Evaluating your HRMS demos

The show’s over. Your HRMS demos are done. It’s time to work out what it is you’ve just seen and make a decision, and to do that as a team. Ideally, the whole demo team (including any ‘specialists’ who were only present for a specific section of each vendor’s presentation) will meet and debrief on the same day as the demos took place, while the various offerings are still fresh in everyone’s memory. If not, then do so the following day – the longer you leave it the more memories fade and notes risk becoming incomprehensible.

Having made that point about memory, do bear in mind that the most memorable and impressive demo does not necessarily indicate the most suitable HRMS for you. Vendors are (or should be) professional sellers. Making an impressive presentation is a sales and marketing technique that comes as standard in an HRMS demo. You’re looking for the best system for your organizational needs, not the best salesperson.

Have an agenda

As in any other kind of meeting, having a clear agenda will make the whole process smoother and more efficient. Don’t have a free-for-all discussion that begins with, “So, what did everybody think?” Instead, discuss each system’s performance against key issues and/or criteria. One suggested order of discussion is as follows:

  • System functions (Drawing on your RFP or original business case, consider the different processes or modules: time and attendance, learning management, recruitment, HR analytics etc.)
  • User experience (How intuitive is the system? How different to your current system? How much user training will be required?)
  • Self-service (What potential efficiencies and benefits exist? For employees? For managers?)
  • Mobile (How well does it meet the requirements of your mobile or distance workers?)
  • Integration with other systems (Put simply, does it fit like a glove with your other business intelligence systems, or are you looking at significant patches and workarounds?)
  • Data security (Where is the data stored? What recovery plans are in place?)

Recommended reading: get an idea of what to look for during HRMS demos with our list of 52 features to consider when purchasing your next HRMS

At this point, do NOT consider the issue of cost. This might sound counterintuitive but consider this: if price is weighed alongside the more technical/practical/functional criteria, then you’re potentially introducing a ‘budgetary bias’ what will probably skew your results. At this stage of the evaluation, you’re looking for the best-fit system for your needs. If that turns out to be too expensive, then either a) you may be able to negotiate a better deal, or b) you go for ‘second best’. But if you do, it’s better to do so in the full knowledge that you’re making a compromise. If you don’t compartmentalize the discussion, you run the risk of just discussing the issue until you collectively convince yourselves that the ‘second choice’ is really the best system for you, probably ‘rewriting’ the system requirements and assessment criteria you worked so hard on in the first place.

Scores on the doors

The starting point of each element of the evaluation outlined above is to agree on each vendor’s score against the evaluation criteria. Different team members will have different views and getting to the detail of why a particular HRMS ‘fully meets’ instead of only ‘partly meets’ a criterion can be a very productive exploration of the system.

That said, sooner or later you need a consensus and it’s as well to be clear on who has the casting vote. Furthermore, the person with the role of ‘tiebreaker’ doesn’t have to be the same for all criteria. In the same way as you may have weighted the criteria, you might weight people’s opinions, and that weight may not necessarily come from seniority. For instance, when it comes to the practicalities of the payroll module, the payroll and accounting representative on the team will probably have more practical insight than anyone else.

Wider issues

Finally, having dealt with the more measurable criteria and score, be open to the possibility of not going with the highest-scoring option. Yes, the top-scoring HRMS is probably the ‘winner’, but there are broader considerations to take into account, including:

  • Implementation timescale (Can your favored vendor meet your schedule?)
  • Vendor stability (Put simply, are they likely to be in business for as long as you need them?)
  • Futureproofing (How does each vendor see their HRMS developing over the next few years? Is that plan likely to meet your own changing requirements?)
  • Pricing (Yes, now you can talk about cost, including the TCO or total cost of ownership, factoring in all the potentially hidden costs.)

Once the HRMS demos are done and you have a decision that everyone can sign up to, it’s on to the next stages: taking up references, conducting negotiations, agreeing contracts and then, the joys of system implementation. But that’s a whole different topic…

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Dave Foxall

About the author…

Dave has worked as HR Manager for the Ministry of Justice for a number of years, he now writes on a broad range of topics including jazz music, and, of course, the HRMS software market.

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Dave Foxall