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Dave Foxall 5 Quick Tips for Optimizing HR Software Demos

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 By Dave Foxall

Recommendations for More Useful HR Software Demonstrations

Like any large purchase, selecting the right HR software – whether a full-scale HRMS or a stand-alone best of breed recruitment module, whether on-premises, on-demand or SaaS – should be a rigorous exercise and that rigor is needed at the software demonstration stage. Once an organization has a clear picture of its needs via process review, business case for improvement, and a detailed request for proposal (RFP) it is time to proceed to the next stage and identify HR software vendors to present—one of the HR software selection steps that provides a truly tangible outcome. An HR software demo may be a simple overview or a full-scale scripted run through of all key features needed by the buyer. If the system or the vendor is new to the organization then it may be wise to err on the side of caution and opt for 'full-scale'. An in-depth demo allows a detailed comparison against requirements and also the opportunity to confirm important side issues (e.g. SCORM compliance for learning management systems). The following recommendations can make for a useful demo process that significantly assists objective decision-making.

HR Software Demo Tip #1: Make a Shortlist

Before the demo, a shortlist of vendors to invite is needed. When deciding, there are various useful tools available: Gartner's Magic Quadrants, Forrester's Wave, HR Lab's Top 10 Reviews (yes, shameless plug) or even TEC's eBestMatch all dole out analyses for specific software areas. Clay Scroggin of CompareHRIS suggests viewing pre-recorded demos in order to first better understand the market; citing that organizations need to "first understand what these systems are capable of. In other words, they need to increase their…system IQ." After this step, HR software buyers can then begin to narrow the field and create their vendor shortlist where more detail is desired or a more in-depth look is needed.

HR Software Demo Tip #2: Have the Right People Attend

Decide on who should be present on behalf of the client organization. For example, as well as relevant HR representatives, the executive sponsor should be in attendance, employees from IT should be on hand to field any overtly technical questions, staff from Procurement should be invited due to governance issues, and representative input can also be gathered by having subject matter experts and end-users sit it. Depending on the scale of the decision, its impact on the business, and the budgetary implication of the software deployment, significant C-level presence may also be required.

HR Software Demo Tip #3: Standardize the Process with a Script

List the required core functions and features (it should be straightforward to draw these from the RFP) that must be seen in order to make an informed decision; these features are then incorporated in a common script which is sent to all vendors who have agreed to demonstrate. Axia Consulting cite the main benefits of using a demo script as:

  • It facilitates a comparable demonstration from each vendor
  • It is easier to see how each vendor would or would not meet key business requirements
  • You can bring in people to attend for just the part of the demo that is relevant to them

HR Software Demo Tip #4: Use a Rating Scale

Devise an objectively measured rating scale and use it to score the HR software vendors against a set of key criteria. The criteria will be different for every selection exercise, but some common issues might include:

  • ease of use and access to information
  • integration with legacy and future systems
  • amount of training required
  • data privacy and information security
  • configurability
  • reporting and analytics

An example rating scale could be: 0 = does not meet requirements; 1 = partially meets requirements; 2 = fully meets requirements; 3 = exceeds requirements. Individual criteria should be weighted according to importance and a final score is reached providing a reasonable objective basis for comparison and decision.

HR Software Demo Tip #5: Meet the Consultant

Demonstrations are often conducted by the vendor's sales representative. However, the scope of the HR software and the scale of the implementation may imply a period of close working with an implementation consultant. Whether, assigned by the vendor as a part of a services agreement, or picked out by the customer to help facilitate the project, working with and choosing HR software consultants can be rife with pitfalls and problems if not approached carefully. In fact, in a 2011 report by HR Outsourcing Association's (Are You Ready for RPO?), respondents placed massive emphasis on shared culture between vendor and client (and a value on the personal relationships between key project personnel). Sometimes this potential working relationship goes so far as to actually form part of the decision-making framework—a fact that should naturally compel customers to want to get to know the consultant beforehand.

HR Software Demo Bottom Line

The key to a successful HR demo process is to maintain a balance between client control (i.e. ensure the vendor addresses the customer's priorities) and allowing the vendor to show their product in its best light. In effect, when selecting software an organization is sounding out a future business partner – both the vendor and the software package itself – and the HR selection process and due diligence should reflect the trust-based long-term relationship that will ideally result. End

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An in-depth HR demo allows a detailed comparison against requirements and also the opportunity to confirm important side issues (e.g. SCORM compliance for learning management systems)."


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