integrates advanced technologies and analytics to optimise talent management. HCM strives for strategic alignment of workforce skills with organisational objectives in order to achieve a competitive advantage.

Functional Variances: 

Talent and workforce management, personalised HR service management, and advanced reporting capabilities are all available with HCM suites. These features are intended to increase employee engagement and streamline HR processes, whereas traditional HRIS systems may focus primarily on administrative tasks and compliance, lacking the broad range of applications offered by HCM suites.

What are the Two Types of HR systems?

All-in-One HCM Systems: 

All-in-one HCM systems are unified solutions that provide a wide range of functions on a single platform. These systems are intended to cover all aspects of human capital management, from recruitment and onboarding to payroll and performance management, providing organisations with a unified approach to workforce management.

Best-of-Breed HR Systems: 

Best-of-breed HR systems (point solutions) specialise in specific areas of human resource management. While they may be the best at what they do, niche solutions do not provide the full range of features that larger HCM suites do. These tools are great for businesses that want to expand their HR capabilities in a specific area, e.g., Talent mobility, ATS and Talent acquisition, Learning and Development, HR Case management, to name but a few.

Comparative Analysis

All-in-one systems provide a unified solution with a wide range of functionalities, making them ideal for organisations looking for a more comprehensive human capital management solution. While Best-of-breed HR systems, on the other hand, provide specialised functionalities for those who require advanced capabilities in a specific area of HR. 

However, there is another world that exists where organisations can have their cake and eat it by taking the best from HCM suites and combining this with the advanced features of best-of-breed HR systems.

All-in-One HCM vs. Best-of-breed HR Systems: Which is Better?

Evaluating the suitability of all-in-one HCM systems versus best-of-breed HR systems entails taking into account organisational goals, required functionalities, integration capabilities, and budget constraints. Both systems have advantages and disadvantages, and the choice should be based not on wants or the shiny new feature but fundamentally on the organisation’s strategic goals and operational requirements.

Organisational Needs and Objectives (not just HR):

Organisations must assess their immediate needs and future objectives to determine which system offers the optimal balance between comprehensive functionalities and specialised capabilities.  The needs should not only be considered from the point of view of the HR department, but more broadly, the requirements of the employees, the managers, and other stakeholders must be taken into account to ensure the adoption of the new system. 

Investment Considerations

Investing in human resources technology can result in increased revenue, headcount, and skills. Although cost optimisation is difficult to achieve, especially for companies that have already begun their journey to the cloud in HR, consolidating your HR tech stack with an HCM suite vendor can reduce costs, but it may come at the expense of some features. Scalability, portability, decreased reliance on manual intervention, streamlined budgeting via an opex payment model, and the opportunity to take advantage of new developments in cloud services should all play a role in the decision to make the move.

Market Trends and Forecast

Understanding current market trends and forecasts is critical for organisations looking to make informed decisions about Human Capital Management (HCM) software. It is critical to note that HR technology leaders intend to channel their focus and investments into distinct domains in 2024 in order to improve business operations and address emerging workforce challenges.

Investment in Innovation and Technology Upgrades: 

HR technology leaders not only invest approximately 10% of their budgets in top areas of innovation, but they also upgrade their existing technology stacks on a continuous basis. This continual refinement is essential for enhancing business operations and staying abreast of evolving market demands.

Focus on Reporting, Analysis, and Recruiting: 

Reporting and analysis, as well as recruiting, have emerged as the primary investment priorities for 2023. The changing needs for diverse skills, growing skill gaps, and unprecedented attrition levels are driving HR technology leaders to supplement their current recruiting technology stacks with solutions from a variety of vendors.

Enhancing Reporting and Analytics Platforms: 

Spending on reporting and analytics platforms is increasing as organisations advance their HR technology strategies at the enterprise level. This increase aims to align HR system capabilities with key business and talent outcomes, fostering a more data-driven approach to human resource management.

Prioritisation of Key Metrics: 

Talent analytics initiatives can be capital-intensive, requiring the identification and prioritisation of key metrics that align with organisational goals. HR technology leaders can maximise returns on technology stack upgrades and drive superior business outcomes by benchmarking top metrics.

Strengthening core HR platforms: 

Having a robust core HR platform remains pivotal. A strong core HR foundation supports the execution of complex and evolving talent management strategies, emphasising their significance in the overall HCM landscape.

Key Features and Benefits of HCM Software

  • Unified Database: The unified database of HCM software consolidates employee data, ensuring real-time availability and consistency across the organisation. This centralization reduces data redundancy and inconsistency, allowing for more accurate and streamlined reporting, analytics, and decision-making.
  • Automation of HR processes:A key feature that is central to HR systems is the automation of time-consuming and repetitive HR tasks, increasing operational efficiency. Automation reduces manual errors, improves compliance, and frees up HR professionals to focus on strategic initiatives from recruitment to payroll processing.
  • Self-Service Portals:Employees and managers can use self-service portals to access and manage personal information, benefits, and leave requests, fostering autonomy and reducing administrative burden on HR departments.
  • Compliance Management: By automating updates based on changing regulations, tracking employee certifications, and generating compliance reports, HCM software aids in compliance management. This lowers the risk of noncompliance and potential legal consequences.
  • Learning and Development:HCM suites facilitate learning and development through integrated learning management systems (LMS), enabling organisations to identify skill gaps, deliver training, and track employee progress, thereby fostering continuous improvement and adaptability.

  • Performance Management:Improve performance management by enabling goal setting, continuous feedback, and performance appraisals. This promotes employee engagement, identifies areas for improvement, and aligns individual contributions with organisational objectives.
  • Integration Capabilities:The ability to integrate with other enterprise systems such as ERP, CRM, and financial software increases the versatility and efficiency of the HCM platform. By connecting disparate systems, an organisation can ensure that all of its business domains are receiving the same consistent and high-quality data, removing data silos and redundancy.
  • Accessibility on Mobile Devices: Employees and Supervisors can use HCM Features Anytime, Anywhere Utilising mobile accessibility This flexibility supports remote and hybrid working, fosters engagement, and ensures the successful completion of HR tasks.
  • Data Security and Privacy: Data security and privacy are critical considerations in HCM software. Compliance with data protection regulations ensures legal adherence and builds trust, while strong security measures protect sensitive employee data from unauthorised access and breaches.
  • Customization and Scalability: To meet the specific requirements of any given business, HCM software must be highly flexible and extensible. Scalability ensures that the software can adapt to meet the needs of a growing business, and customization allows it to be aligned with a company’s business processes and ways of working.
  • Cost Reduction: HCM software helps lower expenses by automating HR procedures and decreasing the need for human resources administration. Efficient operations, combined with accurate data management and reporting, optimise resource allocation and reduce financial inconsistencies.
  • Enhanced Employee Experience: Improves the employee experience by providing personalised, accessible, and efficient HR services. Self-service portals, opportunities for continuous learning, and performance management all help keep employees engaged and productive.
  • Strategic Decision-Making: Advanced analytics and reporting capabilities make it easier to make strategic decisions. Real-time data and insights enable HR leaders to identify trends, make informed decisions, and align human capital strategies with organisational objectives.


In conclusion, HCM software has become an essential tool for modern businesses, allowing them to manage their employees more effectively and strategically. Whether you choose an all-in-one system or a best-in-class solution, your decision should be based on your organization’s goals, needs, and budget. 

As technology evolves, investing in HCM software that adapts to changing needs and provides comprehensive features is critical for remaining competitive and achieving business success. By understanding the key features and benefits of HCM software, organisations can make informed decisions and unlock the potential of human capital to its fullest.

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Marcus Dasilva is the Managing Partner and Head of HR Technology at BaseLinked. He has worked as an HR technology expert for 25 years. Marcus leads the technology and automation practice, specializing in helping organizations digitally transform HR. His mission is to drive business value and efficiency through HR innovation in an ever-changing environment.
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