Evaluating talent management software is no cakewalk. Every vendor makes similar claims that their product is easy to use and easy to implement. As a result, it’s difficult to differentiate one product from another to find the one that’s right for you. Sure, you can compare features and prices, but here are four other things we think it’s particularly important for organizations to ask talent management vendors when evaluating their solutions.
1. How is your product different from your competitors?
Most talent management solutions share a core set of functionality that covers standard talent management processes (recruiting, performance management, learning management, etc.). Even so, pricing varies widely because of what are often subtle differences across these functional areas.
“One product with ten features may be $1,500, another $150,000–and they’re both going to have the same types of features,” affirms Sarah White, Founder & CEO of Sarah White & Associates, LLC. “The difference will be how they execute.”
Ask your vendor for their take on how they differ from their competition. But try to get beyond the marketing rhetoric and uncover what really distinguishes one product from another–and determine whether those differences matter to you. Be sure to:
- Prioritize your needs. Even if a particular vendor’s solution doesn’t address everything on your list, if it addresses your top priorities better than competing solutions it might be the best choice.
- Consider the future. One critical area of differentiation is how robust a feature set a product has in particular areas. Whatever your needs are today, keep in mind what you’ll need tomorrow. For instance, if you’re planning on aggressive growth, a solution with a richer set of tools for recruiting and onboarding could be a wise choice.
- Don’t ignore the user interface. This is another area where products differ significantly, and it’s important. Regardless of a product’s capabilities, if it’s difficult to use, it won’t be used effectively–or used at all. Get a product demo, and poll your end users for their impressions of its usability.
- Be realistic about your support needs. Vendors differ tremendously in their levels and quality of support, both pre- and post-implementation. If you anticipate needing more handholding or, for instance, a lot of custom implementation work, prioritize vendors that will provide it.
2. How can your product improve my processes?
The primary goal for many talent management buyers is process automation. Automating key talent management processes can improve efficiency, and for many organizations–especially smaller ones–that’s sufficient. However, as HR Technology Advisor, Steve Goldberg cautions:
“Any company that is spending money on an HR tech platform–if they’re only thinking about automation, they’re doing themselves a major disservice.”
That’s because rolling out new talent management software offers a unique opportunity to refine your processes, not just automate them. Ask the vendors:
- Can you help me map out my existing processes and pinpoint areas that your product can help me improve?
- Do you have examples of clients successfully using your product to enhance their processes?
- Does the software help users adhere to talent management best practices?
- Does the software support managerial decision-making around processes, such as by tracking key metrics and presenting relevant data and action items through dashboards?
3. How will you help us be successful?
Choosing the right tool for your organization’s needs is only the first step. The end game, of course, is being successful with that tool–however your organization defines “success.” As independent HR technology consultant Tiffani Murray explains:
“To check the box that says you've implemented a jazzy new HR technology is one thing, to actually have an organization that is using it en masse successfully is another.”
It’s important to work with your vendor to establish appropriate metrics of success, which might include, for instance, user adoption, integration with other technologies, or meeting process improvement goals. There are no guarantees that you’ll be successful–and it’s certainly not entirely in the hands of the vendor–but some questions you can ask include:
- Is there someone in your company proactively focused on helping me be successful, not just reacting when things go wrong?
- What are the points of escalation if I’m not getting the support I need?
- What resources do you have for helping me drive adoption across my organization?
- Beyond your usual support offerings, do you have someone who can help me do more with the product (e.g., integrate with third-party products, customize the product in unusual ways, etc.)?
4. Can I get a reference?
Talent management vendors will supply you with a lot of information to help you choose the right product. You should supplement that information with some unbiased perspectives from organizations that have recently evaluated or implemented those products, or have been using them for some time.
In talking to these references, your goal is to uncover any hidden “gotchas”–things the vendor never mentioned or perhaps didn’t even know about, and things you never even thought to ask. Some tips:
- Ask the vendors for specific customer references–ones that are similar to you, and that are using the same tools you will.
- Find some references on your own. Any references a vendor provides you will have been vetted. Do some research and find more. As Murray explains, “There are many groups out there that can provide insight and where you can post questions and get answers from those who have gone through implementations with various vendors.” Ask companies why they chose–or didn’t choose–particular solutions.
- Take everything with a grain of salt. What works for one company or talent management process may not work for yours.
Only You Can Answer The Most Important Question
In the end, it’s not just about the product you’re buying–it’s about trust. “You’re going to enter into a long relationship with this vendor,” says White. “Is this someone you’re going to want when things get stressful and challenging? Is this someone you’d be comfortable calling–and that you feel comfortable will get back to you?”
Of course, these are questions only you can answer. Just remember: whichever vendor you go with, you’re signing on a new business partner.
In hindsight, what points in talent management software selection would you spend more time on? What questions do you wish you’d asked?
Thumbnail image created by Stefan Baudy.