Human Resource Information System Computer Science Essay

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Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. In this chapter Human Resource Management (HRM) and the effects that Information Technology (IT) has on it are discussed. The reader will be introduced to concepts such as Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS), Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), E-Recruitment, and automated Curricula Vitae (CV) Parsing as well as technologies such as Database Management Systems (DBMS), Structured Query Language (SQL), Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML) and Active Server Pages (ASP). Using this breakdown of the relevant literature provides the rationale for a web-based recruitment process such as HRMLive.

2.1.2 Human Resource Management

Human Resource Management (HRM) is the concept of managing people with regards to a company's overall business strategy. 'Organisations require HRM to play an active role in the fight to be successful and remain competitive'. (Brewster et al, 2008). There are seven main features of a Human Resource Department:

With the Industrial Revolution came the first structured form of Human Resource (HR) practices. Large numbers of skilled employees were required by factories to operate machinery and so it was necessary to have recruitment and training procedures in place. Companies therefore began employing individuals who would be responsible for these HR functions. HR functions have long since evolved from the 1940s where the main focus was of a manual administrative nature. (Brewster, 2008).

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In the 1960s legislation had a major impact towards workplace regulations. This saw training and development emerging as a specialised area of HRM. Early 1970 saw the introduction of the first HR Information Systems which was the automation of salary databases. HRM underwent massive organisational change in the 1980s as concepts such as Globalisation, Acquisitions and Mergers brought about radical changes and numerous challenges within the workplace. Workforces were now becoming increasingly diverse. By the 1990s organisations were using structures such as the Internet and other networks in order to assist them in remaining successful and ahead of competitors. (Brewster, 2008).

2.1.3 Human Resource Information System (HRIS)

A Human Resource Information System (HRIS) refers to the merging of HRM with information technology. A HRIS is used to 'acquire, store, manipulate, analyze, retrieve and distribute information about an organization's human resources'. (Tannenbaum, 1990).

A Web-based HRIS provides the HR professional and the company's employees with real-time access to vital corporate information. This self-service functionality serves to empower staff by providing them with the capability to manage and update their own personnel records. This not only enriches data accuracy and reduces costly errors, but also produces more productive workers. (Tannenbaum, 1990).

Through automation of HR activities paperwork is made redundant and so company efficiency is improved. HRIS provides a company with:

Control of all employee and corporate information.

Applicant and CV management.

Reporting and analysis of employee and corporate information.

Company-related HR documents

Integration with company financial software and accounting systems.

Figure 1.1 HRIS functions with an Organisation.

2.1.4 Advantages and disadvantages of HRIS

The advantages of HRIS are:

They provide accurate information;

High speed information processes;

They act as a decision support tool;

They strengthen management control;

They are less expensive.

The disadvantages of HRIS are:

Individuals need to be trained to use them;

They are vulnerable to technical breakdowns.

2.1.5 Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are an addition to the HRIS. ATS is an application that automates a company's recruitment process. Nearly all major companies use ATS to manage large volumes of corporate and employee information acquired through job applications and curricula vitae (CVs). ATS software provides HR professionals with CV parsing support in order to compare the applicant data with the company's requirements and find the best qualified applicants. CV Parsing involves extracting information from a CV and storing it in a database so it can later be compared with other applicant's information or with job specifications. (Webb and Norton, 2008).

Data is usually collected online through the corporate website or is extracted from applicants on posting boards as text and then converted into the searchable database records. (Webb and Norton, 2008).

2.1.6 Advantages and disadvantages of ATS

The advantages of ATS are:

They eliminate unnecessary paper based repetitive forms;

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They save time and resources;

They can convert CVs into a searchable database of applicant records;

They eliminate manual data entry;

They allow for the short listing of candidates based on comparisons with the job requisition.

The disadvantages of ATS are:

Not everyone has internet access to send CVs;

They are susceptible to failures.

2.1.7 The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA)

With predominantly personal data being held within the ATS there must use strict procedures to support the Data Protection legislation. The DPA is an Act of Parliament defining the law on processing and protecting personal data within the UK. The DPA defines eight main principles to which an organization should comply to when storing personal data including:

Data may only be used for the specific purposes for which it was collected;

Data must not be disclosed to other parties without the consent of the individual whom it is about;

All Individuals have a right of access to the information held about them;

Personal information may be kept for no longer than is necessary and must be kept up to date;

Personal information may not be sent outside the European Economic Area;

All entities that process personal information must register with the Information Commissioner's Office;

Entities holding personal information are required to have adequate security measures in place;

Subjects have the right to have factually incorrect information corrected.

2.1.8 E-Recruitment

E-recruitment involves the use of online technology, to attract and recruit applicants, for the purpose of enhancing a company's recruitment process. E-recruitment serves to make the recruitment process faster through real time posting of vacancies and by providing management with tailored information, through the use of diverse talent pools, on their applicant's skills. E-recruitment also allows for significant reduced savings on administration and recruitment costs. (Hopkins and Markham, 2003).

2.1.9 Advantages and disadvantages of E-Recruitment

The advantages of E-Recruitment are:

The enhanced experience of the applicant;

Better communication of the employer's image and culture;

Faster recruitment process;

Increased diversity of applicants;

Better management information on applicants.

The disadvantages of E-Recruitment are:

The recruitment process is often de-personalised;

Some applicants are unable to utilise technologies (such as the disabled or uneducated audiences) thus opening the company to allegations of unfair discrimination;

The potential loss of valued candidates through bad website design or the website experiencing technical difficulties. (Hopkins and Markham, 2003).

Figure 1.2 summarises how a large majority of Irish organisations currently implement or plan to implement their online recruitment activities.

% Use

% Plan

to implement

% No plans

1. Describe and advertise vacancies online

88

6

6

2. Post jobs on free internet job boards

43

8

49

3. Have dedicated recruitment website/page

67

17

17

4. Post jobs on recruitment agency sites

44

6

51

5. Respond to requests for further info online

61

11

28

6. Track sources of online applications

35

18

47

7. Build database for future vacancies

28

13

59

8. Applications completed online

34

25

41

9. Offer online self selection exercises

10

12

78

10. Initial screen on qualifications online

24

16

60

11. Initial screen competencies online

13

13

71

12. Use personality tests at initial screen

7

6

87

13. Use online test at assessment stage

3

7

89

14. Invite candidates to interview online

25

13

61

15. Notify non-selected candidates online

27

13

60

16. Make job offers online

10

9

80

17. Give feedback to non-selected candidates online

12

8

80

18 Report on the diversity profile of candidates

9

2

89

19. Seek candidate feedback online

8

0

92

Figure 1.2 Current Online Activities Undertaken in Irish Organisations

2.1.10 Automated CV Parsing

Parsing is a translation from the Latin 'pars', meaning part of speech. Parsing involves the breaking down of parts of a CV such as Name, Address, Education and Achievements. With the extraction of these select criteria the information is then loaded onto a database allowing for easier searching and comparing of potential candidates.

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The problem with users submitting large volumes of CVs to recruitment sites is that each one has a different layout or format and so it becomes necessary to filter the CVs and convert file types.

CV Parsing serves to help management focus on the most promising candidates for vacancies as well as providing better management of current employees. Through faster filling of vacancies the company therefore also benefits from cost savings and an improved speedy recruitment process.

'Although the level of accuracy of these parsing engines is very good for some sets of CVs, they are sensitive to subtleties of language and local convention.' (CVParsing.net, 2009). It is important to note that CV parsers can often encounter difficulties when interpreting different languages. This is vital for global multinational companies to consider.

2.1.11 Development of the Internet

'The Internet has now blossomed into a vehicle of expression and research for the common person with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new pages being added to the World Wide Web every day.' (Sonnet Digital, 2009).

The Internet was originally developed in the 1960's by J.C.R Licklider as a way to share scientific and military information through a set of interconnected computers. Subsequent research ensued and in 1962 Leonard Kleinrock developed the basis of the first internet connections- the packet switching theory. From this Lawrence Roberts connected two computers across different American states using dial-up telephone lines thus leading to the ARPANET going online in 1969. This early Internet was complex and used only by experts, engineers, librarians and scientists. (Gromov, 2009).

1972 saw the introduction of standardized E-mail and the FTP protocol, which enabled file transfers between Internet sites. Bob Kahn first introduced the universal TCP/IP architecture in the 1970's allowing the Internet to mature well into the 1980's. Through widespread LAN and personal computer development, the Internet was now becoming more accessible to non-technical users allowing greater global communication for file sharing. (Gromov, 2009).

The 1990's saw the development of a user friendly Internet interface at Minnesota University. It involved a simple menu driven system through their LAN allowing users the ability to access campus information and files. The system was known as 'Gopher' and was based on a client-server architecture integrated with a hypertext browser. 1993 involved the development of graphical browsers and servers namely Marc Andreessen's 'Mosaic' which later became 'Netscape' and Microsoft's 'Internet Explorer'. Microsoft was determined to capitalize on commercial Internet by releasing Windows 98 integrated with the IE desktop browser. Figure 1.3 shows the first version of IE which was just over 1 megabyte in size but was not able to support any of the dynamic multimedia features that we are so dependent on today. (Gromov, 2009).

Figure 1.3 First Version of Microsoft Internet Explorer

Traditionally 56K modems were used widely but new faster technologies such as cable modems, broadband and DSL's have since outdated them. The technology has evolved so as to provide higher quality multimedia. In the last decade changing technologies have also caused a massive growth of tablet PCs, palm PCs, mobile phone technologies and game consoles with internet access and so it has become necessary to develop universal web pages for these devices.

2.1.12 Development of the Web

The World Wide Web (WWW) is an application built on the internet and is defined as a series of static interlinked hypertext documents. It was originally released by Sir Tim Berners Lee and Robert Cailliau in Geneva, Switzerland in 1990. Berners Lee is credited for developing a system of global unique identifiers intended for web resources including the Uniform Resource Locator (URL), Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML), and the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). (MIT School of Engineering, 2009).

The second generation of the web, known as Web 2.0 involved the expansion from static web pages to more dynamic and shareable web content. Web 2.0 combines client and server-side resources in order to facilitate users with the storage, creation, and dissemination of information that wasn't possible with the original web. Examples of Web 2.0 include web applications, social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, blogs and hosted services. (MIT School of Engineering, 2009).

2.1.13 Web Accessibility

According to Tim Berners-Lee (1997), 'The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.' Accessibility to the web is essential in order to provide an equal access opportunity to every individual regardless of their disabilities (which may include visual, physical, cognitive, auditory or speech). Many countries make web accessibility a legal requirement for websites. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) works with worldwide organisations in order to make the web accessible to people with such disabilities.

2.1.13 WAI

The main purpose of the WAI was to create international standard guidelines for web designers with regards to web accessibility. These guidelines are structured around four principles which ensure that web content is:

Perceivable - Users must be able to perceive the presented information.

Operable - Users must be able to navigate and operate components within the interface.

Understandable - Users must be able to understand the information contained within the user interface.

Robust - Content must be able to be reliably interpreted a wide variety users and assistive technologies. Users must also be able to access the web content as technologies advance.

2.2 Technologies available for development of HRMLive web-based system.

2.2.1 DBMS and Web Database Systems

'A web application can be given greater flexibility by storing its data in a database, rather than in web documents. The latter are fixed whereas data can be achieved from a database to construct new web documents as they are needed. The latter are called dynamic web pages' (Eagleston and Ridley, 2001).

Database systems were first proposed in an attempt to automate manual based filing systems. Their purpose is to allow the user to collect, manage and manipulate data on demand. In development of HRMLive the application will require an application which will allow sophisticated retrieval of data, efficient storage and a high level of security and integrity to correspond with Data Protection Laws. The database administrator is responsible for management of the database. (Eagleston and Ridley, 2001).

For HRMLive the best solution for storing large volumes of data will be to use a Relational Database Management System. (RDBMS) A RDBMS allows data to be stored in the normalised form of related tables. Figure 1.4 shows the '12 Commandments', which Edgar F. Codd proposed, to which a relational database management must conform to;

Rule 1: The Information

All information is represented at the logical level and in exactly one way - by values in tables.

Rule 2: Guaranteed Access

Each and every datum database is guaranteed to be logically accessible by resorting to a combination of table name, primary key value, and column name.

Rule 3: Systematic Treatment of Null Values

Null values are supported for representing missing and inapplicable information in a systematic way.

Rule 4: Dynamic Online Catalog Based on the Relational Model

The system must support an online relational catalog that is accessible to authorized users through query language. 

Rule 5: Comprehensive Data Sub-language

The system must support at least one relational language that has a linear syntax, can be used both interactively and within application programs and that supports data definition operations , data manipulation operations, security and integrity constraints, and transaction management operations.

Rule 6: View Updating

All views that are theoretically updateable are also updateable by the system.

Rule 7: High-Level Insert, Update, and Delete

The capability of handling a base relation or a derived relation as a single operand applies not only to the retrieval of data but also to the insertion, update, and deletion of data.

Rule 8: Physical Data Independence

Application programs and terminal activities remain logically unimpaired whenever any changes are made in either storage representations or access methods.

Rule 9: Logical Data Independence

Changes to the logical level must not require a change to an application based on the structure.

Rule 10: Integrity Independence

Integrity must be definable in the relational data sub-language and storable in the catalog, not in the application programs.

Rule 11: Distribution Independence

A relational DBMS has distribution dependence.

Rule 12: Nonsubversion

If a relational system has a low-level language, that low level cannot be used to subvert or bypass the integrity rules and constraints expressed in the higher-level relational language.

Figure 1.4 Codds 12 rules for a Relational DBMS.

Database capabilities can be extended by the Internet as organisations have less restricted boundaries and so wider global access for clients and applicants. Web enhanced database applications also allow an organisation to provide better querying and administration of data.

2.2.2 Database-Driven Web Applications

A static web page defines a page which is not interactive and its contents do not change unless they are edited by the designer. A static Web page is typically displayed by the client browser through a HTTP request in the form of clicking links or typing http://www.hrmliveproject.com into the web browser. Web server software (e.g. Microsoft Internet Information Services or Apache HTTP Server) receives the request and returns it to the browser, which in turn decodes the HTML and displays the page. (Nicholson 2004)

In contrast to this, dynamic web pages are database driven and rely on a database to create and display web page content. When a request from the client browser is made, the web server will examine the page extension (e.g. .asp, .cfm, .php) and forward the request to the appropriate application server equipped to deal with the extension (e.g. .NET engine, JRun, and IBM's Web Sphere). The application server will locate the requested page, pre-process codes and scripts contained within the page and store the 'compiled code in a cache that can be served over and over without additional processing'. (Nicholson 2004)

The application server should determine if it requires the extraction of information from the database in order to display the web page. This extraction involves using SQL to store the information in temporary recordsets; the data will then be converted into HTML and returned to the client browser. (Nicholson 2004)

Figure 1.5 Database driven Web Application.

2.2.3 Microsoft Office Access 2007

Microsoft Office Access 2007 is a relational database management system that provides users with the software development tools necessary to create databases. As a database management package from Microsoft it provides users with a simple graphical user interface allowing easier storage and retrieval of data. The basis of this software is the Jet Database engine and its support from the Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) and Structured Query Languages (SQL).

Access allows users to create base tables, forms, reports or queries and connect them together using integrity rules. VBA and SQL can be used for advanced control and data manipulation for queries.

2.2.4 Structured Query Language

Structured Query Language (SQL) is a standard language designed to retrieve and manage the data within a relational database. The word 'Query' refers to a search made on the data using certain criteria such as a person's name or their telephone number. SQL is used to create virtual tables from the information held within multiple tables within the database. An example query would be generating a list of applicants who live in Belfast: SELECT FName, LName FROM Applicants WHERE City = "Belfast".

2.2.5 Web Server Software

There are two main Web server applications available for the development of the HRMLive system. These are the Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) and the Apache Software Foundation's Apache HTTP Server.

2.2.5.1 Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS)

Microsoft's Internet Information Services is Web server software that was created for use with Microsoft Windows and includes a Hypertext Transfer Protocol server and a File Transfer Protocol server. The IIS offers users the ability to build websites and provides users with support for creating Web-based applications with database access. In addition to this IIS serves as an application server for Active Server Page (ASP) technology. (Nicholson 2004)

The main advantages of IIS are that it's easy to use, easy to install and it also provides instant access to the database. However it is important to note that IIS is only available on the Microsoft Windows OS and it isn't the fastest or most stable Web Server Software.

2.2.5.2 Apache Software Foundation's Apache HTTP Server.

The Apache HTTP Server is referred to as the most popular 'open source Web server'. This means that as long as it is used according to its licensing then it is free to all users. Apache serves as an application server for ASP technology, Java Server Pages and PHP pages. (Nicholson 2004).

Advantages that the Apache HTTP Server provides are that it can be used on virtually any Operating System, it is very stable, reliable and it allows for easy incorporation of a database. A major disadvantage is that if the Apache Server goes down then there is no technical support readily available.

2.2.6 Application Sever

With such a wide variety of application servers and different programming languages for the creation of pages it is important to anticipate which platform will best suit the Kavanagh Group's needs. Examples of these application servers include;

2.2.6.1 ASP.NET

ASP.NET is a Web application framework designed by Microsoft to compile .NET pages on the server and store them in a cache. ASP.NET serves to allow developers the ability to build dynamic Web pages and applications by using an event-driven GUI model with controls similar to the Windows user interface. Languages suitable to ASP.NET include VB.NET, Jscript.NET and C#. (Nicholson 2004)

Advantages of ASP.NET include rapid development, rich server and client side controls, enhanced security due to one-time compiling, improved performance and user familiarity with windows controls. Disadvantages include that ASP.NET is not fully compatible with ASP and also scripting languages such as VBScript and JavaScript are unsuitable.

2.2.6.2 Microsoft Active Server Pages (ASPs)

Microsoft Active Server Pages is a server-side scripting environment that allows users to execute dynamic HTML pages. ASP combines HTML pages and scripts to develop interactive web pages and applications. ASP files can be created using VBScript or JavaScript and can be viewed by a range of browsers. (Nicholson 2004)

Advantages of ASP include quicker loading times of HTML pages, programs can be executed in languages not supported by the browser and security measures are improved as the script cannot be viewed by the browser. The main disadvantages of ASP are platform portability, the need to learn another programming language and the lack of functionality compared to the ASP.NET platform.

2.2.6.3 Java Server Pages (JSP)

JSP technology is based on the object-oriented programming language Java, and allows users a fast and easy way to create dynamic web applications. JSP use servlets to modify and control the HTML elements of Web pages as well as allowing the insertion of data from a database to Web pages.

Advantages of JSP allow its operation on a variety of platforms, java components are easily embedded and Web pages are automatically compiled. Disadvantages of JSP include that it can only be used by someone with a good degree of Java knowledge, there are issues with JSP program debugging and syntax and also database connectivity is difficult.

With such a small budget the Kavanagh Group will benefit from using Microsoft's IIS Web server. To compliment this it will be necessary to use the ASP.NET platform. Due to a short timescale the ASP.NET platform will allow the company rapid development of a prototype. The Microsoft Office suite is readily available on PC desktops in all SuperValu stores. As a low cost stand alone application Microsoft Access is also an attractive solution for the Kavanagh Group.

2.2.7 Hypertext Mark-up Language and Text Editors

Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML) is a language first designed in the 1990's which tags design elements within a webpage so that they can be displayed by the browser. These tags often provide browsers with instructions for the layout and formatting of a webpage. HTML can also be used to create paragraphs, bulleted and numbered lists, headings and hyperlinks between various pages.

HTML Text Editors on the other hand are used to produce the code for you. You simply select the elements needed for your webpage and the code is hidden by the software. This is known as 'WYSIWYG' or 'What you see is what you get'. This is a much less time consuming approach and produces less error.

2.2.5 Microsoft FrontPage

Microsoft FrontPage is a WYSIWG text editor for website design and development which allows the non technical user to hide HTML codes. This rapid application development saves time with reduced manual coding. In order to create a web-site with database capability FrontPage also requires a web server that is running Active Server Pages. Once published to a server FrontPage web pages can be viewed using any browser.

2.2.6 Adobe Dreamweaver CS4

Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 is a web page development application which is readily available for both Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac operating systems. Dreamweaver incorporates support for CSS, JavaScript, and server-side scripting languages such as ASP and PHP. As a hybrid WYSIWYG interface Dreamweaver enables code-based web design and development. A major feature that Dreamweaver includes is that it allows non-coders to create web pages by hiding all the code details. Dreamweaver also allows users to preview their created websites within their locally-installed web browsers.

2.3 Chosen technology for HRMLive application

After reviewing a range of technologies available for creation of the HRMLive project the technology proposed for the actual design of the prototype will include Microsoft's Internet Information Service's web server as it offers users support in creating web-based applications with database access. In addition the IIS also serves as an application server for the ASP technology that will be integrated to the HRMLive application.

The chosen back-end database for HRMLive will be Microsoft Office Access 2007 because of its easy manageability for novice users and also its ability to support the structured query language. Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 is the chosen technology for the creation of the HRMLive HTML website as it allows web pages to be created with just a basic knowledge of coding. This will benefit the Kavanagh Group greatly in terms of cost as they already have the software technology and resources available for HRMLive.

2.4 Summary of chapter 2

This chapter has discussed all of the relevant literature that must be considered in the development of a web-based recruitment process including information technology, the internet and Human Resource Management practices. Rationale has therefore been provided for HRMLive. The next chapter will consider the functional and non-functional requirements for the HRMLive application.