How to Select HR Software Like a Pro

Updated on
July 31, 2023
Brett Ungashick
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Selecting new HR software is not something that most HR professionals enjoy. Many companies know that their HR software systems aren't working well for their team and their workforce, but many will put off software evaluations, because it can be so overwhelming.

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Building a requirements list can be monotonous and time-consuming. Cultivating a shortlist opens Pandora's box of follow-up sales emails. Comparing vendors can be challenging when all claim to be "the best option on the market". Getting executive sign-off can require threading a tight needle of want, need and vision.

Having helped hundreds of teams with their buying processes, here are a few of the practices OutSail uses to make the process less overwhelming, more efficient and more effective.

The most common HR software purchase these days is the HRIS. If you don't know what an HRIS, read this guide: What is an HRIS

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1.) Start High-Level.

It's really easy to get bogged down in specifics and functionality, but save the details for the later part of your evaluation.

In the early stages, it's important to zoom out. Take some time to imagine what a better operational experience would look like.

Here are some of the questions you'll want to think about: "Where is the business heading?", "What processes are holding us back?" "What are our buying priorities - design? automation? support? integrations?"

If you want to see some of the high-level questions that we ask during a buying process, you might like this article: 8 Questions To Answer When Evaluating HR Systems.

2.) Build Out Your Requirements.

Once you have a sense of your high-level priorities, it's time to translate those priorities into actual functionality.

The first step of the process is to think about which modules you want included. Here are the broad categories we consider: Payroll, HRIS, Onboarding, Benefits Admin, Time & Attendance, Performance, Compensation, Engagement, ATS and Learning

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Once you have your high-level categories established, it's time to start building out your required functionality. Our team has developed a simple Requirements Builder tool that can help teams do this in 3-5 minutes. Once you complete the Requirements Builder survey, our team will send over your list of features and requirements.

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3.) Curate A Shortlist.

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Now that you have a sense of what your winning solution looks like, it's time to head into the marketplace and see who stacks up.

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You won't be able to pick winners just by their websites, but you can start to eliminate vendors based on a few things:

  1. Missing functionality. Go to a vendor's website and see if they make all of the modules you need.
  2. Size match. Ask about a vendor's target market and look at their showcase customers. Do they work with companies your size and in your industry?
  3. Reviews. Online reviews can be as misleading as they are helpful. But make sure your finalists have at least a few dozen reviews with some positive takeaways.

By eliminating vendors without getting on a sales calls, you'll save yourself a ton of time in the evaluation process. You can request OutSail's team to give you free recommendations, or you can learn more about how to Rule Out HRIS Vendors Without Having to Take Sales Calls

4.) Start With Three Finalists.

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Don't overwhelm yourself at the start. Begin with three vendors that look to have the highest probability of success. If you don't like one, you can always add more later.

Also, make sure your standardizing the review process and asking questions that are important to you. You don't want a vendor to go on and on about a shiny new feature that distracts from your real needs.

We've found that HR team who come into evaluations with scorecards can increase their chances of finding a winning solution. A good scorecard, like the one we built below, can help keep track of functionality, make sure you ask the right questions and automatically weigh certain priorities more than others.

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5.) Check Reviews and References.

Once you're moving close to a decision, it's always a good idea to ask your vendor of choice for references. Specify that you want to speak with customers who are of a similar size and industry and have been live on the system for over a year.

In addition to getting references through your vendor, you'll also want to do some research on your own too. Look to online review sites, such as G2Crowd or Capterra, where you can narrow reviews down by industry and size.

Also, be sure to dig around in your network and social circles to see what peers have to say!

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