For businesses investing in any kind of new software, the vendor selection process is typically driven by three key factors.
Firstly, the buyer determines what features and functionality are required to serve their purpose, and seeks out the vendors best able to meet these requirements.
They then consider a shortlist of options based on customer service and maintenance quality. Which provider has the best track record on support? Who will be the most responsive to technical issues?
The third determining factor, of course, is the price.
But there’s a fourth (and fifth) key consideration in buying new software that is all too often overlooked – and it’s particularly relevant to investment in HR technology. We’re talking about implementation and adoption.
It’s true that implementation is typically considered as part of the pricing discussion, but usually just as an itemised cost. The implementation approach behind the price is rarely probed in depth.
Yet evaluating the implementation approach of an HR software provider is critical to the smooth delivery of the project, and is perhaps the single greatest contributing factor to the adoption rates that will ultimately define the project’s success.
Indeed, failing to take these areas properly into account could not only lead to a disruptive project that overruns on time and budget, but also to poor take-up across the workforce. However great the promised functionality, an HR system is worthless if your people avoid using it.
To achieve the healthiest adoption rates and long-term ROI, you’ll need a vendor that will treat you more as a partner than a customer. A platform provider that will work with you side by side through the implementation process and beyond, rather than simply selling you a system and leaving you to build your own implementation plan.
This latter approach is common at the cheaper end of the software scale. Tier 3 platforms (standardised cloud-based systems, with fewer complex features) can cost as little as a few hundred pounds per year, but you’ll usually have to implement the system yourself with minimal support from your provider.
Unless you have your own technical experts in-house, this clearly increases the risk of the implementation going wrong and increases the time you’ll need to allocate to the project – amid a busy workload – to get the system up and running. Often, it’s a classic case of false economy.
So, to ascertain your potential provider’s approach to implementation, don’t just ask how much and how long. Probe them on the following four areas…
The prospect of migrating HR data from your current systems (especially if that is an Excel spreadsheet) to any new system can be daunting, so you need to know exactly what support is provided.
Ideally, your provider will take care of the data migration for you, populating the system with your employee records rather than simply supplying an empty shell.
However long or short the proposed lead time, you’ll want to know what’s happening every step of the way.
Look for providers that can promise you a dedicated Project Manager for a consistent point of contact, and ask for access to a shared project management system that allows you to track progress and collaborate in real-time.
Training and support
User adoption will usually come down to how comfortable and confident your employees are using the new system. Two factors come into play here – one, the simplicity of the platform itself, and two, the level of training and support on offer from your provider.
Ask your prospective vendors what initial training they provide, and look for the approach that best suits your business. This might be training delivered in person, in-system walkthroughs, video tutorials, webinars, or a combination of all of the above.
Educating your workforce is key to adoption too. You’ll need to communicate the benefits of the new system to your employees to get their buy-in as early as possible, so ask what your supplier can do to help in this regard.
Some systems come with pre-built comms that you can use to promote the benefits of your system to staff, along with demonstrations and presentations to support your launch.
Of course, there are things you can do yourself to aid adoption too. For instance, you may want to recruit ‘change champions’ – networks of employees who are trained to use the new processes and tools and can feedback and share their new system skills with others.
The price will always be a key factor in selecting any piece of business software, but in the particular case of HR technology, a low-cost implementation could ultimately prove the most costly.
In assessing prospective providers, it’s therefore important to look beyond the price and understand what support you can expect with key elements of the implementation.
If you’re left to carry the burden of data migration and onboarding yourself, the risks of a failed or sub-standard implementation increase – meaning wasted investment in a system that may never see the light of day.