Talk to two people about the same piece of human resources software, and you may find one refers to it as a human resources management system, or HRMS, while the other calls it a human resources information system, or HRIS. Although the two terms were initially subtly different, today HRMS and HRIS are used interchangeably to talk about software used to track and manage employees.

Similar Systems

The same developer of human resources software will use "HRMS software" and "HRIS software" to market similar products. Solutions from these companies typically include modules to track employee information, including demographics and personal information, time and attendance, benefits, payroll, employee performance and schedules. Job applicant tracking and work-force staffing analysis are also included in software programs.

Difference in Definition

The difference between HRMS and HRIS is found in how they're defined. HRIS is defined as a database system or a series of interrelated databases used for tracking employee information. HRMS is defined as a complete software application package used to track and manage employee data. By definition, HRMS is the more comprehensive solution, sitting a layer above the HRIS databases. Vendors recognize this and name their products accordingly. One vendor even changed its solution name from HRIS to HRMS -- without changing the functionality -- because it believed HRMS indicated a more comprehensive solution, according to Clay C. Scroggins, president and owner of the CompareHRIS website.

Human Capital Management

Alongside HRMS and HRIS, human capital management, or HCM, is a term commonly used to discuss HR software solutions. HCM refers to a set of practices used to manage employees . These practices focus on finding and hiring employees, managing employees and optimizing the work force to best meet corporate goals. Since many HRMS and HRIS solutions provide tools that assist companies in implementing and analyzing these processes, a number of vendors have added HCM to the list of terminology used to describe the same software solutions.

Focus on Needs

HRMS, HRIS and HCM software all refer to the same solutions. Regardless of what you call the system, you need to make sure it delivers the set of functionality that meets your company's needs. Understand your company's HCM practices and help your vendors understand them so they can show you how their solutions can help you achieve your goals. Regardless of what you call the system, it is the functionality itself that is key in choosing and using the right software for your company.