HarrisData – Building a Better Mousetrap


HarrisData technology strategy includes Apple and IBM PureSystems technologies.


Traditionally focused on Manufacturing and Distribution sectors, HarrisData has been a consistent steady-as-you go player in the enterprise market. But steady as-you-go does not mean out of touch. In fact touch, i.e. moving away from the mouse to a new interface1 is a major part of HarrisData’s technology strategy. Thus the code name ‘Mouse Trap’ for their technology strategy.

HarrisData is a very unique company compared to their competitors. For example, about 85% of their customer base is on the current version of the software. That statistic should be the envy of the software industry. To do that, they have to keep innovating to keep customers. Today, the UI is the most obvious place to attack, and most needed by the HarrisData community. It not only allows ease of use, but supports office-to-mobile use cases.

This leads to another envious stat: a 95% retention rate. Knowing the company continues to innovate for the welfare of their customers — with changes such as the UI and ongoing development of functionality — keeps the customers on board.

That retention rate is tough to accomplish, especially with the range of businesses that HarrisData serves — mid-market, complex businesses such as Construction and Engineering, as well as the manufacturing sector (Figure 1).

ERP Position by Company Size

Source: ChainLink Research
Figure 1: HarrisData ERP Solutions

Besides ERP, HarrisData offers financial and accounting solutions with HarrisData Financial Management Systems, and solutions focused at human resource professionals — HarrisData Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) (Figure 2). In fact, HRIS will have a most interesting future.

The Mouse that Went to War

Along with this significant interface upgrade and migration to cloud for all their products over time, HarrisData will focus on the sector strategies for their HRIS product. This will include significant upgrades to make this software easy enough to stop the outsourcing of HR and payroll. And not just stop it, but replace the outsourcer by providing a more price competitive and easy-to-use solution.

They plan to target the current outsourcing of payroll and other HR services, often done by the big competitors in that market – DP, Paychex, and Ceridian — and replace it with HRIS.

Fascinating — taking aim at these behemoths is a mega play. Readers may not be familiar with the Hopi tale, Field Mouse Goes to War2 about a field mouse that saved a village from hawks preying on their chickens and food stores, but that is what came to mind when HarrisData told us about their game plan. It’s a story about a brave mouse who takes on the eagles — when the villagers and larger animals would not/could not defend themselves. Again, it’s about building a better mouse trap.

Providing the software in the cloud allows the enterprise to have a blend of what is best about outsourcing along with the continued control and flexibility of keeping in-house management.

As Michael Mallen, Executive Vice President for HarrisData told us, “Why would people want to spend all this money on ADP, when they can own an HR payroll server-based system, and have a payback period very quickly?”

Price differences, according to Mallen, are dramatic. “We have customers with 15,000 employees, if an ADP customer, would be paying more than $1 million a year in fees. With HarrisData, they can own their own system for between $150,000 and $200,000.”

ERP Positioning by Major Industries

Source: ChainLink Research
Figure 2: Industries and Sectors

And with a cloud-type solution, the users don’t have to manage the technology. They have all the applications, entry screens and reports provided by HarrisData, with a managed-server provider to care for the technology.

Partnership with IBM PureSystems

HarrisData is a long-time partner of IBM. IBM has a long history in the mid-market providing services and installations with ERP. HarrisData was selected by IBM to be a key partner in their new PureSystems ‘environment.’

PureSystems are services in which IBM plans, configures, manages and monitors your hardware (and software) infrastructure in the cloud for an application — in this case a HarrisData application — preloaded with the interfaces, etc. IBM calls it integration by design.3

Understanding hardware configurations is getting more complex because of the variety of appliances for database, Managed File Transfers, web meeting, wireless, and other general computing needs. It can be overwhelming for users. Small businesses or businesses with global divisions seeking standardization can ship the systems, configuration ready-to-go, across the globe.4 IBM is obviously in the position to look across many, many installations and understand how to optimally configure and manage these environments. These systems can be hosted and provided in a SaaS-type environment or IT can still somewhat manage their systems. The point is that IBM plans the configuration for you and preloads everything you need.

The PureSystems partnership with HarrisData creates a Cloud/SaaS offering for the HarrisData customer, pairing the best of HarrisData’s software and IBM’s infrastructure management.

All this said, HarrisData does sell solutions on other hardware — not just IBM.


These innovations — modernizing the UI and going cloud — provide needed innovation for the HarrisData customer. And for HarrisData, the human resources move can be a game changer in a growing trend in the HR services market.

It will be interesting to see how this changes their competitive landscape to not only compete with the outsourcing eagles, but cloud HR players like WorkDay. This expands the HarrisData market, we think, in a profound way, allowing them to capture significant new business in a broad array of enterprises.


ERP Series


1 Apple iPads — Return to article text above
2 Field Mouse Goes to War/Tusan Homichi Tuwvota : A Bilingual Hopi Tale here at Amazon.
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3 “Integration by design: Traditionally, systems have been procured and managed as a mere collection of hardware and software components. Businesses spend significant time and money integrating, tuning and managing these components to support their application workloads. IT organizations have begun to use appliances, cloud computing, and software as a service (SaaS) to help reduce these costs, but the loss of flexibility and control has limited the adoption of these approaches. Expert integrated systems provide the advantages of these approaches while avoiding their limitations. These systems are integrated by design, leaving the factory tuned and optimized for supported workloads, but with the flexibility and control you need.”Source IBM PureSystems.
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4 This author managed large global IT projects with this method — preload the configuration and then ship a ready system to remote locations — and provided ‘service bureau’ options for users who did not want to manage their own hardware. Internet and dial-in provided access. This way the enterprise was assured a successful deployment and integration. — Return to article text above

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