Checking References on HRIS software

Checking References on HR systems in which you are interested is always a good idea. If vendors can’t provide references, or a reference provides a poor opinion of the software, that is certainly a red flag. Neither is likely to occur. Software companies are only going to provide references who are happy with their particular system. They will usually call the client before providing their name as a reference to ensure they are willing to be a reference and that they are happy with their specific software solution. The question then becomes, “How valuable are references if the software companies are handpicking them?” Here are a couple of tips to get the most out of checking references when comparing systems.

Checking References, Tip #1 
Be as specific as possible with regard to which type of company from which you want a reference. This makes it less likely for the vendor to cherry pick the reference for you. It’s also important to note how a company in your industry has used the HR software solution to meet their needs. Who knows…. you might even be able to share tips with them going forward.

Checking References, Tip #2 
Search online to find out who is using the system and cold call them for a reference. The easiest way to do this is to go to and type the name of the HR system in the keyword search. You will be presented with a list of companies who are looking for someone with experience with that system. If you are willing to do the work, pick out five and ask them what they think about the system. If you are going to try this approach, be sure to call a number of users since even the best systems have unhappy customers. Sometimes it’s not the companies fault, sometimes it’s the users fault, and sometimes it’s just Monday!

Checking References, Tip #3
The ease of use and functionality of the software you choose are both the most important considerations. These can be determined by simply effectively reviewing, comparing and testing the HRIS products you are considering. Where I would use the references is to get an idea on support and problems during setup or potential bugs in the product. Ask the reference how often they call tech support and how long they are typically on hold. How helpful are the tech support representatives? Are they usually able to solve your issue? You also need to ask if there are any important problems or software defects of which you should be aware. Write out your questions before you call or email to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Checking References, Tip #4 
Make sure to not only ask for references on the software itself but ensure you have references on whomever is performing your system install. I would make sure that the person in charge of the implementation has, at the very least, ten HRIS installs of the exact product you are selecting. Depending on the industry, industry experience may be needed, as well.

Overall, the message I am trying to present is that hand picked vendor references are only a small part of the steps necessary to successfully select an HR application. By following the steps outlined above, I believe you can maximize the value of the references you contact.

About the Author

Clay Scroggin worked in the Human Resource and Payroll Software Industry for more than fifteen years. During that time, Clay, and those who worked with him, assisted hundreds of HR professionals with their software needs. In 2007, Clay began working on, a site dedicated to assisting HR professionals with their search, selection, implementation and use of HR systems. The site contains several tools to assist professionals with their software research including an HRIS Selection Tool and an hr software blog. 

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