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29 April 2020

UNIVERSITY OF GOTHENBURG’S USE OF HR OPEN STANDARDS FOR PROVISIONING




Guest Blog Post: Ola Lundgren is an Integration Architect | University of Gothenburg

Founded in the late 19th century, and currently home to upwards of 50,000 students every year, the University of Gothenburg is one of the larger universities in Sweden. The University has an employed staff of roughly 6,500 teachers, researchers, and administrative personnel, as well as thousands of research students and external staff linked to the University in various capacities. As a result, the challenge of keeping a consistent view of identities, and their various affiliations to different parts of a sprawling organization, across a myriad of different IT systems grows larger every year.

From an IT architecture perspective, our integration landscape is heavily focused on service orientation and re-usability. This has a number of implications for the way we design integration solutions, and a key element is the application of standards. For our core provisioning services, we try to use standard message formats­ for the particular domain. We have found that this shortens development time when implementing new integrations and minimizes misunderstanding within the use of common concepts and nomenclature.

In the spring of 2019, we launched a project with the purpose of implementing a new system of record for the domain most adequately described as Person/Organization. An expressed purpose of the project was to provide a platform of integration services for aggregated organizational affiliations, whether they be employed or external staff, researchers, teachers or students of various kinds – in many cases several at the same time! Keeping with our principles, we started to look around for available standard formats to base these services on.

Our solution was to take our existing information model for this domain, along with a list of basic requirements, and search for alternatives. The initial list of candidates contained existing local canonical models, data formats published by Swedish national agencies, and global standards. Pretty quickly, however, we found that most formats were either too thin (i.e. lacked coverage in a lot of areas of our information model which would be a major extension driver), too verbose, or in other ways were not suited to our use case.

What we ended up with was the HR Open Standards Common library for Person, Affiliation, and Organization.

Among our basic requirements were:

  • Structured format: based on XML or JSON
  • Possible to validate messages against schema
  • Open standard: vendor independent
  • Extensibility: possible to make local additions
  • Localization: support for multi-language text fields

Not only did the HR Open Common types check all of these boxes, they also provided the necessary information coverage for “out of the box” data we needed to represent (Person, Affiliation, Communication, Security Credentials, etc.). Being an academic organization with a lot of research staff, we appreciated the built-in support for academic publications and educational merits, as well as the how easily the standards were extendable with both simple types and complex structures.

Adding to our support for the HR Open Common types, was its flexibility in the right areas. Other models were often too rigid or geared to a narrower use case, for example explicitly defining entities like Employee and Employment, or only providing one organizational affiliation for an individual. Since our extended use case involves a generic platform for organizational affiliation, the relevant individuals could be any type of staff, employees, or non-employees, guest researchers, or students, and even sometimes several of these choices at once!

In addition to providing an elegant way of describing this relationship (a Person with any number of Affiliations to Organizational entities), the HR Open schemas proved to be technically sound with the right amount of verbosity for a standard. The toolbox includes great extras like generic identifier types, structures for different types of contact information, language enabled strings, and so much more that we can continue to use as extensions in our messages.

We are very happy with this design choice for our integration services and look forward to seeing how the standard continues to develop in the future.

Ola Lundgren is an Integration Architect at the University of Gothenburg and has worked there since 2015. He has a M.Sc. Computer Science & Engineering with experience in Software Engineering and IT architecture in the Education sector.          

 

21 April 2020

COFFEE CHAT: XML VS. JSON




When deciding to choose between XML and JSON it’s important to be able to understand the strengths and weakness of each – XML is older and more refined but JSON is lighter weight and more optimized for newer technologies. You need to understand your business case, how you will be using the data, and how the platforms you’re interacting with are exchanging data.

XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a markup language that defines a set of rules for encoding documents in a format that is both human-readable and machine-readable1. We discussed how the technology has been around longer, making the data easier to look at and allows you a greater possibility of knowing what problems will arise. XML may be more restrictive but HR Open provides a mechanism for extensions.

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation is a lightweight data-interchange format that is human and machines readable/writable2. As a newer technology JSON is lighter weight and able to accommodate changes in technology more easily. For instance, there’s more tooling available for building open APIs and connected data between properties.

Factors that help decide whether to use XML or JSON really depend on what you’re trying to accomplish. Data dumps are easier to read through XML, as the large file can act as a portable database. JSON is easier to transform objects using code and express the interconnections between the data. Sometimes your file format will be dictated by the companies you’re exchanging data with, in fact several people commented how they take data in through JSON and generate an XML output.

It’s also important to talk about APIs. Swagger3, JSON based, is a way to develop APIs and provides documents for accessibility. We’ve seen that a lot of the tools for developing APIs seem to be more plentiful than ones for XML which could present a move from XML SOAP to more RESTful web services (although XML can be restful too). The AWS API Gateway uses JSON to manage API configuration, development, and usage demonstrating that JSON is more mature.

HR Open considers the business cases when developing the standards, defining the JSON first , then generating the XML. This allows the implementer to determine which format to use when incorporating the standards in their products.

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XML
2 https://www.json.org/json-en.html
3https://swagger.io/

 

29 January 2020

PEOPLE ANALYTICS IN STANDARDS IMPLEMENTATIONS




Guest Blog Post: Dr. Michael Moon, People Analytics Leader | ADP

Imagine if you were asked to buy a house without ever seeing it. Your real estate agent tells you it has everything you asked for and you should trust her because she has had 100% success in predicting her client’s happiness with their purchase. Would you buy it?

What if you were planning a trip to an imaginary island, let’s call it Peopletopia, and the one person you know that has been there said you don’t need sunscreen in Peopletopia because it is so far away from any major continents that the sun has little to no impact on your skin. This is someone you were recently introduced to, who coincidentally, also happens to have a PhD. You burn easily and have a family history of skin cancer. Do you go without your sunscreen?

What if everywhere you ever worked people were allowed to wear any color shirt they wanted work, but now at your new job you are told you can wear any color but purple. You ask why and you are told because a very well-known thought leader presented research that purple clothing causes increased conflict in the workplace, more than any other color. Do you believe it?

Okay, so maybe the last scenarios are a little silly or far-fetched, but hopefully you get the point. Most of us do not do things on blind faith, like the first scenario, or make serious life-decisions based on information from only one source like the second scenario, even if that source is the world’s most renowned expert on a topic like the third scenario. So why, if we wouldn’t do these things in our personal lives, would we do them as HR Professionals?

So much of what we do as HR professionals and people managers in our organizations today are actually based upon faulty logic, inappropriate application of research, based on what we think makes sense, or what we read in the latest article in XYZ Magazine. And sometimes, we do them simply because it is what we have always done.

Even worse than faulty logic, and absolutely fundamental to making the most effective decisions about an organization’s people, is the importance of establishing standards for how data is stored, retrieved and used as part of HR decision-making.

Whether we are talking about the new ISO standards on human capital management reporting launched in 2019 (ISO 30414) or standards in how you define various HR measures and metrics, developing standards is a crucial part of using People Analytics to help unravel HR mysteries and facilitate better strategic value for your organization.

HR Open Standards not only provides the forum for people to come together to discuss, establish, and define the standards but it also provides an avenue for technologists to converse about their need and solve problems. If you’d like to learn more register to attend my session “People Analytics in Standards Implementations” at the HR Open 2020 Annual Meeting.

9 January 2020

JDX™ JOBSCHEMA+ PROJECT PARTNERSHIP




HR Open Standards is partnering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation on the JDX JobSchema+ Project. The Chamber Foundation recently announced the public feedback period is open on the project which looks to significantly evolve the existing data standard for job postings. HR Open is proud to be working on this project that will support more diverse hiring needs and in-demand skills and competencies in a modern workplace. This project closely relates to HR Open Standards mission to enable innovation in the HR Technology Industry by providing a turnkey solution to the problem of data exchange.

In today’s talent marketplace, data is king. However, in order to organize, manage, and share data effectively we need a solid foundation of interoperable data standards starting with data on jobs. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is excited to partner with HR Open Standards to update and improve the JobPosting Schema, leverage it as part of the Job Data Exchange (JDX), and make the data the results from it more shareable with credentialing organizations and learners through the T3 Innovation Network.” – Jason Tysko, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

The JDX JobSchema+ expands and improves upon the JobPosting Schema, a widely-deployed schema in the employment context. Evolving and modernizing the existing standard is central to the success of the JDX initiative, which aims to deliver real-time labor market data to the stakeholders of the talent marketplace direct from employers.

“HR Open Standards has been developing and evolving well-adopted schemas to support recruiting since 1999. Our partnership with the Chamber Foundation will support the expansion of these standards to better signal accurate job requirements, support discovery of these job requirements to job seekers, and to help match candidates’ skills, knowledge and abilities to the true job requirements. We are excited about this collaboration” – Andrew Cunsolo, President of HR Open Standards Consortium

HR Open Standards Consortium looks forward to our continued partnership with the Chamber Foundation to evolve the standards and improve support for education and government organizations. In addition, we are participating on the JDX Advisory Council, making the expertise and experience in our Consortium available to the industry in new and exciting ways.

9 January 2020

HR OPEN STANDARDS: A HISTORY




HR Open Standards is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. We want to share some of our milestones with you and show you how we got to be the only independent, non-profit, volunteer-led organization dedicated to the development and promotion of a standard suite of specifications to enable human resource related data exchanges.

HR Open Standards: A Timeline

1999 |Formation: First discussion about formation of a consortium in Alexandria, VA which results in HR-XML Consortium Inc. being organized in December 1999

2000 |1st Meeting: First HR-XML meeting in January. HR-XML releases DTD specification for Recruiting and Benefits

2001 |HR-XML: August 2001 released first XML standards

2003 |Product Certification: HR-XML introduces its first Product Certification Program

2003 |Additional Releases: Release HR-XML 2.0 and 2.5 Standards

2009 |HR-XML 3.0: Release HR-XML 3.0 and specifications

2012 |Online Training: Announce online training courses to support growing adoptions

2013 |1st JSON: Release JSON lightweight recruiting standard

2014 |HR Open Standards: Consortium changes name to reflect complete openness and not limit to XML

2015 |JSON 4.0: Candidate HR-JSON 4.0 Standards (timecards and wellness)

2016 |Individual Certifications: Individual Certificate Program to further interoperability and satisfactions with HR OS standards

2018 |JSON Fully Supported: HR-JSON 4.1 Standards (Assessments, Benefits, Compensations, Interviewing, Recruiting, Screening, Timecard, Wellness)

2019 |New Workgroups: Employer and Earning Record, Contingent Staffing, Learner Record.

We continue to add more workgroups and projects to provide the best services and standards to the HR industry. Thank you to all the members, volunteers, staff, and Board of Directors who have contributed to the Standards over the last 20 years!

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