We talk about HR technology a lot on HR Bartender, but it occurred to me recently that’s there’s one area of HR technology we really haven’t discussed. I was listening to one of the archived sessions from the Kronos eSymposium titled, “Five Things Not to Overlook During HR Tech Vendor Selection” and it reminded me we haven’t talked about buying technology.
With the HR Technology Conference coming up soon, I thought it might be helpful to put together a list of things to consider when you’re thinking about buying new technology. It’s by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s one that can help start conversations both internally with key stakeholders and with vendors.
- Assess the organization. Is this a first-time implementation of technology or an upgrade to an existing system? What’s the budget? It could also be helpful to conduct a user analysis in terms of the level of tech savviness employees, managers, and even HR have. At some point, companies will need to prepare an overview of their current technology infrastructure and decide if it can support the new technology being considered.
- Establish the goal and must-haves. Companies need to answer the question, “Why is the organization considering this purchase?”. The answer will determine how they measure whether the technology investment was the right thing to do. The company will also want to establish what things are must-haves in the technology solution. For example, when talking about HR technology, are compliance tools a requirement? And if so, does it need to be at a federal, state, and local level?
- Prioritize customization and features. There are lots of things we would love to have when purchasing technology. That doesn’t mean we really need them all. The company should prioritize the must-haves (from #2) and nice-to-haves. A few things to think about are single sign-on, mobile responsiveness, data storage, real-time access, etc. Another conversation to have is about customization: how much needs to happen?
- Confirm the request for proposal (RFP) process. Technology is a major purchase for almost every organization. Find out who needs to be involved, what information needs to be on the proposal, and ultimately, what is the selection criteria.
- Understand the technology platform requirements. One of the details that organizations will want from prospective vendors is the type of technology infrastructure required for the new system. It’s also important to know if the new technology is compatible with existing HR systems and non-HR systems. For example, is the new technology compatible with all internet browsers?
- Witness first-hand the user experience. When it comes to HR technology, I like to think there are three user groups: employees, managers, and human resources. For employees, the user experience should mirror something similar to the technology we already use. For managers, it needs to provide real-time data for operational decisions. And HR wants a dashboard to produce reporting.
- Find out what type of user training support is provided. We want to find out not only about training during initial implementation but ongoing. And not just for HR, but for employees and managers. Remember the training needs to support every technology level. It should also be in a variety of formats – blogs, community forums, webinars, user conferences, etc.
- Ask about implementation plans. There are obvious questions such as, “How much time does it take?”. But organizations also want to know the level of support that the vendor provides. For major implementations, I’ve heard of companies partnering with a third-party firm (that has a strategic partnership with the vendor) to oversee the implementation. Of course, those are logistics that must be considered as part of the proposal.
- Determine how updates and maintenance will be handled. While this might be the last number on the list, it really goes back to #1. Think about the type of organizational culture you have when it comes to technology. Do you consider yourself as an “early adopter” or does the company like to wait a while to implement updates? This is going to factor into the decision. Also, companies need to decide who will be responsible for updates and get that person involved. Finally, it’s important to know what role (if any) the vendor will play and ongoing maintenance costs.
As you can see, we’ve only scratched the surface of the questions and decisions that need to be considered when purchasing technology. But it’s a start. I could see companies having conversations about #1-5 prior to a conference like HR Tech. Then spending time during the event focused on #6. And #7-9 being follow-up after the event.
Bottom-line: Buying technology involves making a plan. And it’s better to have a plan before talking to vendors. It could make the process so much smoother.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring Disneyland in Anaheim, CA16