05 June 2012

8 Reasons Why Standards Like HR-XML Save Software Development Time

I'm John Kleeman, Chairman of Questionmark, the assessment management systems company. Here is why open specifications and standards like HR-XML save effort when developing software.

Suppose you are responsible for application A, and your customer needs it to integrate with application B. How do you do this?

One option is to build a proprietary interface, where you write code which connects A to B directly.

Another option, if a suitable standard exists, is for each application to connect via the standard, for instance by exchanging data using HR-XML:


Open standards and specifications not only reduce the workload for developers but enable best of breed applications to interoperate with an organization's core applications. It pays to be a keen supporter of standards because they make it much easier to integrate with other applications.

Here are eight reasons why using a standard or open specification saves time:

  1. Standards provide a common vocabulary to allow developers to talk the same language
  2. Standards reduce maintenance costs. A proprietary interface is painful to maintain - every time A or B gets updated, you need to update the interface. When both systems connect to the standard, if one gets updated, the interface still works. I've seen many examples of proprietary integration failing when new versions come out.
  3. Learn from others. Standards reduce the amount you as a software developer need to learn. Understanding two systems well needs special skills, especially if A and B use different technology like Java and .NET.
  4. Stand on the shoulders of giants. Standards are usually developed by bright, smart people from a wide community and are well thought-through. You can take advantage of the thinking that's been done before on how integration needs to happen. It can stop you re-inventing the wheel.
  5. Improve quality. Standards make QA easier by providing test data. For instance, HR-XML has self-testing tools to make it easier to check compliance.
  6. Forum to demonstrate commitment. If you use a standard, you can get your application certified (see HR-XML certified logo right), this gives customer confidence and marketing benefits.
  7. Expand your horizon. Interfacing via a standard gives you interoperability with other products for free. Your code will work not just with B but with other applications that support the standard.
  8. Maintain interoperability over time. If your customer moves from B to another application, you can still integrate providing it supports the standard.

There are times where you have to use proprietary integration – for instance, if no standard is available or if you need to integrate with a product that doesn't support standards. But if a standard like HR-XML is available for your integration use case, you will save a lot of time and effort by using it.