Vendor Profile – Frontier Software – Chris21

Written by Peter

Peter is Navigo's founder and Managing Director. Peter is passionate about building and running businesses, finding solutions to business process problems and new trends in HR Technology.

November 5, 2012

This is our first post in our vendor profile series which focuses on HR Vendors in the Australian market to talk about their products, what’s coming up and our point of view.

Disclaimer:  Navigo works and partners with many of the Australian HR/Payroll vendors – this doesn’t stop us from being frank in our opinions. This IS NOT a paid advertorial!

I caught up with Frontier Software’s Australian General Manager Nick Southcombe to discuss where they are taking their flagship product, Chris21.

The Chris21 story

Frontier Software is one of the granddaddys in the Australian HRIS scene being established nearly 30 years ago by Managing Director Michael Howard.

With over 1600 customers world wide, 850 of them in Australia, our research from 2011 suggests Chris21 is the most used HRIS in Australia.

Chris21 (Comprehensive Human Resource Integrated Solution) offers core HR Management and additional optional modules for payroll, recruitment, learning, time and attendance, and performance.  HR21 is their self service module for employees and line manager functions.

Over a quarter of Frontier customers are hosted, preferring not to manage the infrastructure on-premise.  About half of new sales are hosted.

Frontier provides payroll outsourcing but currently do not offer full HR Operations outsourcing.  According to Nick they are planning to offer a full HRO service in the future.

What’s coming for Chris21

Frontier are investing heavily in research and development. 41% of their 250 staff are in R&D, while another 45% of staff are client services.

Nick outlined the following big things that has either been released or schedule for first half next year:

Chris 7.8 release out this month – includes around 500 changes to system

Moving to a single source release
Combining the UK and Australia code bases, expect to have this about mid next year in their 8.0 release

Time and Attendance module – TA21
Recently released in the Australian market, staff entry of time and attendance data can be entered via self service – HR21 or a clock device.

Frontier have long promoted their user interfaces and reporting being easily changed as they are built on their API interface known as General Transaction Requests (GTR’s)

iChris – pure browser built power user interface
In the 7.8 release, iChris, a built for the browser power user interface, will be released and expected to have more functionality than the current client based interface.

Multi currency
In development  – ability to pay people in multiple currencies from one system

Multi Language In development 

Dashboard for executives
Browser based and to be released in 7.8.  The dashboard use metadata stored in a separate db through an ETL (extract, transform, load) process.

Mobile and Tablet access
MHR21 is the interface for tablets and mobile.  Common screens in HR21 can now be accessed through a web browser in your smart phone and tablet device.

Workflow and process builder
Create your own screens and forms in HR21 leveraging off the core workflow engine to create your own business processes.


My point of view

Established Australian HRIS vendors like Frontier face a considerable challenge as the market for HR Technology shifts towards cloud deployment, socially enabled talent management and consumer like user experiences on any device.

While core payroll, leave and HR records processing is the backbone of HR operations, they are becoming a commodity service and organisations are looking at technology to drive more value from employees.

Frontier’s significant R&D spend and functional positioning is a strong sign they are gearing for the next battle in the Australian HR/Payroll vendor scene.  Improving the user experience, supporting mobile platforms and building out talent management capability are key areas to help secure Frontier’s position in the Australian and growing Asian mid-enterprise market.

Social enterprise and collaboration features don’t feature anywhere in Chris21 and that probably reflects there is little customer demand for this – yet.  The first entrée into these areas will most likely be around the recruiting side.

Frontier are building on 30 years of software history with Chris21 and that has it’s challenges for the new age of SaaS based HR Technology.

But this history also brings a solid foundation of strong leadership, an experienced team and dominant market position.

It’s an interesting time for established Australian HRIS vendors and the next few years are critical for Frontier to ensure it continues to have a strong, clear vision for it’s products while adapting to the cloud based market.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You might also like…