Knowing what you want before you buy is an obvious strategy but it’s not always easy to achieve. When the business requirements are varied, the reality of what the market has to offer may necessitate a compromise. But, for example, when you want engaging employee self-service functions, advanced automated recruitment, and state of the art predictive analytics for the C-suite, and of course, all at a good price, how do you decide which requirement takes precedence?

Where do business requirements come from?

To a large degree, stakeholders determine the requirements list. Part of your HRMS selection process includes talking to different user groups and drawing up a list of desirable functions. Other key drivers are your business strategy (are you aiming to expand, diversify, consolidate, acquire, etc.?), your KPI current performance (the How are we doing and what would help us improve? question), and the state of your existing HR policies and procedures (that is, if certain aspects of your HR service are failing and/or attracting complaints, those aspects may be higher on the priority list). With all the available features and functions, it’s hardly surprising that the latest HR software research found companies, on average, spend 20 weeks selecting a system to meet their needs.

Prioritizing your HRMS

You can gather your requirements, solidify them in the form of an RFP, and invite vendor pitches in a predetermined format, all leading to a final decision on your new HRMS. But when different systems offer different strengths, prioritization becomes the key to success. The following are different methods (though they can be combined) of prioritizing your HRMS requirements:

  • By category – Whatever categories you choose should fit your business, but a generic set to start with might be: System, Support, Vendor, References
    • System – what you need your HRMS to do.
    • Support– provision of updates, patches, upgrades, helpdesk, consultancy, etc.
    • Vendor – the experience and stability of the vendor company.
    • References – feedback from past customers (preferably of a similar size and in a similar industry to your business).
  • By rank – A simple ‘pop chart’ approach in which your three most important needs are ranked 1, 2 and 3, while others may not even may the Top 40.
  • Must, Should, Could – Put each requirement under one of three headings: Must (mandatory), Should (ideal), and Could (desirable but not necessary). Consider adding a fourth category – Would (not possible right now but bear in mind for the future) – to bring in a greater element of forward planning.
  • Ask the stakeholders – As part of your selection consultation with users and other stakeholders, ask them to do the initial prioritization. Once you have a crude list of requirements, ask different stakeholder groups for input. For example, if you have a list of 10 features, give the stakeholders a notional 100 points and ask them to allocate those points to the criteria, a maximum of 20 points each (to avoid the danger of a single enthusiastic vote skewing the whole process).

Weighting the criteria

Once you know which requirements are the most important, you can use a simple weighting system to compare systems. First, adopt a simple points system against which your selection team can assess how each potential purchase meets each requirement. For example:

0 = does not meet requirements

1 = partially meets requirements

2 = fully meets requirements

3 = exceeds requirements.

Then, for any requirements that are particularly valuable to your business, that criteria can be allocated double or triple points. So long as you apply the same framework to each shortlisted system, not only is the process fair it will also almost always give you a clear choice.

Finally, if you still have a tie on your hands – two apparently like-for-like HRMS – look to other factors for a tipping point in your purchase decision, such as implementation timescale, system scalability, and pricing model and total cost of ownership.

Dave Foxall

Dave Foxall has worked as HR Manager for the Ministry of Justice for a number of years and is a regular HRMS World contributor. He writes on a broad range of topics including jazz music, and, of course, the HRMS software market.