What to know before you start evaluating HR tech vendor options
When you’re thinking about working with a HR technology vendor, you may be focused on how this addition to your HR tech stack can make your talent experience more efficient or cost-effective. The buying process for a solution shouldn’t add to the problem. To avoid an overly complex headache when evaluating potential vendors, here are seven steps to take.
- Identify the problem
- Initial research
- Stakeholder mapping
- Narrow down solutions
- Create the vision
- Gain consensus
- Document everything
Let’s dive into each step further for important details and nuances.
Identify the problem
It’s important to start where it hurts. What is the core pain point that you are trying to solve for? Most likely this is something you are already aware of, but make sure you’ve thought it through. You don’t want to find out later that you were only looking at a symptom of the problem, not the source.
Once you know the core challenge, how will you measure success? This means looking at Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). If you’re trying to solve for a slow hiring process, you may want to measure time-to-hire, candidate drop-off, and applicant-to-hire ratio, for example. What will success look like in the first 90 days, 6 months, a year?
It’s also essential to investigate if your organization is currently structured to measure these KPIs. If not, what changes need to be made? In no way should you see it as a setback to find out you aren’t currently capable of measuring these KPIs, but establishing this before you’ve started the buying process is a big win. That’s a lot of time and effort saved.
With the core problem identified, and the runway set to measure success, you can now start piecing together the blueprints to guide this project. Here is where you will be doing initial research, beyond just some googling.
It can be most helpful to look at this in three ways:
- Internal Research - What is your current tech stack?
- Competitive Research - How are your competitors solving this problem?
- Market Exploration - What are quick, high level findings about this category?
Evaluating your tech stack is vital. This will allow you to see if any current vendors you use already have a solution for this problem. It’s also important to investigate how a new vendor would integrate into the current tech stack.
While defining your tech stack, you should be able to understand its impact on your organization, from the parties involved (relevant to the need for “stakeholder mapping”) to their effect on the bottom line. Even though you’re looking into HR tech for an HR issue, the tech stack most likely impacts more than human resources.
Once your tech stack is laid out, you can look into competitors to see how they handle the same or similar issue. The solutions they use may already be covered by something in your tech stack, or it could be a completely new category for your company. It may bring to light a solution that can replace a current vendor and solve for the new problem.
Either way, the final step to your initial research is to explore the market. Beyond what your competitors may be using, who are the leaders in the category you’re targeting? Who do analysts and trade publications put at the top of the list? What are the details and requirements of these solutions? This is also where you’ll start to be able to define the budget range required, which tends to be a high priority for leadership.
Next is the need to map out stakeholders’ journeys, based on the marketing exercise known as customer journey mapping. This process entails visualizing “the story of your customers’ experiences with your brand across all touchpoints” to better understand their pain points and ensure the buying process is optimized for them. Doing this in the HR tech buying process involves defining all parties impacted (beyond yourself) and ensuring the solution improves, or at least doesn’t adversely affect, their experience.
To more clearly define the steps:
- Who are the impacted parties?
- What are their experiences and touchpoints?
- Prioritize the impacted parties, as requirements of a solution may conflict
- What is the amalgamation of their experiences and touchpoints?
Note both internal and external stakeholders of your organization. At the very least, nearly every HR technology will involve candidates, managers, and employees to some extent.
Also, it’s vital to keep in mind Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) in this process. It’s important to ensure the stakeholder mapping doesn’t inadvertently reflect your own bias. Additionally, noting in the experience where DEIB for your organization can be influenced the most will be helpful later on. This will allow you to challenge vendors to address how their solution accounts for DEIB questions and possible issues.
You should be able to turn this stakeholder map into an actual flow chart or checklist, which is an essential reference document throughout the evaluation process.
Narrow down solutions
Having taken in a lot of information, next you will be sharing it with others. But you want to have more than just the problem to give them. You should now narrow down potential solutions to a short list.
Filter solutions according to the information you’ve already collected, but also keep in mind there are additional important criteria. These may include references and testimonials, whether the solution has internal experts to answer questions, pricing, and the quality of customer service.
Create the vision
With all of the pieces so far, you should be at a point where you can start putting the puzzle together. And this is a critical step for what comes next: gaining consensus. You will be taking information from the previous steps and forming them into a story that drives other parties to both want and advocate for the success of the final HR technology solution you’ve chosen.
On top of knowing the problem, the solution(s), and the stakeholders, you will need to make everyone care. Questions to address: why should leadership be willing to invest time and money into solving this problem? Why should the IT department prioritize your solution over others? Why should your direct reports add more to their overflowing workloads to help get this up and running ASAP?
It’s important to communicate how you’ll enable goals to become within reach. Your team members will benefit from being informed of as many of the details as possible. This allows them to be prepared for the workload and manage their priorities. The more you can simplify the vision and story behind it, the better.
You are now the champion of your HR tech vendor selection. It’s your job to communicate the plan, needs, timeline, etc. All of which are essential pieces to reaching the success KPIs previously defined.
If you’re a TA manager, bring the vision to your direct peers first, get their feedback and buy-in, and then—with their underlying support—move onto another impacted party like your direct boss, the VP of TA, or a peer department like procurement.
It’s important to keep in mind that you’re building other champions in this process, which is a necessity. Without creating an advocacy base beforehand, this HR tech vendor partnership will not succeed. Additionally, part of that advocacy base needs to be executive leadership. Try to establish an executive sponsor early, and utilize them as a coach along the way.
The “final” step is to document everything. You should actually be doing this from the start.
You don’t want a lack of clarity to gloss over important requirements or create an incorrect assumption. When you record the unknowns throughout the process, you’ll find the answers too, whether it be from initial research, other shareholders, or in the evaluation process.
Most importantly, this allows for the whole process to be that much smoother, and repeatable for the next pain point to fix.
Now that you’ve gone through all of these steps, from defining the problem to getting everyone’s buy-in, you’re ready to pick the perfect HR technology vendor. The search and evaluation process will be quicker than ever, and the likelihood of a mismatch reduced.
Choosing the right HR technology and signing a contract doesn’t make the deal a success. You need to look at this as a partnership. You will need to maintain the consensus you’ve gained, and continue to promote internal adoption with an eye on your KPIs. Of course, the vendor chosen should also be a big help in this process, but it’s a team effort. Our Director of Customer Success, Macy Volpe, will be sharing more on that soon.
Looking for an end-to-end HR platform to improve how you attract, select, or engage talent? Check out Traitify.