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 your organization and business needs. 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 requirements, not the best salesperson.

Have an agenda, use a checklist

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 the key issues and criteria.

Evaluation criteria aka The scores on the doors

The first question is, does the system meet your identified needs? Assuming that you’ve prepared and planned the overall demo exercise, you should have a set of specific criteria identified against which you can score each system you’ve seen.

Using an agreed system of awarding points based on a common rating scale is a useful and systematic way of keeping evaluation discussions objective and avoiding bias towards or against any single vendor or product. The scoring system does not have to be over-complicated. A simple four-point scale is usually enough; for example:

0 = does not meet requirements

1 = partially meets requirements

2 = fully meets requirements

3 = exceeds requirements.

Each member of your selection team individually scores the system against the criteria. Then, scores are shared to identify where you all agree and disagree. The points of disagreement are then discussed, with each team member explaining their opinions and perspectives. The degree of discussion may vary but the goal is to agree on a final aggregate score. 

These group discussions will often give you a clear ‘winner’. However, even if that is the case, the evaluation isn’t over yet – you need to know why that system ‘won’, and to do that, you continue down the checklist, ensuring that the key issues have been fully explored for each system demoed.

User experience (UX)

However well a system carries out its functions, the user experience can paint a different picture. Ask yourselves questions such as: How intuitive is the system? How different is it from your current system? How much user training will be required to ensure competent use? Bear in mind, different types of users, from board-level strategists who want to see reports and analytical insights, to the ‘shop floor’ employee who wants to book a day off with their supervisor.


Yes, the self-service functions are part of the overall UX, but now consider them from the perspective of what potential efficiencies and benefits exist – for employees, for managers, and for the organization as a whole.


How well does the system meet the requirements of your mobile or remote workers? Mobile functionality is an increasingly important factor in a world that was thrown into the deep end of remote working by the pandemic; a world that now seems much more comfortable with remote and hybrid working arrangements than it did a year or two ago…)

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?

Support & maintenance

Consider the schedule (and potential additional costs) of updates, patches, upgrades, helpdesk, and consultancy services, etc.

Data security

What are the system’s security and compliance measures? Are they compatible with your existing ways of working? Do they comply with the legal framework in your territory (or territories)? Where is the data stored? What recovery plans are in place should there be a deliberate breach or an accidental loss?

At this point, do NOT consider the issue of cost. This might sound counterintuitive but consider this: if the price is weighed alongside the more technical/practical/functional criteria, then you’re potentially introducing a ‘budgetary bias’ that will probably skew your results. At this stage of the evaluation, you’re looking for the best-fit system for your needs that stands out from the competition. If that option 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.


Sometimes scoring systems and group discussion still doesn’t lead you to a clear ‘winner’. Two things can help. First, having a clear team leader or chair can support the demo process; one whose role includes facilitating the discussion of the checklist items. That way, you’re less likely to end up talking in circles (or worse, just arguing). Second, it is useful to have someone with a casting vote. This doesn’t have to be the facilitator. It’s more likely to depend on some kind of seniority (and seniority doesn’t necessarily denote good facilitation skills!) The deciding vote could go to the senior HR representative (the HR team are the ones that have to actually use the HRMS, after all), or perhaps the board member who controls the purse strings.

Furthermore, the person with the role of tiebreaker doesn’t have to be the same for each issue or criterion. 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 scores, 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:

  • Company culture (What is your organization’s current attitude toward technology? If this is your first business software, you might be better giving weight to product features that make it easier for new users. Also, how is the HR team currently viewed by the rest of the workforce? Perhaps employee self-services features are especially important in order to encourage more engagement with HR.)
  • 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, finally you can talk about cost, including the TCO or total cost of ownership, factoring in all the potential 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

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