Shopping for a strong, quality Human Resource Information System (HRIS) can be challenging because of the high stakes, long-term impact and competing technology companies, but there’s one thing that shouldn’t be a challenge: understanding what technology companies are talking about.

We try to take the buzzwords and jargon out of our communications, but we’ve seen firsthand that a lot of smart HR companies don’t. We think you should know exactly what you’re getting and what software companies are promising you.

To make your shopping process easier, take a look at the detailed glossary we’ve put together for you.

HR Software Terms 101

HCM (Human Capital Management)

HCM is the umbrella term that encompasses all software and HR solutions. It is often used interchangeably with:

  • Human Resource Management System (HRMS)
  • Human Resources System
  • Integrated Software Solution

Some HCM software applications can be broken into specializations, and can include:

Core HR/Core Administrative Support/HRIS:

Strategic HCM Support:

Other HCM:


HRMS (Human Resource Management System)

This umbrella term encompasses how companies track and manage human resources data. It can be anything from a simple Excel spreadsheet to a fully integrated system. The data in this system is static, such as names, addresses and Social Security numbers.

HRIS (Human Resources Information System)

This acronym is often used interchangeably with HRMS, but it shouldn’t be. The difference is in the type of data the system holds: HRIS holds changing data, such as PTO hours, performance reviews and training progress. It’s a more dynamic system, whereas HRMS holds static data, such as names and addresses.


RFP (Request for Proposal)

Some companies use RFPs to help ensure the selection process includes only systems that meet their technical needs. Typically, an RFP asks HCM companies to include all the technical and functional capabilities of their system. It’s part of the procurement procedure and helps ensure all potential suppliers and/or vendors are working from the same specifications. Without an RFP, HCM companies will need to do more of their own homework: getting to know their potential client and tailoring their offering to meet their needs.

ATS (Applicant Tracking System)

The ATS is the automated process that helps recruiters manage the journey of an applicant from sourcing and evaluating to hiring. Features of an ATS can include:

  • Individual applicant tracking
  • Resume ranking and parsing
  • Pre-screening questions
  • Customized fields and forms
  • Employment background and drug screening

LMS (Learning Management System)

48 percent of HR professionals say training existing employees is the most effective recruiting strategy for hard-to-fill positions at their organizations.

An LMS is a software application or web-based technology used for documenting, tracking, reporting and delivering electronic learning education courses or training. An LMS is used to plan, implement and assess the learning and training process. This technology provides a company with a manageable and trackable way to deliver content, assess performance and monitor participation in training, all while offering employees a valuable professional development opportunity.

HCA (Human Capital Analytics)

HCA refers to database functions that go beyond simple reporting and into the world of combining different sets of data to uncover new and strategically valuable insights.

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)

ERP solutions are tools to improve the operational efficiency of a business. They integrate all business processes to a single system to efficiently and effectively manage business goals. ERP software looks at all areas of operation, including:

  • Product Planning
  • Development
  • Manufacturing Processes
  • Human Resources
  • Financials
  • Sales and marketing

SaaS (Software as a Service)

SaaS (pronounced “sass”) is a product accessed by customers over the internet. The service provider (also known as the software owner) hosts the application at its data center, and customers access it via a web browser, such as Internet Explorer, Safari, Google Chrome or Firefox.

Cloud Computing/Cloud-Based

No abbreviation here, but “the cloud” can be a fuzzy concept for those outside the tech industry. Cloud computing is when software is housed on the internet, not downloaded onto a computer or mobile device. Some benefits of using the cloud are:

  • Software updates are instantaneous and don’t require action by the user
  • The system is accessible on any technology that’s connected to the internet
  • Information is backed up and not impacted by computer problems
  • Secure data and backup procedures are in place

We hope you can use this glossary as you shop for the best smart HR partner for your organization. The BirdDogHR performance management system has every piece of technology HR teams need to run their areas efficiently and confidently. We keep things simple while still delivering a robust solution, and that approach has brought us a consistent 95% customer retention rate.

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