Decision Making in the HRIS RFP Process: Part 2

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How to maximize the evaluation process once the RFP responses are in, through to the HRIS implementation phase.

The first article in this series outlined the core factors to consider when crafting a request for proposal (RFP) to identify potential human resources information system (HRIS) vendors. But beyond the technical requirements, it is important that the RFP process helps you identify vendors that will be more than a provider of technical services or software, but also a trusted partner. It's also important that your evaluation team has the opportunity to ask open-ended questions.

Beyond the Checklist

So you have narrowed down your list to a small number of vendors. What's next?

Most traditional RFP processes involve the creation of a checklist that includes evaluation criteria that may or may not be weighted. Members of the selection team are asked to rate each vendor on this criterion, the scores are aggregated and typically the vendor with the highest score is selected. The only problem with this approach is it doesn't leave much room for the people side of decision making. The criteria for selections are usually established well before the first demo is ever delivered and usually only include standard items.

As you go through the project and revisit your processes, members of the team may learn there are some things that are more or less important than they thought or new things may pop up. There are other questions to consider that often get missed that are more open-ended. These types of questions allow for a dialogue that will help bring a team to a better consensus on just it needs and which solution will work best.

If you are already at this stage, it is not too late to ask this of your team, or if you are just beginning your selection journey consider folding some of these open-ended questions into your early discussions. These questions in combinations with the traditional checklists can help you determine which vendor or vendors are better for your organization and will meet the needs of most stakeholders and not just one.

  1. What are the primary business problems you are trying to solve with the automation of HR processes? Answer this question both in general and for each of the domains/HR areas for which you are seeking a solution. For example, the business problem you may be trying to solve is reducing paperwork and improving productivity, but for your payroll module it might be that you are trying to reduce your reliance on manual checks and provide more options for employee self-service.
  2. When it comes to the use and selection of HR technology, what are the most important things for your organization? For you individually?
  3. As you decide between one or more vendors, what criteria are important to you, besides which vendor can deliver which functionality? Knowing these kinds of things up front will help you significantly as you get to the point where you have narrowed down your list to two or three vendors that can deliver everything you need from a system functionality perspective.
  4. Are you looking for a single vendor for all your HR, payroll and time needs? If yes, why? Think objectively as you document the reasons. Go beyond the obvious, like a single, unified source will result in better-quality reporting. Just because modules in an HR system are integrated does not always mean they speak the same language.

Achieving Consensus

The best way to use the above open-ended questions is to have each member of a team spend time writing down what matters most to them and then regrouping as a team to try to reach a consensus or group-level understanding of your organization's needs. Again, the process can happen at the beginning of your search or perhaps as you are at the point where you have narrowed your choice between two different vendors. Consensus decision making is a creative and dynamic way of reaching agreement between all stakeholders. Instead of simply voting for a single vendor, which many times leads to the majority of the members of the group getting their way. A group using consensus is committed to finding solutions that everyone actively supports, or at least can live with.

This process ensures that all opinions, ideas and concerns are taken into account. Through listening closely to each other, the group can more likely come up with proposals that work for everyone. Here are some basic steps to working toward consensus from a 2013 book called, "The Consensus Handbook" by the group Seeds for Change. While the book was written specifically for cooperatives and communities, the underlying process is situation agnostic. I encourage you to consult the book for the detail in each step. I've summarized them below:

Step 1: Introduce and clarify the issue(s) to be decided

Step 2: Explore the issue and look for ideas

Step 3: Look for emerging proposals

Step 4: Discuss, clarify and amend your proposal

Step 5: Test for agreement

Step 6: Implement the decision

The HR applications an organization deploys, as well as the processes and workflows within those applications, should facilitate both HR's and finance's ability to focus on things that really matter, while also providing employees and managers tools to make better people decisions.

Making the right decision requires more than satisfying a checklist but should also include listening actively to the needs and requirements of all stakeholders. Doing so not only sets the stage for a smoother implementation, but also helps guide you toward selecting the right vendor or vendors for your organization's specific needs.

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