Can you find a suitable HRMS without relying on RFPs?

The classic request for proposal (or RFP) is not the only way to engage potential HRMS vendors and suppliers. Certainly, there are enough online articles suggesting that the suppliers themselves would like an alternative. The main criticisms of RFPs are:

  • They focus too much on technical specifications and not enough on why you want the software in the first place; i.e. what exactly is it meant to achieve?
  • Most software projects are subject to so much scope creep that the reality rarely looks like the description in the RFP.
  • There are too many RFPs overstuffed with detail and multiple criteria – even if the responses are good, they can be difficult to properly assess and compare.
  • There is often too much focus on price, and few RFPs include enough detail about the project to enable suppliers to pitch a reliable budget figure.
  • Here are a few options for shaking up the classic RFP procurement and purchase process…

An initial round of demos

Agree on a shortlist of core criteria at the organizational level (i.e. nothing about the needs of a particular department or team) and conduct a series of short demos as an initial assessment. This gives a tighter focus from the beginning and an early opportunity to meet and ask questions of vendors.

Construct the perfect HRMS RFP with this step-by-step RFP guide

Ask for a written narrative

Instead of restricting vendors with tick boxes and free text limits on an RFP form, ask for a written narrative of how they propose to meet your needs (you’ll need to brief them first, of course). They may not answer all your technical data storage and security questions but the narrative is an opportunity for the vendor to prove that they really understand your organization’s needs. Besides, if those data security questions are important, you can ask them later.

Talk to the person whose job it is…

One potential pitfall of the classic RFP selection process is that you’re always talking to a professional salesperson, and not to someone who will actually take responsibility for implementing your new system. Before making that final purchase decision, interview one of the vendor’s implementation managers/consultants and have them talk you through their process.

Look for a strategic partner

RFPs have a tendency to focus on product and not relationship. But the ideal outcome of the process is not only a functioning HRMS that meets your HR technology needs, but also a long-term partnership with a reliable and expert technology provider. Meetings or interviews that focus on the potential big picture impacts of the HRMS on your business can tell you which vendor has strategic advice worth having, and vice versa.

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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