20 Sep 2016

4 Ways to Get the Most From HR Technology Product Demos

Getting HR tech vendors in to demonstrate their technology is undoubtedly one of the best ways to find out which HR technology solution is going to work for you. But sometimes organisations find that after an impressive sales pitch, the product fails to live up to expectations.

This was the situation Port Stephens Council found themselves in. Not happy with their current HRIS, they began looking for a new system that would rescue them from the Excel spreadsheets, manual tasks and reporting headaches they were experiencing on a daily basis. Michelle Gilliver-Smith, Organisation Development Manager at Port Stephens Council, will be revealing more about their journey at HR Tech Fest in Melbourne this November. In the meantime, here are her top tips for getting the most out of HR Tech product demos.

1. Approach Product Demos With an Open Mind

When we started on our HR Tech journey we truly believed that the solution we needed was a standalone HRIS and did not believe that we could improve the system any more than we had, or that we could develop this best of breed approach that would in fact fix our issues in an integrated way.

While we were in the scoping phase we started to realise that there was a possibility that a new HRIS wasn't going to be the solution. But when the vendors came in to actually demonstrate our scenarios to us, it became crystal clear to us that there wasn't going to be a one size fits all solution. We had to really re-evaluate what we thought we needed at that point.

So my advice is to go into HR tech demos with an open mind – like us, you may be dealing with a leadership or project team who are set on one solution and it is very easy to just go with that. It is your role to really understand the problem and find out which HR tech solution is going to truly solve that.

2. Give Vendors a List of Scenarios to Solve

We'd been disappointed in the past by an HR tech solution that hadn't delivered on many of its promises. So being a bit savvy, we decided that instead of just getting them in and saying, “Show us what this system can do,â€' we would actually provide them with a list of scenarios wo work with – these were things that were real pain points for us. We gave them some time before they had to present, but we made it very clear what we wanted them to show us. We wanted to see exactly how their systems handle this specific set of tasks, and not be given the full sales pitch.

3. Get the Right People in the Room

Once it came to demo time, we made sure we had the right people in the room to ask the right questions. We made sure we had some ICT specialists in the room, the techies that could ask those technical questions that very few of us really understand outside of that world. Things like how it connected, what platform it worked on, and what sort of support the vendor would provide to us. We also had subject matter specialists in the room – the people who actually interacted with the system and had to use it on a daily basis to service the needs of the organisation.

We also had a representative from iPlatinum (a consultant that helped council scope its IT needs) who captured all the feedback from the demos. Their role was to take that very complex world of IT systems and break it down into manageable chunks that anybody could understand, and to help us really evaluate what system was going to deliver the best result for us.

And of course we had our core HR Technology project team there. Depending on what module we were looking at, people would come and go out of that room, but there were a few of us that were constant and were there for the whole presentation to see the bigger picture of how it all fitted together.

4. Give Your Current Vendor a Chance to Redeem Themselves

Although our current HR tech vendor hadn't been able to deliver in the past, we felt that it was only fair that they be given an opportunity to show us what they could do. We weren't sure at that point whether the failure of the current system was due to bad implementation decisions on our part, or because of the system itself. So we wanted to be fair and give them a chance to show us what the system could really do if we had it set up properly. In the end we went with a different system that was more suited to our needs, but getting them in to show us the system again reassured us that we weren't throwing the baby out with the bathwater and we uncovered a few improvements we could make to their system which remained as our core payroll system.

Hear more about Port Stephens Council's HR transformation story at HR Tech Fest 27-29 November 2016 in Melbourne, a two-day celebration of the talent, technology, ideas and innovations that are transforming the future of work. 

About the Author

Michelle Gilliver Smith

Michelle Gilliver-Smith is Organisation Development Manager at Port Stephens Council. She is responsible for the delivery of initiatives that drive sustainable, transformational change at the council.


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