November 29, 2022

Six mistakes HR leaders should avoid when purchasing new HRIS software

When purchasing HRIS software, HR leaders want to be good stewards of their organisation’s resources and find a platform that will be a great fit for the long haul. Brett Ungashick, founder of OutSail, a Ceridian partner organisation, offers expert tips for avoiding some common pitfalls in the evaluation process.

Have you ever felt pressure when purchasing new technology? You’re not alone. HR leaders tasked with purchasing human resource information system (HRIS) software want to find the best solutions for their company. But they may not have the experience, resources, or time to commit to the evaluation process, which can be an enormous undertaking. And without the right preparation and approach, it can be easy to get “sold to” rather than to be the one driving the evaluation.

The process can be easier and more effective if you know what to watch out for. Below are six common mistakes you can avoid during an HRIS evaluation process so you can find the right solution.

1. Don’t operate in silos

Starting an evaluation process without the support of peers, other stakeholders, and those holding the budgets is one of the biggest mistakes we see HR leaders make when buying HRIS software. Often, this mistake comes from a well-meaning place where a buyer wants to show initiative and get some early results before bringing the request to colleagues and superiors.

But this approach can easily backfire. We’ve seen buyers fall in love with a new software vendor only to discover the budget isn’t going to be available or key stakeholders adamantly refuse to make a change.

What to do instead: Have a project kick-off meeting with your key stakeholders to determine goals and timelines. Also, approach the finance team and see if there will be tentative buy-in pending the results of the evaluations. It’s a good idea to understand budget constraints early on.

2. Don’t cast too wide of a net

There are hundreds of potential HRIS vendors in the market today. If you tried to evaluate every one of them, you would be sitting on demos until 2025, never coming close to discerning the right option.

Many of the failed HRIS evaluations we see stem from having too many finalists. This leads to a much higher degree of difficulty when trying to identify the best provider – not to mention too many unnecessary meetings on your calendar.

What to do instead: Before embarking on your evaluation process, use resources such as partners, software review websites, analyst rankings, and peer networks to identify your top two to four finalists.

3. Don’t focus on features too early

Many organisations that we work with come to the buying process with an Excel spreadsheet 200 rows long of features and functionality that a new system needs to have.

Identifying must-have features can be a good exercise. The problem is many HRIS system vendors can technically mark “Yes” to most features requested in the evaluation process, but the extent of their functionality can vary widely. This doesn’t help the buyer get any closer to figuring out which system is right for them.

What to do instead: Focus on key criteria early on in your evaluations. Make a short list of 10 or so key outcomes that would be most impactful to your business: better integrations, lower costs, better support, more scalability, etc.

4. Don’t passively attend presentations

Adding three or four software demos on an already-crowded calendar can quickly lead to unintended consequences, especially if you don’t do the necessary prep work in advance. That’s because there’s no guarantee the vendor will present all the right information.

Plus, you may not think of all the questions you need answered on the fly. This will lead to a demo where the sales team on the other end is guessing what’s important to you, rather than you telling them what matters most to you and your organisation.

What to do instead: Create a meeting agenda of the key areas that you want to see covered and prepare a list of questions and scenarios that you need demonstrated to be convinced of a system’s capabilities. This is well worth the investment of your time to ensure you get the right HRIS software for your organisation.

5. Don’t walk away without bargaining

When you’ve found an HRIS software provider that you really like, don’t let the initial proposal be a reason to walk away. Understand that the first proposal you receive from a vendor doesn’t have to be the last.

Contrary to what many buyers might think, proposals are not always set in stone. Software vendors are almost always willing to make adjustments to ensure a partnership works well for both sides. So, take the time to negotiate.

What to do instead: If it’s important to you that certain costs, payment terms, or service agreements are met, communicate those needs to your preferred vendor in a transparent way. Just be sure that you are being realistic in your requests to ensure success in the negotiation phase.

6. Don’t expect the process to be quick and easy

The process of buying and implementing a new HRIS platform doesn’t take any special technical skills or expertise. But it is time-intensive, so it does require being proactive, communicative, and available. 

The last thing you want is to have an HRIS project fail because you don’t have the bandwidth to commit to the project, or you didn’t have a clear understanding of how much work would be needed during the evaluation and implementation process.

What to do instead: Set clear expectations with yourself and your team that selecting and implementing a new HRIS platform will require time and effort. Hold an initial meeting with other stakeholders where you establish desired timelines and delegation of efforts and have regular check-ins to ensure the project is on track.

In the long run, having a solution that truly meets your organisation’s needs will lead to a much more efficient and effective experience for all.

Brett Ungashick

Brett Ungashick is the founder of OutSail, a Denver-based company that provides free services to help HR teams research, evaluate, and select new technologies. Brett started his career by selling software to HR teams at LinkedIn, before recognizing a growing need from software buyers for support throughout their buying processes. OutSail was founded in 2018 and has helped over 700 companies with new HR software purchases including companies like SalesLoft, DoorDash, and the Boys & Girls Club of America.

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