How to Choose a New HR Software System

7 key tips for successful HR system evaluations in 2015

By John A. Hinojos Mar 20, 2015
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In the mid-1970s, the idea of using technology in human resources was just beginning. A few years later, the first computerized HR system was released. While initially elementary, HR systems have continued to grow and expand in complexity.

Most human resource information technology or human resource information systems specialists have been involved with an HR software evaluation in one way or another. However, as the industry delivery models have focused more on software-as-a-service (SAAS), many of the original processes are slightly different today. System evaluation and selection is not a process done daily. As a professional charged with assessing a new system, it’s always best to refresh your knowledge base before embarking on such a project.

7 Key Tips for a Successful Evaluation

When selecting new software, the following steps can help guide this complicated process:

1. Have a strategy and a plan.

If one doesn’t already exist, the creation, maintenance and execution of a human capital strategy is needed. Get away from voluminous text documents often used with high-level presentations to convey the actual strategy to top management. Use collaborative software to create the strategy instead of sending the documents through e-mail. Without a valid plan, the odds are that the chosen software may not perform adequately and the process will need to be repeated again soon.

2. Have the correct resources.

Assembling the correct team is vital. Include stakeholders in the decision process. Systems are increasingly being used more by non-HR staff. It is important to know what those outside the HR department need. Consider using an external consultant to assist. A consultant would be most effective for strategy development, discovery, vendor list creation, requirements match to vendors and the demo. Used effectively, this resource can save a lot of research time, as outside consultants usually have extensive knowledge of both the vendors and templates, which helps move the process along.

3. Have good requirements.

It is important to include all functional areas that use the system in the discovery sessions. Discovery sessions should elicit all of the requirements needed for the system. Focus only on those processes that are unique and not items that can be met by all vendors. Consider using collaboration software in the creation of requirements. It is best to keep the priorities simple and minimal, and consensus should rule. Global requirements and nuance should always be considered. Even if the company is not global today, the evaluation is selecting for the future; it takes only one decision before the company could need global functionality. The requirements should always consider if a function can be done globally, so the final system selected will be scalable to any future corporate changes.

4. Focus on leading edge technology.

Not all companies will use newer technologies in the same manner. These technologies can include some of the more advanced forms of direct access, mobile technology and social media. It can be hard to thoroughly understand how employees may use the newer technology, but do not underestimate the tech-savviness of employees. Consider: Are mobile features supported via an app? Determine, too, which browser versions will actually be supported.

5. Use decision drivers.

There are only a few (ideally three to five) elements which will drive the final decision. You do not want to make your final decision based on only the system demo. Of course, there are many different decision drivers, but most of them incorporate a combination of considerations such as:

Vendor Viability

Technology

Functionality

Configurability

Usability

Scalability

Return on investment

Service and support

Ease of integration

Business segmentation

Operational effectiveness

Global capabilities


Have the decision drivers be the focal point of your final decision and do not give too much weight to impressions from the demo.

6. Understand how vendors fit your requirements.

Once your requirements are determined, a method is needed to assess which vendors would be the best possibilities—and thus will be invited to demo. Historically, this is where you would issue a huge, multi-page request for proposal (RFP) with hundreds of questions for the vendor to fill out. Some companies still require these; always check internally with purchasing, IT or legal if any specific process is required. Remember to keep any request for information and/or RFP as short as possible. The longer the document, the more likely the vendor will pass on responding to the request. Some SAAS vendors may not reply to an RFP, but will send you their standard product questions with their answers. Score the responses using a weighted numeric scale.

7. Keep control of the demo and selection.

Don’t expect the vendor to customize too much of the demo to company specifics. Demos should be between four to seven hours for each vendor, depending on features being included. Follow-up web demos can do a “deeper dive” into a specific area. If possible, do the vendor demos back-to-back and with the same team members attending all demos.

The entire process will typically take about 12 weeks. Some can be done a little shorter, but then there is a larger demand on the team’s time. Make sure enough time is allocated. This is an important decision and should not be hurried.

Conducting a successful system evaluation is not yet a science, but by following the above steps it can become more objective.

John A. Hinojos is currently vice president of consulting services for HRchitect Inc. He can be reached at JHinojos@HRchitect.com.

©2015. International Association for Human Resource Information Management. Used with permission.

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