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Micah Fairchild The 4 Step Guide to Workforce Management Software Selection

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 By Micah Fairchild

Short-listing a Workforce Management Software Vendor

From the first line of a job application to the final signature on an employee's retirement papers, the HR process of workforce management is at play; and organizations have their hands full with it. Specifically, workforce management challenges can run the HR gamut from keeping up with ever-changing regulatory requirements (for any part of the process) to simply containing costs for staff development, recruitment, or benefits.

Because of the unique nature and scope of workforce management, organizations are increasingly looking towards the adoption of any and all automated solutions to help allay these challenges, ease HR staff's burden, and drive bottom-line results. Further, as was found by a recent Aberdeen study: the top reasons why any HR tech initiative happens is because of market adaptation, complexity management, and money. Yet, for all the press that exists about how companies are seeking out software technology as a panacea, few organizations have a clear picture of how to approach the HR vendor evaluation and selection process. To that end, here is our 4-step, quick-start guide to creating a workforce management software vendor shortlist.

Step #1: Define, Weight and Prioritize Specific Needs for Your Workforce Management Software

One of the single-most important facets of workforce management software solutions (because of scope) is the ability to integrate with other systems, data, and needs. Part and parcel with this integration however, is the meshing of operational ability and specific functionality. Step #1 is about determining what exactly you're going to need out of this HR software solution. How sophisticated of a fix does this need to be? Will this workforce management software only be integrating payroll, benefits, and attendance? Or will you be leveraging complex functions for competency matching, compensation scenarios, and strategic forecasting? Define, weight and prioritize your software needs with absolute specificity in order to ensure that you're applying the golden software rule…form always follows function.

Step #2: Determine Your Reporting Needs for the Software Solution

Let's face it, even for the smallest company, Human Resources is complex. Throw in a healthy dose of reporting requirements from the Department of Labor, from HIPPA, and from the IRS and it can be downright confusing. What shouldn't be confusing is how to generate those reports. Coming into Step #2, means also coming to the understanding that report requirements for human resources processes are essential. And the more sophisticated your business and systems needs, the more critical these reporting needs are. Be sure that when you look over the capabilities of each vendor's various solutions, you can define exactly how easy it will be to get your report data in the timeframe and format you need.

Step #3: Look to the Future for your HR Technology

What does the future hold for Human Resource Management Systems? Little green men that work for cheap through off-globing? Maybe not, but it does beg the question of what computing for your HR department and organization is going to look like in 3, 5, and 10 years. While predicting the future of your software needs is no easy task, any plans to make your current implementation into a lasting vendor relationship should include a discussion of policy, procedure, or personnel-driven change on the horizon. Further, to prevent headaches and surprises down the line, make sure to align with vendors who are keeping pace with the technological changes the market is driving. For example, due to recent research by firms like Gartner on Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), current trends put the need for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) as incredibly high, and forecasts keep coming out that the cloud computing trend will extend well into the future.

If your organization is thinking about short-listing a HR vendor that doesn't offer SaaS (and isn't moving in that direction), chances are good that said vendor might just be obsolete soon. It is a near truism that the software vendors that remain on top of the trends and that keep investing in research and development are the ones that will be here for tomorrow and the next day. Remember that in your short-list compilation efforts.

Step #4: Making Sure Your Software Vendor is Your Perfect Partner

Perfect might be stretching it, but "fit" is extremely important. Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because an HR software company is large and has carved a sizeable market share that they are automatically the supplier that you should go with. Workforce management software in particular is driven by such industry and market-specific issues that you want to evaluate each vendor as if they were a business partner. Tempting as it may be, don't be fooled by brand names because it may not serve you well to go with a pre-packaged Fortune 1000 firm's solution. Rather, find out the extent of both products and services to see whether this vendor will be a good fit as a long term partner. For example, if the HR software vendor is long on product functionality and short on service support, but you need basic capabilities and lots of help with managing change; the fit probably isn't there.

Software Selection Bottom-Line

Of course, aside from these steps just outlined, price will always be a factor. However, make sure that all five of these steps are completed initially before price is even discussed. Why? Because what you want is a vendor that will meet your needs. Once the pack of contenders is narrowed down by the four steps mentioned, then you'll be able to experience demonstrations, evaluate pricing options, and truly differentiate between the solutions that are right for your organization—and right for the right reasons. End

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While predicting the future of your software needs is no easy task, any plans to make your current implementation into a lasting vendor relationship should include a discussion of policy, procedure, or personnel-driven change on the horizon."


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