Originally published in Forbes August 12, 2021
This is the time of year when businesses decide whether to keep their existing HR technology solutions or make some changes that better fit their needs.
But even if you think you know what you need, you may not know where or how to start. There are so many technology platforms on the market. The process can feel overwhelming, frustrating and anxiety-inducing, but it doesn’t have to be.
Here are the three phases to selecting the best HR technology solution for your business.
1. Planning: Identify your business problem, budget and must-haves.
Before you solicit any RFPs or entertain possible partners, you need to focus on what business problem you absolutely need to solve.
Notice how I said business problem and not just an HR problem. Remember, this is not a narrow approach; you have to start wide. Making a list of major issues disrupting your organization and where individuals are spending most of their time is a great start. Many have never taken the time to see what they do throughout the day, week, month, quarter and year, and time is valuable — not just to HR, IT and other stakeholders — but to the entire organization and the bottom line. This includes employees who will actually use the technology. Think of creating your own focus group internally.
After you’ve identified the business problem, be sure to establish a budget for the technology that will solve it. If you haven’t considered pricing, you should. Not only will it be one of the first questions asked by your potential partners, but it also helps narrow the field of solutions to better align with your needs. If you only want to spend $25K, then there’s no reason to waste your time looking at systems that start at $50K.
Along with your budget, it’s helpful to come up with a list of must-haves versus nice-to-haves. Real talk: Technology isn’t going to solve every problem you have. Most of the platforms on the market aren’t going to modify their source code to accommodate the funky things your organization has going on. Identify what you absolutely cannot live without, knowing that you can put some of those bells and whistles on the road map.
2. Implementation: Pilot the new system with your stakeholders.
Once you’ve identified the problem, established a budget and determined your list of must-haves during the planning phase, you’ll more easily narrow the field of solution options to test with your stakeholders.
Again, it’s vital not to look for one solution to check all the boxes, taking the path of least resistance. You can include multiple vendors in the evaluation phase since you’ll find out a lot during the vetting process to give you better insight into specific areas the technology can address. You’ll also get a better understanding of implementation times, costs, client services models and how the systems will connect to other systems of record if needed.
Piloting systems and engaging all of the stakeholders within your organization will help you get feedback and identify areas of resistance that you could expect to encounter when you roll out something new.
One note: You need to make sure enough time is given, especially for significant technology changes. You’ve got multiple stages that include a thorough gathering of the stakeholders, the discovery process, setting expectations, the RFP, vendor selection, demos, follow-up, additional demo/call with the vendor, scoring of the vendors you evaluate and reviewing agreements. This process sometimes takes several months. Then you need to implement, which is another 60 to 120 days, depending on the project’s scope, so planning and timing are crucial.
3. Beyond The Honeymoon: Ensure that you have the right partner for the long haul.
In the industry, we sometimes refer to implementation as the “honeymoon phase,” where everyone is basking in the glow of new technology, everything feels great and nothing seems to go wrong (or if it does, the response is swift and easy).
After implementation comes maintenance, and sadly, the bar has been set very low for client service in this arena. We’ve all grown accustomed to waiting on hold when we need support, calling into a call center for assistance or submitting a ticket when there is trouble.
Remember, technology is only as good as the team behind it. When the user of the technology doesn’t get the training and ongoing support they need, it doesn’t matter how great the platform is; it becomes worthless. So, in your selection process, understanding how clients are supported is imperative. When you have employees who need support, you need to know who is responsible and whether it all falls back onto the organization. These can have major impacts when rolling out the technology and ongoing support for the employees, specifically at high-volume times of the year like open enrollment, for example.
Cover your bases by thinking beyond the honeymoon to ensure that you have the right long-term partner for maintaining and supporting your HR technology solution for your business.