3 Steps to Choosing the Right Software Requirements for Your HR System

Which HR softwareStep into any ice cream shop and you'll be greeted with a dizzying array of choices. Forget vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. These days you have dozens of flavors to choose from, and the best shops also want you to decide what extras you want mixed in and what kind of cone you want (dipped? sprinkles? waffle bowl?).

Truth be told, the HR tech market is starting to feel a lot like those ice cream shops. New vendors enter the market seemingly every day with exciting new technology, and established vendors constantly update their products to incorporate innovations and new capabilities.

There are so many options on the market that it’s easy to become paralyzed with the dizzying array of choices. Do you need a vanilla product that can do all the basics without any bells and whistles? How about a strawberry product with appealing aesthetics and the latest iteration of chatbots and AI resume screening? Or maybe you just need a best of breed recruiting or performance management technology to supplement your vanilla HCM system.

The truth is that unless you know your requirements and needs, you’ll never be able to choose the right software for your unique company and culture.

And unlike choosing an ice cream flavor, making the wrong software choice will have deep, long-term ramifications. So how can you know which platform is right for you?

Why You Need to Rethink Your Requirements List

Chances are, you already have a basic list of things you’re looking for in your HCMS. Maybe your requirement list looks something like this:

  • Tie to outsourced payroll application
  • User-friendly
  • Carrier agnostic benefits administration
  • Employee self-service
  • Performance management
  • Recruiting and onboarding
  • Time/Attendance
  • Succession Planning
  • Reporting
  • Expense management
  • Learning management software
  • Mobile friendly

But here’s a little industry secret: all HR software vendors have heard this exact list of needs hundreds, if not thousands of times before, and nearly all of them offer these capabilities on some level.

Going to an HR software vendor with the list above is sort of like going to an ice cream shop and saying you want ice cream that is sweet and frozen. That's not going to narrow down your options very much. And neither will shopping for an HR software platform based on a generic list of requirements.

So what should you do? How can you narrow your vendor list from several hundred companies to a handful, and ultimately find THE ONE that is right for you?

3 Steps to Nailing Down Your Comprehensive Requirements List

The best way to cull your list of software vendors is to go into as much detail as possible in the requirements. Requirements-gathering consists of three basic stages, narrowing down progressively from your business goals to general requirements to deeper specifics.

Let’s take a look at each of those stages.

  1. Define your business goals – What does the HRIS need to accomplish for you? What are you primary challenges and frustrations? Where is your current process inefficient, and where do you need to see improvement? Once you know the answers to these questions, you can start listing the goals you want the new system to help you accomplish. Perhaps you want to bring payroll in-house, launch a new performance management program, or implement time-keeping tools for remote workers.

    Also during this stage, consider what type of hosting you need. Nearly all of today’s software platforms operate in the cloud. However, there are still some on-premise options you can consider if that is a priority for you. Even within the cloud environment, you have several options depending on the customizability, security, and budget that you need.

  2. Ask Questions – Once you know your challenges and goals, you’re ready to dig into the nitty-gritty of requirements gathering. This is the time to ask lots and lots of questions about your processes, your business functions, your users, and your training needs. Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:
  • What problems must the software solve?
  • What business needs do we have?
  • What new functions do we need?
  • Who will be using the software?
  • Where do our current processes break down?
  • What processes are currently working well?
  • How do our employees interact with our HR software?
  • How much money do we have to spend?
  1. Dig Deeper –In this third stage, you’ll be expanding on the answers to each of the questions you asked in the previous stage. At the end of this process, you should have a list of specific, detailed requirements.

    To get there, you’ll need a systematic way to draw out processes, frustrations, and needs from all stakeholders. One way to do this is to use a tool like the 5 Whys exercise. In this exercise, you start with a broad goal or need statement and walk users through a series of “whys” that will help you root out the underlying requirements. For example: 

The 5 Whys


The 5 Whys is an excellent tool to use in focus groups as you talk with all of your stakeholders. Once you have worked through the exercise for each of the software modules you're considering, you'll have a comprehensive list of requirements you can take with you into any vendor conversation.

But you still need to narrow down your vendor list to the most promising candidates. We’ve made this process a lot easier for you with our HRIS Comparison Tool. Simply rank your requirements on our survey, and we’ll generate a list of vendors that match what you’re looking for.

Ready to get started? Click below to find your unique HR software matches!

HRIS Comparison Tool