HRMS demos: a complete introduction

Caveat Emptor. Let the buyer beware. A principle as relevant today as it ever was. And yet, with the prevalence of online shopping, we buy so many items practically sight unseen (apart from reading a review or two) that it’s easy to forget that the more serious the purchase, the more important it is to ‘try before you buy’.

If you’re considering acquiring a new HRMS for your organization, I doubt you’d regard it as anything other than a serious purchase and that’s why the HRMS demo is a critical part of your selection process. That demo might be a quick overview or a full-scale scripted run through of all key features available. It might be a pre-recorded online video with screenshots or you might have the vendor visit you and deliver a face-to-face presentation.

The limitations of online demos

At the risk of sounding dictatorial or one-sided, online demos are not what you should be basing your decision on. Quite frankly, an online video on YouTube or the vendor’s website isn’t a demo, it’s a brochure. You wouldn’t buy a car based on the ad you saw on TV, but that ad (and other marketing materials) might lead you to decide, that that was one of the three or four cars you were going to test drive. Buying an HRMS is no different. So, by all means view dozens of online HRMS demos, but only as a way of whittling down your shortlist to manageable proportions. Then, invite those shortlisted vendors to give a full demo and take their product out for a spin; test it against your specific business needs and see what it can really do.

Recommended reading: get a step-by-step overview of the demo phases using our complete guide to HRMS vendor demos

In person demos: what to expect

After all, this is your opportunity to test the system. Maybe not to destruction, but you should certainly push it hard, provide it with a challenge or two. Draw up some scripted scenarios that are a ‘real-life’ as possible.

The HRMS demo process involves selecting a representative demo team, designing specific scenarios that test each system uniformly, and evaluating each system with criteria that allow you to measure system performance against your identified requirements.

A good demo will explore the following issues:

  • System overview
  • User experience
  • HR functions
  • Document storage
  • Mobile functionality
  • Self-service functionality
  • HR analytics
  • Integration with other systems
  • Data security
  • Implementation timescales
  • Price
  • Vendor stability

Make sure you have selected a good shortlist!

The demo is the last stage in the selection process before you make your purchase decision and ideally, you’ll be demo’ing no more than three separate systems, and with the hundreds of options available that means some rigorous shortlisting. As well as online demos and vendor websites, there are numerous information sources to help you shorten the list (I’m assuming that you’ve already drawn up your specific requirements in the form of an RFP or similar), including Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, Forrester's Wave, or TEC's eBestMatch. All of which give an expert analyst’s view of the leading players and rising stars for specific software areas. Your goal is to do enough research that all the vendors on your shortlist are potentially a ‘winner’; in other words, you’re choosing the best of the best fit options.

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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