Are online HRMS demos the future of HR software selection?

All the smart advice says, try before you buy and that principle definitely applies to your next HRMS purchase. You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive and the same goes for HR software. But how much of a test is necessary?

Like most things in this world, software demos are available online. But an HRMS can be a business-critical investment. Is surfing a vendor’s website enough to base a decision on?

The big differences between HRMS demos online or in-person

Apart from the obvious – one’s live and the other’s on a screen – there are a few distinctions between the ‘traditional’ face-to-face software demo and the online alternative:

  • In general, online demos are likely to be less in-depth reviews of the system than in-person demos.
  • Online demos are scripted by the vendor. In-person demos can be scripted by you.
  • In-person demos offer more opportunity for questions (e.g. how will the system integrate with your other business software?).
  • Online demos are less time-consuming to review and less expensive (no meeting rooms required, no gatherings of demo teams).

Types of online HRMS demos

Not all HRMS online demos are the same. Some are little more than a video version of a product brochure or sales copy, and some offer a more interactive experience closer to the on-site, in-person version.

  • Most vendor websites offer a straightforward video walkthrough of their system – a series of screenshots, perhaps some simple animation, and a voiceover narrative explaining what you’re seeing. This is the ‘brochure” version. It’s informative but with no opportunity to engage.
  • Some vendors (for example, BambooHR) offer the chance to book a live online demo. Again, the demo script is likely to be highly standardized but there is the possibility of some two-way communication.
  • An option with greater control for the potential buyer is to log in to the vendor’s HRMS using a provided dummy account name and password. Sentrifugo, for example, offers a choice of nine accounts, from employee to HR manager, agency staff to super admin. Once inside, you can navigate the system, seeing what that role and level of secure access would see in daily use. Again, limited opportunities for questions during the demo but at least you’re hands-on.

The future of HRMS demos?

Where do we go from here? Almost certainly the online demo trend will continue, if only because it’s a much cheaper and easier option for vendors, and (with certain trade-offs) for buyers. A promising sign is the emergence of online options that go beyond a glorified PowerPoint presentation (such as those offered by BambooHR, and Sentrifugo).

However, at the moment, online HRMS demos probably appeal most to smaller businesses and those looking for a limited range of functions from their HR technology. Afterall, the simpler the system, the less likely you are to be disappointed in its performance. And if it doesn’t meet your needs, no problem. You’re probably on a pay-as-you-go pricing model so there’s no long-term contract or commitment tying you down. For larger organizations and those looking for the latest in HRMS functionality (social recruitment, gamification, etc.) it will be a while before a standardized online demo can provide the information a buyer needs to make a truly informed decision.

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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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