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11 critical questions to ask yourself before choosing HR software


Choosing the best HR technology platform for your business is a complex endeavor. If you don’t have a solid grasp on what you want to improve, you risk purchasing a platform or solution that ultimately won’t solve your company’s HR challenges. That’s time and money you’ll never get back.

Fortunately, you can simplify the selection process with a little advance planning. Having an in-depth understanding of your organization and its most pressing human resource struggles is key. To help ensure you get it right the first time, ask yourself these 11 critical questions before beginning your search.

1. What are our greatest HR frustrations?

Are you spending valuable time duplicating data on disparate systems that aren’t integrated? Are PTO requests and approvals becoming too time-consuming? Has employee turnover become so excessive that you’re exhausting your recruiting budget by mid-year?

Frustration is usually the result of inefficiency. So, by asking yourself what issues are causing your organization the greatest frustration, you can home in on the areas that likely need the most improvement. Be sure to seek input from employees who are “in the trenches,” the ones who handle your human resource tasks day in and day out. They have their fingers on the pulse of your business’s HR operations and are often better able to help you set priorities for a technology platform.

2. What is our organization doing on a regular basis that could be a waste of time?

Although similar in nature to question number one, don’t assume this question is redundant and skip over it. Just because a task or process hasn’t yet reached the point of frustration doesn’t mean it’s necessarily working as well as it should. Is your company regularly exhausting resources on activities that could be eliminated, or at least minimized?

For instance, if you’re running payroll weekly, have you considered paying employees biweekly instead? You certainly wouldn’t want to implement a change like this without taking into account any repercussions or impact to your workforce. However, adjusting the frequency of your weekly, biweekly and monthly processes wherever possible or feasible can be a simple but effective solution.

3. What is our organization doing right?

Are you blindly assuming that all of your HR processes and procedures need an overhaul? Think twice before you apply the proverbial Band-Aid to the entire department. Put simply, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. For example, maybe your current protocol for tracking time is effective but just needs the technology in place to facilitate the process flow for entering and approving hours.

It’s easy to get so caught up in the desire to make improvements that you overlook what is already efficient within your company. Make sure whatever technology you choose facilitates the areas of your HR operations that are actually working well, rather than creating new problems that didn’t exist before.

4. What are our most critical needs?

These are your must-haves, and fixing the issues that are costing your business the most time and money should be your greatest priority. For instance, if onboarding new employees and running biweekly payroll are currently your biggest challenges, then paperless onboarding and flexible payroll-processing schedules should be on your list of must-haves for any HR technology platform you consider.

5. What bonus features would benefit our organization most?

These are your nice-to-haves, meaning they’re not as critical as your must-haves but would certainly be a welcome addition to any software package. Even though this list is reserved for wants, versus needs, these “extras” can sometimes be the difference between an efficient organization and an exceptional one.

But how do you distinguish your nice-to-haves from your must-haves? Think of it like shopping for a car. What’s absolutely essential to get you from point A to point B as efficiently as possible? A well-running engine, good brakes and a steering wheel are definitely must-haves. Cruise control, heated seats and satellite radio might be among your nice-to-haves, along with any other “bells and whistles” that aren’t critical.

Likewise, if payroll processing and paperless employee onboarding are your HR must-haves, your nice-to-haves might include a fully integrated employee performance review or applicant tracking system.

6. What are the top three objectives we hope to accomplish once the platform is in place?

Studying your answers to questions one through five will help you prioritize the top three goals you hope to achieve with your platform. Are you looking to reduce employee departures? How about providing your workforce better, more cost-effective access to training and development? Or maybe you hope to streamline your entire HR operations by implementing a more integrated platform.

Your primary HR objectives should be closely aligned with your organization as a whole. Ultimately, the technology platform you choose should help you overcome your greatest HR challenges, which in turn can lessen your administrative burden and make your business more profitable through increased efficiencies.

Buyer beware: Don’t get lost in the “bells and whistles.” Focus on your must-haves first. Those are your biggest priority.

7. Who will be involved in the decision-making process?

Ideally, all stakeholders will be represented in your evaluation and final decision. That doesn’t mean you need buy-in from every single employee. That may not be feasible. But it’s a good idea to have at least one representative from every key department or team within your organization, or at least those who are directly involved with your business’s HR operations. This group will serve as your vendor and software selection committee, and their key role will be helping you weigh the pros and cons of prospective platform providers and solutions.

It’s also important to determine how selection will take place. Will everyone have a say, or just certain committee members? Who will oversee implementation and manage the ongoing relationship with the vendor? These are factors best considered in advance – not as an afterthought.

8. What’s our budget for purchasing an HR platform?

Remember that car analogy from question number five? It applies here, too. Just as you wouldn’t start shopping for a car without first deciding how much you have to spend, you shouldn’t begin your search for HR technology without knowing your price point. Having a clear understanding of the funds available for such a major purchase enables you to determine which vendors and platforms are within your range, and which ones aren’t. This can help you narrow down your top contenders faster without wasting time on options that may not be the right fit for your company. That being said, don’t automatically rule out a particular vendor or solution based on price alone (see next question).

9. What level of customer service do we need?

The answer to this question will largely depend on your in-house capabilities. For example, a company with an internal IT team probably won’t need as much support implementing and operating HR software as a company whose HR manager is also trying to juggle IT responsibilities.

Service is a key differentiator among vendors and platforms. You may be better off with a vendor who provides exceptional, personalized service but can only offer your must-haves within budget, than a vendor that promises both your must-haves and nice-to-haves for a lower price but skimps on service.

Partnering with a vendor who offers scalable solutions tailored to your business’s needs will usually allow you to add your nice-to-haves a la carte once your budget permits it.

10. How will we measure our return on investment (ROI)?

Define how you will measure ROI once your new HR technology is in place. You’ll want to take into account both direct savings and improvements.

Direct savings are usually easier to quantify since they’re based on concrete figures, such as the number of man hours saved by automating processes and data entry. It’s important to identify the areas within your organization that you anticipate will experience direct savings as a result of HR technology, and then follow through on making the necessary changes to realize those savings. Direct savings can help offset the cost of implementation and, if significant enough, may even make it cost neutral.

Generic improvements that result from HR technology can also positively impact your bottom line, but they can be more difficult to quantify because they’re usually tied to less tangible goals. If your decision to buy technology is based on things like “hiring better people” or “fostering more engaged employees,” it’s best to define a clear strategy for making those things happen.

11. When do we want to have a system in place?

Set a realistic timeline. Be sure to consider factors like how long it will take your organization to compare and evaluate HR software options, or how much time your selection committee can realistically dedicate to the selection process. Also, keep in mind that the implementation timeline will depend on the software vendor to a large extent. So, try to work in some flexibility when determining your official rollout date. If you have a hard deadline, you’ll probably want to make speed of delivery one of your must-haves for evaluating vendors.

Don’t forget to take into account your company’s procurement protocol and fiscal calendar, which can also significantly impact how soon you’re able to implement HR technology once you reach a decision. Establishing milestones that represent the different stages within your selection timeline can be helpful.

Want a more detailed guide to help you navigate the complex process of selecting an HR technology platform for your business? Download our free magazine, Derailed by Data? The Insperity Guide to HR Technology.