Almost every HR system is now an intersection between Human Resource Management and Information Technology. It stores information about the people that are part of the enterprise. It’s a complex process that makes enterprises run. These systems are updated on daily bases as people become part of the enterprise, change their position, leave etc.
The main goal of an enterprise is to develop and progress, and this can take the form of training on a regular basis. All this information is maintained in the HR system.
The main goal of Totara Sync is to regularly and automatically update all the relevant data that is delivered by the HR system. It is a one-way synchronization process (HR to Totara LMS) by two types of feeds:
- Data Feed
- Database Connection Feed
In this overview, we will look at the benefits of using Totara Sync and further explain the two types of feeds.
Summary of the Sections
Before getting into the details of Totara Sync, please note the structure that will be followed.
- Section 1: Benefits of using Totara Sync
- Section 2: Overview of the synchronization process
- Section 3: Totara Sync Overview Conclusion
Section 1: Benefits of using Totara Sync
One of the greatest benefits of Totara Sync is that it keeps a constant update between the HR system and Totara LMS. This is crucial when it comes to running an enterprise. It saves time, resources and delivers constant functionality.
The synchronization process (hence the name 'Totara Sync') automatically updates records and assignments to positions, organizations and users.
It is recommended that Totara Sync be used with Totara LMS’s Audience Management and Report Builder. This will deliver access to learning content and learning records to the users, based on current HR information.
Totara LMS’s Audience Management allows courses and programs to be assigned to audience members. All the courses and programs, including the members can be updated on regular basis. There are certain membership rules that are applied such as organization, position and user data. These can be combined into a rule set (e.g. “Human Resource Managers” AND Position ID is 3 (Junior HR Manager) AND User Start date “Less than 6 months”) i.e. this rule set is set for HR Managers that are on junior positions in the last six months will be part of that training. With a constant update with the HR data, Totara LMS’s Audience management will keep learning consistent to all the users that have that current status in the enterprise.
Also there is the Report Builder which allows reports to be created and configured so that specific filters can be applied to any given report, thus selecting which data to be represented in the report. The report consists of columns which are comprised of HR data fields that are found in Totara LMS such as organization, position and user data.
These data fields can be ID, Name, Surname, City, Country, Organization, Position, Start date etc. These filters also can provide the hierarchical relationship within the enterprise. For example, a report viewer can show reports based on relationship among users.
When Totara Sync runs on a daily basis it updates all the available records, columns, and filters based on the latest HR data.
This sort of synchronization can prove beneficial especially for those enterprises where constant update of knowledge is necessary and obligatory. It saves a lot of time in the HR department especially in terms of certification of the employees, learning plans and every skillset that an individual has when it comes to successfully running an enterprise.
Section 2: Overview of the synchronization process
In order to fully understand how Totara Sync works, the primary conceptual components have to be explained.
- Data feeds
- Site administration
- The configuration process
- Automatic and manual synchronization
Today on the market there are many HR systems. This is a major problem when it comes to data feed, because no two commercial HR systems are alike. The concept is similar, but the structure and format that is being used to store the data differs significantly. This issue is being resolved by providing an extensive amount of flexibility in how the HR data can be stored. Even if two enterprises use the same system, the data can differ significantly.
Data feeds have to be formatted in accordance with the data file format. The Data file format is a set of rules and guidelines on how to configure the formats, file extensions, encoding etc. If the data feed is not formatted accordingly, Totara Sync may fail to process the files.
Totara Sync allows data in three of Totara LMS’s core components to be added, updated, and deleted, as shown in the following table:
When deleting user accounts, Totara LMS does not remove user accounts from the database.
Deleted user accounts can be later undeleted. See the section ‘Deleting users’ for more information.
On the first run Totara Sync automatically creates a folder named “csv/ready”, and emails to administration when the synchronization is completed. Also there is a setting to set the time for the synchronization to run.
Site administration settings
Site administration settings are divided into three sections
- Configuration Settings
In order to access to Totara Sync’s administration functionality a system role has to be assigned via Totara LMS’s permissions.
Access to Totara Sync’s administrative functionality can be assigned to system roles via Totara LMS’s permissions. In some cases, it is useful to configure Totara LMS to allow some Admins to only be able to update user data in one upload of the user.csv file, but not update organizations and positions.
Data files in Totara Sync, can contain two types of data. These data files contain records which needed to be added, updated and deleted, and records that represent how the data should appear when Totara Sync is run.
In order to get the right feedback, it is recommended that custom reports be made.
The configuration process encompasses activities that compare data fields in the HR System and Totara Sync file format. This is the most important process and it tries to synchronize two systems that have different structure. Basically there are four major steps that have to be carried out in order this process to be successful:
- Document mapping from the HR System data source to the Totara Sync file format (All records require an id number)
- Decision of what type of data feed file will be used for synchronization
- Export data from HR data source into data feed files (Organization, Position, User)
- Format the data into data files if it is necessary to do so.
In the configuration process we select the Elements that will be imported, select the method of file access, the elements settings where we select the source of the data for each element - either CSV or External Database and select the fields to import and mapping.
Manual vs. Automatic Synchronization
As we mentioned before there are two types of synchronization - manual and automatic.
Once Totara Sync’s sources are configured, the administrators can manually run Totara Sync. In contrast is the automatic synchronization which is run on a regular basis. This is a more effective resolution to the synchronization process. Totara Sync is managed via the scheduling system also called ‘cron’ (an abbreviation of the term ‘chronological’). The ‘cron’ is a very important PHP script which comes together with the Totara installation, and it runs regularly in the background.
When it comes to automatic synchronization, there are two steps that require support from the System Administrator.
- Automatically receiving files on the web server
- Decision whether an SFTP or FTP should be set up
Section 3: Totara Sync Overview Conclusion
In the diagram above you can see the whole process. The main goal of Totara Sync is to connect the existing data from the Enterprise HR data source to the Totara LMS, and give that data another form of functionality that could improve human resource management on a totally different level.
The transfer of data can be achieved either by CSV files or database transfer. It is important that the data feed is set correctly, so that the connection can be established.