3 Stages of the HCM Demonstration – Stage 3 of 3
In the previous two stages of the HCM demonstration (HCM demo) we examined planning and preparing for HCM demonstrations and the four primary areas of the HCM evaluation process. This last stage involves what happens after vendor presentations and some general considerations to narrow the search to a single vendor of choice. Quite frankly, it’s not uncommon for firms to begin to lose steam after vendor presentations are complete. It is a time in the evaluation process when confusion sets in trying to remember the details of the various vendor offerings (e.g. product functionality, customer services and security model, technical overview, implementation approach, subscription cost, etc.)
It’s our intent that this post HCM demo follow up blog will come in handy by providing your evaluation team with some advice and tips on things to consider after initial HCM demonstrations.
Post HCM Demo Follow Up
- Rally the Troops and Debrief Together: Directly following each HCM demo rally the troops and debrief on the vendor’s presentation. This timing is important, so you don’t forget or get confused with what you saw or heard during each of the vendor presentations. Based on what you determined during the HCM evaluation stage, you may have even created a HCM vendor scorecard for team members to utilize. A scorecard can assist with keeping track of items and areas for rating a vendor. We have also found it effective for team members to vocalize and discuss with each other their overall impression about each vendor’s presentation.
- Respond to Unanswered Questions and Vendor Action Items: It is not uncommon to have unanswered questions and action items following each vendor’s presentation. Right or wrong, we have always considered the thoroughness and responsiveness of the vendor to open items as an indication of the level of service you will receive from this vendor should you become their client. Just keep in mind, that things like responsiveness, professionalism, overall system knowledge, and engagement are all characteristics of the vendor’s culture. Culture is not something to be overlooked during this HCM initiative and should be factored into the overall evaluation.
- Another Round of Vendor Presentations: Considering what the vendor needed to cover in the initial presentation, it is not unusual for the vendor to have run out of time. In this case, we strongly encourage a second vendor presentation in order to go much deeper in terms of its capabilities and verify the vendor at least meets your outlined requirements. This will also provide the team the opportunity to inquire about additional areas such as technology, customer support, implementation services and customer references.
- Technical Discussion: Most likely, not much time will be spent during initial HCM demonstrations regarding the technical aspect of a solution. Vendor technical resource(s) are just not typically present during the preliminary round of presentations. Although a few general technology questions may be discussed, rarely is technology discussed in much detail. It is recommended that a list of technical topics for each vendor be addressed in either a separate meeting or at least in a written response.Recommended technology topics should include: integration capabilities and tools, upgrade and service pack release schedule, security model (e.g. single sign-on, database hosting SLAs, etc.), licensing, data governance, system modification and personalization tools, GDPR, SSAE and data conversion tools.
- Customer Support Discussion: Considering the breath of functional content presented during the vendor presentations, it wouldn’t be surprising if only a couple of key items related to customer support were mentioned. Common shout outs by the vendor’s sales team include customer retention, ratio of customer support representatives to customers, support hours and average response times. Additional suggested customer support topics should include: customer support philosophy, customer support model (i.e. direct, days and times, severity, escalation, speed to resolution statistics, etc.), support staff tenure, additional support options (e.g. dedicated support, tax or open enrollment specialists, online knowledge base, chat support, types and levels of customer training) and annual conferences and user groups.
- Professional Implementation Services Discussion: Another conversation that is often overlooked during the HCM demo but needs to be had with each vendor centers on the professional services provided and required to successfully implement any given HCM vendor solution. It is extremely important to understand the implementation approach or methodology employed by each vendor. It would be good to know what type of project collaboration tools will be used to manage your project (e.g. tasks, timelines, milestones, risks, budget, etc.), does the vendor use only internal consultants or certified partners, how is change management handled during the project, and what type of resources commitment is needed from your team.
- Price Discussion: We recommend putting together a comparison of the vendor’s prices in a spreadsheet to clearly see a side-by-side comparison. This process will allow you to identify any differences and will contribute to helping to select one vendor over another. A few tips for items to watch for include annual versus monthly subscription costs (Per employee per year vs. Per employee per month), hourly time and material or fixed fee professional services rates, year-end processing costs, extremely low implementations fees, term of the agreement, and annual annum or price increase within the initial term. Price isn’t everything, but it does play a significant part in the vendor selection.
- Vendor Customer References: As part of your due diligence, you should ask each vendor for client references if they do not proactively provide them to you. This is an important part of the overall evaluation process and should not be overlooked. We hear it time and time again that vendor’s will never offer up a ‘bad’ reference. This might have some truth to it, but you never know what you may learn as part of any reference call. Sit down with your team and develop a series of questions to ask the client pertaining to their experience with the vendor, the vendor’s personnel (e.g. sales, project managers, consultants, executives, accounting, support staff, etc.), the quality and operability of solution, the implementation and on-going services. Also, there are several peer-to-peer customer review sites that provide unbiased user reviews to help you objectively assess what is the best solution and who is the best vendor for your organization.
- Check Your Centers of Influence: Your centers of influence can provide independent insight and other customer experiences from your list of potential HCM vendors. Utilize these resources for additional information and ways to learn about these HCM solutions.
- Clients: current or past clients who used or are using the vendor’s solution
- Advisors: 3rd party HR technology advisors could be hired to help with the evaluation and selection of an HCM solution and vendor
- Peer Network: reach out to current and former colleagues in your space and see if they have any experience with the vendors you are evaluating
- Brokers: your current benefits broker could possibly provide input based on their experiences with other clients
- Review Sites: independent online review sites such as Trust Radius, G2 Crowd or Raven Intel offer candid customer evaluations/assessments and feedback regarding solutions, vendors and consulting/implementation partners.
- PE (Private Equity) Firms: if your firm has PE backing, locating the PE Analyst with their vendor recommendation could provide valuable insight.
The evaluation and selection of a HCM vendor is not a process to be taken lightly considering the financial investment, resource and time commitment, and the fact that this system will touch practically every person within your firm, including potential new hires. In this “3 Stages of the HCM Demonstration” blog series we presented information that has proven to be effective in finding and sourcing the best vendor and solution for our clients. It is not an all-inclusive check-list but should provide a general guideline and practical approach to finding a new and successful HCM vendor partnership.
Lastly, we believe and have always found that the more work and due diligence done upfront and prior to the beginning of launching a new project, the easier it will be to identify the right, and wrong, vendors for your firm and the better the outcome. Take your time. Plan and be prepared with a strategy before you embark upon the HCM demo part of the evaluation process.