Four Questions to Ask Every Tech Vendor

Four Questions to Ask Every Tech Vendor

At some point in the next 18 months, you are likely to consider purchasing some new technology solutions to improve your talent acquisition and engagement approach. There are hundreds of tech vendors in every imaginable category looking for your business.

According to HRWins, 2018 saw over $3 billion of venture capital invested in HR technology solutions. That was triple the amount invested in 2017. What does that mean for you, the TA leader who needs new solutions to improve your function and has no time to spend researching the hundreds of vendors in the marketplace? It means you likely gravitate towards vendors who are better at marketing and engagement (even if their solution doesn’t really work) or you work with consultants in the industry to help you narrow the field and evaluate the solutions or you continually delay your purchase until you have “more time.”

Depending on the solution you are looking for and what your procurement department requires, you may or may not go through a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) process when selecting a new solution. Either way, you ultimately identify 3-5 solutions who, on the surface, seem to fit your needs.

Sitting through demos and sales pitches from multiple vendors, even if you have consultants helping you along the way, can cause your eyes to glaze over. If you have more than a few stakeholders involved in the selection process, sometimes the loudest voice has greater influence or you just can’t come to a decision.

Plus, there are many factors that should have weight in your decision that go beyond the functionality of an individual solution. If you don’t take control of the demos and presentations to ensure you fully understand if a vendor can meet your needs, you may end up selecting the solution with the slickest demo or most affable sales team. If you don’t ask or fully understand the answers to the question below, you could end up with an extended implementation timeline, a tool that your team doesn’t use, or a nightmare customer service situation.

Before you have the final round of demos and presentations with your top vendors, ask them to be prepared to provide answers and/or demonstrate capabilities that answer these 4 key questions.

1. How exactly do you integrate with <insert the="" name="" of="" your="" ats,="" crm,="" hris,="" etc.="">?</insert>

Faulty or difficult integrations between the solutions in your technology ecosystem will always overshadow the key functionality of either solution. Don’t let the vendor get away with simply saying, “yes, we integrate with <insert name="">.” Integration is a widely used (and abused) term in technology. Integration may mean a flat file (that someone on your team has to create) is sent from one system to the other to be uploaded once a day and then someone has to verify the accuracy of the data. It could also mean a custom API that one or both of the vendors have to build (usually at your expense) that has no real “owner.” Thus, when something goes wrong, the vendors point fingers at each other and you are left with two stand-alone systems.</insert>

Require that the vendor walks you through exactly how this works. Have someone from your IT team participate in the demos so that she can ask specific questions and challenge their general statements. Also, insist that they provide you with the contact information of a current client who has the exact integration you need. You and your IT rep should call that reference together and ask specific, detailed questions about the integration. (Side note: be aware if they don’t have a current client who has the exact integration that you need. It is rarely beneficial to you to be the first one).

2. What resources are needed from your company in order to ensure a smooth and successful implementation?

Ask them to walk you through their standard implementation timeline and specifically highlight who from your team needs to be involved at each step. Also, ensure you understand the level of effort that will be required from your team prior to participating in specific meetings with the vendor. All too often, vendors show that your team needs to attend 8 meetings over 12 weeks to get to implementation. What they don’t typically voluntarily offer up is the amount of “homework” your team has to do in order to prepare for the meeting. This work could be completing a full mapping of fields in your current solution to the fields in the new solution or it could be actually performing the configuration work in the backend of the solution. Depending on the solution you are implementing and the size of your organization, you may really need 5-10x more labor hours to complete all of the implementation tasks. Ensure a member of the vendor’s implementation team is answering this question as they truly know what is required. Salespeople don’t typically stick around for implementation activities, so I don’t trust their answers.

3. How does your implementation plan address change management for system users?

If you are moving from one tool to another that serves a similar function (an ATS, for example), change management is key to a successful launch and adoption of the new solution. If you are introducing a new tool, the users may have been conducting similar tasks on a spreadsheet, via an internal Sharepoint site, or simply through email. While it might not be as large a change as a new ATS, change management is still critically important. To be honest, very few vendors include change management in their implementation plans. If they aren’t covering it, you need to make sure you are via internal resources or external assistance. No matter how great a technology solution is, it is completely useless if no one uses it.

4. Who will be our regular day-to-day contact after we go-live?

Depending on many factors, you may have a dedicated account team, a single account manager, or may be directed to call their standard help desk for any and all issues. Regardless of the type of support you receive, insist that you have the opportunity to speak with the person that will be your regular point of contact (or a leader on the help desk team, if that is what they offer). If you are hosting in-person demos, require that the identified person attend and have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of their own system as well as your business (the vendor can decide how to accomplish that). In many cases, you may be working with this person on a weekly or daily basis. You need to have an understanding of their level of knowledge and their communication style. Being assigned to an account manager who you don’t mesh with can make life miserable for you and/or members of your team, especially if you have regular questions, concerns, or issues.

You will notice that none of these questions focus on the specific functionality of a solution. The analysis and evaluation of functionality are dependent upon the type of solution, your optimized process, your organization size and structure, and your specific needs. Clearly, you will be evaluating every vendor’s functionality capabilities. However, obtaining a clear understanding of the answers to the above questions will have a significant impact on the success of the solution in your organization.

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