Buying Strategies

8 Questions To Ask When Buying A New HCM?

February 15, 2021
Brett Ungashick

Before buying a new HCM system, learn how to ask the right questions to ensure you end up with a product that is aligned with your goals

[Last Updated on 8/26/2020]

Are you and your team currently getting prepared to evaluate different HCM systems?

Our biggest advice: Don't ask yourself the run-of-the-mill RFP type questions.

There are two reasons people don't like RFPs:

  1. They are tremendously boring to put together
  2. They are relatively useless in actually finding a winning solution.

You can have two systems that check 'yes' on all of your RFP boxes, but look nothing alike.

One of those systems could be a highly automated, modern, cohesive piece of technology. The other could be smashed together via acquisition, sold and supported by people who have never been inside an HR system.

When helping clients through buying processes, here are the questions that we like to consider:

1. Do We Want Best-in-Class vs All-in-One?

One of the most important decisions an HR team can make is deciding if they want to have:

  • Multiple technologies that are all market-leaders, or
  • A single provider that does some things well, and others poorly

If you believe you can get an all-in-one and not sacrifice somewhere, then you're probably a salesperson's dream!

Our Suggestion: If you're going to take the hybrid approach, a good way to think about splitting the systems is having one for Core HR (payroll, benefits, time-off, on boarding) and another for Talent Management (recruiting, performance, engagement).

2. Is It A Size and Culture Match?

All software products have a "sweet spot". This is the types of customers they had in mind when they were designing their product (size, industry, demographic, location, etc).

Workday and UltiPro's platforms were built for large, complex global organizations. While Lever's ATS was built for young, growing mid-sized businesses.

This can be a hard thing to gauge, since oftentimes a salesperson will tell you, "We work with companies like yours all the time."

Our Suggestion: Look at the company's website. They'll likely have a showcase clients section and see if they look like you. Or just ask OutSail!

3. Will It Empower Our Admins?

Administrative ease of use can often be misunderstood. When watching a demo, it's easy to be impressed by a sleek, uncluttered dashboard. But if some of the key tasks that you'll be doing every day are five clicks away, then the user experience is actually not so good.

The more important thing to focus on when thinking about administrative ease of use is: how capably can this system handle our complexity.

Our suggestion: Think about some of the most obscure, burdensome processes that you currently have to wade through. Then, don't get off of the demo until the salesperson has shown you exactly how their platform can solve for those needs.

4. Does It Play Nicely With Our Other Tools?

There is nothing more soul sucking than having enter the same information into multiple tools. The dream is to have data entered once and have it flow through all of your systems.

Thankfully, most modern softwares are being built with "open architecture" and "open API's" in mind, so hopefully the days of completely siloed systems are winding down.

Our Suggestion: Visit the "partners" or "integrations" page on a software vendor's website. Look for your holdover tools there, but make sure you dig deeper into the integration. Ask for customers who have done this integration before and if you can talk to them.

5. What Does Our Support Model Look Like?

It doesn't make sense that a company would spend so much effort marketing and selling a software tool, only to abandon the buyer as soon as they climb aboard. It's much easier, and cheaper, to renew a happy customer than to go out and find a new one to take their place.

Unfortunately, there are many well-known companies who deprioritize the customer success function. Thankfully, bad support creates buzz, so it can be easy to find out who those companies are.

Our Suggestion: Investigate online reviews to see what your peers are saying. Ask what the minimum spend is to receive dedicated account support. Get a company's customer support standards in writing before you sign on the dotted line.

6. Will Our Employees Use It?

Ease of use for employees is something that is easy to overrate when going through a buying process. It's easy to get caught up in an idealized vision, where this technology creates a true hub for employees -- a place where development, communication and engagement is constantly happening.

The honest truth is that, no matter how good a technology is, you're always going to have 50% of the company who doesn't login, 25% who is going to figure it out on their own and 25% who will need some coaching.

Our Suggestion: Don't completely disregard look & feel - an intuitive interface and a mobile app can help with employee self-service - but be careful about making it your tipping point too

7. Are We Being Efficient With Our Spending?

Efficiency can cut two ways. Sometimes companies will have overlapping functionality where they are paying for more functionality than they need and employee information is being stored in multiple places.

Conversely, companies can end up with multiple systems but still large gaps. This is when an performance management process is done via Google Docs, or an onboarding process is still printed and signed.

Our Suggestion: Take stock of what tools already have and will be keeping, and then visit potential software vendors' websites to see if they can fill in your gaps. Almost all software companies will publicize what modules they offer.

8. Can We Feel Confident In It?

There's a feeling of comfort when you go along with the wisdom of the crowd. No one has ever been fired for choosing ADP. It's safe, it's common, it's easy to explain to management. On the other hand, many people have quit their jobs because they've been stuck with ADP.

When companies achieve a certain narrative and image, it can stick in people's minds far after it continues to be true.

Our suggestion: Trust in your ability to evaluate and discern. And don't be afraid to seek out companies who are trying to earn market share by developing new features and taking customer support seriously.

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Brett Ungashick
Brett is the founder of OutSail. He spent the early part of his career selling HR software before switching sides and going to work for the people buying the software.

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