Fact: There’s a lot of white noise in the talent management software industry. Vendors will boast ease-of-use, innovative technology, headache-free implementation, and more. The truth is, many products out their share a core set of functionality that covers standard talent management processes. They have applications for recruiting, performance management, learning management, etc—but there are many nuances in standard workflows and built-in best practices that aren’t easy to spot in a demo. For many buyers, the only glaring difference between one system and the next is simple: pricing.
“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. So what makes one system better than another? How can you determine which product is your best option? “The difference,” says White, “will be how they execute.”
If you want to cut through the marketing mumbo jumbo, you’ll need to take a more active role in reviewing systems. Of course, you can ask your vendor for their take on how they differ from their competition. But in order to uncover what really distinguishes one product from another–and determine whether those differences matter to you, there are a few things you need to do.
- Prioritize your needs. What do you need your talent management software to do? What points in your existing process need the most help? Which ones aren’t as important? Even if a particular vendor’s solution doesn’t address everything on your list, it might be the best choice if it addresses your top priorities better than competing solutions.
- Consider the future. Do you anticipate growth in the next 24 months? Are you considering a revamp of your performance management? One critical area of product differentiation is how robust product’s feature set is in particular areas (e.g. recruiting or performance evaluation). Whatever your needs are today, keep in mind what you’ll need tomorrow. 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. You may have experienced it before—or know someone who has. You find a wonderful product, with bells and whistles galore, but your people don’t know how to use it. Or they have trouble adjusting to the standard workflows. Tip: Get your people involved in product demos, and poll 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. Think about who will be using the product, and how much support they may need. If you anticipate needing more handholding or, for instance, a lot of custom implementation work, prioritize vendors that will provide it.
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.
About the Author: Kyle Lagunas is the HR Analyst at Software Advice, an online resource for talent management software reviews. He blogs about trends and best practices in HR and recruiting technology, and keeps readers clued-in on important happenings in the industry. For further reading on things to consider when selecting a talent management vendor, check out the full article on his blog.