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Dave 3 Critical Questions to Ask Time & Attendance Software Vendors

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 By Dave Foxall

Key Questions In Your Time & Attendance Software Selection

Often described as a core HR function (alongside payroll, benefits, health & safety, compliance, taxes and employee records) time and attendance software and management are fundamental to effectively managing a workforce, and with proper integration can be leveraged for much wider strategic benefits. Time and attendance software at first glance might appear to be such a basic application that it would lose precious attention to other, more exciting HR software solutions such as human capital analytics or talent management. Yet, recent Towers Watson research (2011-12 New Horizons, No Boundaries) found just the opposite to be true; time and attendance software systems were in fact featured as one of the top three HR service delivery issues for almost a fifth of respondents. Yet many organizations are still somewhat in the dark regarding exactly how to go about the software selection process for a suitable time and attendance software application. Vendors may be well established and offer a bevy of time and attendance automation tools, but getting the best solution can seem like a convoluted process.

As such, here at, we've developed a short list of key questions for those organizations looking to leverage time & attendance applications to ask potential vendors. Aside from merely addressing time and attendance software features, these questions are geared towards helping organizations adopt a standards-based approach to software selection. Namely, we feel that taking a standardized approach to any HR software selection will ensure accurate comparisons and the best possible choice. However, for companies considering introducing (or upgrading) an automated time and attendance software solution, an objective framework that can make sense of the enormous range of options on the market is essential.

Time & Attendance Software Question #1: Can you meet our unique needs?

The first thing that organizations should be cognizant of when selecting a suitable time and attendance software solution, is that the devil is in the details. That is to say that company's should be aware of exactly what they need prior to meeting with software vendors. That way, when presented with all the bells and whistles of what each vendor solution can do, the prospective client has tangible examples of what the software actually needs to accomplish. It is incredibly tempting to get swept up in the possibilities of what a time and attendance system can provide, but companies must be able to unequivocally determine if a given offering can first and foremost meet the unique and prioritized business needs that have been identified; if but for no other reason than to be able to compare key functionality with other vendors.

Equally important to this discussion of organizational needs for a time and attendance software solution is the idea of configuration and customization. An off-the-shelf time and attendance application and out-of-the-box configuration will undoubtedly provide initial benefits in terms of time savings, but the closer the solution meets the organization's specific requirements, the greater the efficiencies and savings will be. In fact, Aberdeen's 2010 survey, The Future of Core HR, found that, "one-half of Best-in-Class organizations cited the provider's ability to adapt (configure) the solution to address the organization's specific needs as a top criterion after price."

Time & Attendance Software Question #2: What is your UX like?

As is the case with an ever-expanding number of other HR software solutions, Time & Attendance applications can be deployed via Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or through a more traditional, on-premises licensed product. While all the usual SaaS advantages may apply (e.g. easy configuration, rapid updates, reduced implementation time, subscription-based operating costs, etc.) interestingly enough, time and attendance technology fell short in CedarCrestone research for user experience (UX). In fact, while most HR software applications scored a slightly higher rating for the SaaS option, for time and attendance applications it was actually the reverse: SaaS scored 1.9 and licensed 2.1 (on a scale of 1 = poor; 2 = acceptable, and 3 = excellent). Though possibly a small detail, this is a concrete example that showcases a possible defining point between vendors when they are invited to outline how they would tackle that engagement issue of UX. Recognize that the more inviting and intuitive the UX, the more rapid the user adoption and system payback.

Time & Attendance Software Question #3: Can you provide a demo of our needs?

Time and Attendance software demos are the opportunity for the buyer to observe just how closely a particular solution can meet the organization's requirements. However, they are also the opportunity for the vendor to showcase the software's best features and unfortunately these two agendas don't often work in concert. A clear best practice for buyers is to standardize the demo format—clearly communicating key criteria and requirements; having the right people attend; providing a script that ensures a run-through of the pivotal processes; and using a rating scale for an objective comparison of different vendors' offerings. The other key point when meeting both the vendor and their system is to gauge the consultant or member of the vendor's team who will be leading the time and attendance software installation (e.g. how experienced are they? Do they understand your organization's specific requirements? Are they a good fit with your organization's culture and team?).

Time & Attendance Software Selection – The Bottom Line

The right time and attendance application can improve time-tracking accuracy, reduce labor costs (therefore improving overall productivity) and ensure compliance with both labor laws and collective agreements. As Aberdeen reports, the fundamental task for organizations is, "to ensure employees are paid on time and treated fairly and business managers aren't overwhelmed by the time collection process… automation is the key differentiator in achieving these goals". Indeed, the benefits of this type of HR software are significant, but it is essential that organizations select the right solution for their specific needs—focusing tightly on: current/future functional requirements, deployment options, and maintaining control over the demo/pitch process. End

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Time and Attendance software demos are the opportunity for the buyer to observe just how closely a particular solution can meet the organization's requirements. However, they are also the opportunity for the vendor to showcase the software's best features and unfortunately these two agendas don't often work in concert.


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