How to build a framework for HRIS decision-making

5 keys for HRIS demoWhen shopping for HR technology solutions or thinking of changing your HRIS provider, you need to work at it. You need to build a framework for HRIS decision-making. That was the message explored in a conversation between Trish McFarlane (VP of HR Practice, Brandon Hall Group) and Steve Boese (Co-chair of The HR Technology Conference) before an engaged audience back at the 2014 SHRM Conference.

What did that HR Tech salesperson say?

Despite a slightly misleading title, the speakers offered solid advice on dealing strategically with vendors of Human Resources Information Systems in a world where, as they pointed out, “there is no Yelp or TripAdvisor” with ready reviews of HR technology.

Absent that, they suggest a pattern for approaching HRIS providers during your research and shopping. And, it starts with three key understandings:

  1. What is your strategic need?
    There needs to be a problem you are trying to solve. It could be an administrative need to expedite record keeping or to secure employee performance assessment. Or, it could be to solve a problem that has arisen with your current service.
  2. What is your future-state vision?
    Visualizing what your business needs will be in a specific future (5 or 10 years out) – you need the provider who can meet those anticipated needs now and into that future.
  3. What is your tactical need?
    You’ll want a fix on your compliance or talent management needs. Shop with a mind to find and integrate the tools that will deliver your strategic solutions.

So, finding right HR software starts with asking the right questions. You may not recognize solutions unless you know the challenges for what they are.

Build a framework for decision-making.

You should want the HRIS program that elevates your Human Resources administration into a strategic business partner. But, it is here that many decisions fall short. Buyers are happy to get a system that saves work and time but are left to regularly justify the cost and fill gaps in service.

So, you have to admit that you need help in deciphering the promises made and understanding the critical issues influencing  your HRIS decision. Your ultimate satisfaction depends on…

  1. your ability to ask the right questions and
  2. the vendor’s ability to answer those questions rightly.

Price is only one variable

If your approach is to get a system and justify the spending to your executive-suite, your shopping will be price-driven. But, as McFarlane and Boese assert, “Price is only one variable in the ROI calculation.” For example, too many customers find themselves changing their HRIS program too soon after implementation. The speakers found 50% of those changing systems did so for lack of satisfactory system integration and for unsatisfactory user-experience. Both results reflect poorly on the search experience.

Their analysis also reports that 35% are disappointed in the reporting ability and the lack of consistent content. These too, seem to be weaknesses that should have been discoverable during the product research.

What to do?

A strategic framework begins with a thorough self-analysis. As the customer, you need to assess your needs in strategic and tactical terms. You need input and feedback, shared wants and needs with all organizational functions. This communal approach spreads the risk in decision-making, customizes your search, and raises your HR professional profile.

Plan to research and interview three or more providers. Then, try to ask the right questions:

  1. What is the customer satisfaction rating?
  2. Where can I find this rating and how it was determined?
  3. Do users find the system easy to use?
  4. How does the system integrate vertically and horizontally?
  5. When things go wrong, how does the vendor respond?
  6. What does the vendor see in your business’s future that you do not?
  7. How can I talk to other customers in like businesses?

Ask about the “ecosystem.”

McFarlane and Boese refer to a business ecosystem that reminds you that no business relationship exists in a vacuum. Yet, when you meet with a vendor, there is often the risk that you will make a decision based on the moment. Impressed by the sales rep and the presentation, you forget to ask the larger questions.

You want to remember that larger, older companies can be slower to innovate or respond to changing needs. On the other hand, they have established support systems and vibrant user communities willing to share info and history. The Selector Tool available at is an indispensable support.

The search and decision can be burdensome. The pressure and accountability are borne by the HR decision maker. But, with time, study, and aggressiveness, the HR pro will be able to build a framework for HRIS decision-making.

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