5 hacks to select the best HR tool for your business & budget

When selecting your future HR platform always choose partnership over features

Obviously, HR is a business function that is very much ‘going digital’ over the past couple of years. In all sectors people leaders are investing to meet the rising expectations of their employees and make them work smarter at the same time.

Consequently, we see HR tools in all shapes, sizes and prices. And with traditional HR functions like employee performance management, recruiting and learning rapidly being added to platforms for employee productivity and team collaboration I believe in many sectors HR has seen nothing yet.

So, Digital HR it is! But before you start making promises, assign people to your project and spend money, you want to make sure you choose wisely and get the most bang for your buck.

Now we all know these heavy procurement cycles where HR gets lost in endless spreadsheets of technical checks, fit-gap analyses, weighing of requirements, etc. You burn valuable time and money and by the time a tool is selected, and you are ready to start the actual implementation, both budget and momentum for the project are gone. On top of that, nowadays you see more and more software vendors choosing to not even participate in these over-engineered selection cycles.

So how do you select the HR platform that truly fits your organisation and really delivers on its promises? We’ve learned a couple of lessons here that we’re happy to share. These are our five guiding principles to explore the HR tech market for that one tool that truly engages your teams and puts HR on the map.

  1. Clearly define the exact problem you are trying to solve. Consultants and IT specialist would call it scoping. Simply put it’s just a crystal-clear perspective on what it is that you are looking to automate. And then do exactly that. Do not get lost in some ambiguous ‘I want in all mind-set’. Focus on the most urgent problem that you know people really want to get fixed in your organisation. For example; are you looking for a platform supporting it all (automated payroll, working In 23 languages, integrations with various other platforms, etc.) Or are you just looking for a simple and intuitive way to automate your employee appraisals, or feedback cycle without the need to integrate it to various other systems. Write down a simple but crisp project mission.
  2. Validate your goals. Talk to the people around you to make sure everybody is on the same page and your project is widely supported. Definitely get input from some future users. But just as important; actively involve an executive sponsor, an IT business partner and if required your procurement team. In most organisations no heavy paperwork is required by project boards, steering committees, etc. Some good people skills will get you a long way…
  3. Map out your process. Assume everything is possible with modern HR software. But ask yourself; can I deliver a proper briefing on the HR process that I want to automate? Can I explain clearly what (groups of) users we will be onboarding to the system? This doesn’t mean you need weeks of heavy process engineering, complex flow-charts, etc. A quick process mapping exercise will bring clarity on required workflows and user groups. Also, this will help your team brainstorm ideas for potential process improvements.
  4. Conduct a series of short product demos. Don’t get lost in detailed functionality or features. Look at overall user experience, languages (both on the actual product as in offered support), company culture, etc. And maybe more important; benefit from best practices vendors offer. They have seen countless HR processes, use that experience to tweak your way of working.
  5. With a shortlist of vendors conduct functional & technical deep dives. Make this list as short as possible, ideally not more than two vendors. Define a clear set of user stories that capture what the system is expected to do from the perspective of an end-user. These stories you share with vendors as demo scripts. Run a deep-dive demo in which you strictly ask the vendor to demo each story. Make them stick to those stories, this this will eliminate all the sales narratives that do not give you a clear perspective on the required functionality.

Finally, we’ve learned not to focus only on price. Obviously, budgets are always limited, but nobody wins a race to the bottom. Software as a service is in many ways also a partnership. Select the vendor that, besides having the best product for your purpose, also has a compelling vision on customer success and a solid road map with future features. These simple steps will help any team to select that one software solution that truly impacts their business without wasting any time.

Jochem is co-founder of Cloudwatch; a full-service HRTech agency that builds great places to work. Cloudwatch helps HR teams get the best out of Digital HR, HR technology and People Analytics.