How Can HR Professionals Choose HR Software Without Learning to Speak ‘Geek’?


Adrian LewisCommercial Director for Activ People HR

Monday, May 1, 2017

HR Software expert Adrian Lewis discusses in plain English how HR Managers can find the right software for their team.

Article 5 Minutes
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Thanks to over 20 years of working with HR professionals, especially more recently at Activ People HR, I'm often relied upon to act as the bridge between HR and IT.

Sometimes the 'geek speak' that IT professionals use can be confusing and intimidating to people working in other areas of the business. Recent research from Deloitte found that 74% of UK businesses are moving towards digital HR processes - meaning that HR is on a fast learning curve.  Manual spreadsheets are still the norm, even in some large businesses, so the change is long overdue.

For most businesses, it’s a case of when, not if, they invest in HR software.  

As the driving force of any business, HR needs the tools to respond to increasing demands from the C-suite.  Here’s some tips for choosing the right provider – no ‘geek-speak’ I promise!

What is 'cloud-based HR software'?

You’ve probably heard HR software is now mostly cloud-based – this is a good thing if you get the right provider.  

Cloud-based means the software runs on the internet, so you log in and use it on your phone, pc or tablet wherever you are – a bit like Facebook or Candy Crush, and your provider stores your staff data securely.
There is no installation, and anyone you want to use it can access it through a web browser like Chrome, Safari or Internet Explorer - whether they are using a Mac or a PC is irrelevant.  

What should I look for?

There are lots of different solutions and there is no 'one fits all' solution that does every aspect of HR better than everyone else - including ours.  The best thing to do is prioritise the features you need.

As HR software will often pay for itself anyway, price is less important than getting exactly what you want – so look at your priorities and be assertive in dealing with providers.  That will save you time and money in the long run.  

Here’s some things to think about:

  • Will this solution fulfil all your requirements & also deliver the HR reports you need (don’t assume, ask!)
  • Consider provisions for future needs, like home working - are they met?
  • Take a live demonstration or free trial (never buy without seeing it in practice!).  
  • Can the software expand if your business grows or your needs change?
  • Fancy graphics and pretty colours are just marketing - security, stability, functions, tools and reports are more important.

Security is paramount

Cyber-security should be high on your list of priorities – it isn’t just ‘an IT problem’ and you can't assume your provider has taken care of it.

Anyone with programming skills can design and sell a ‘HR system’ – there is no ‘standard’ and quality varies widely.  We've even seen software allowing every single employee, even juniors, to access personal data for any other member of staff!

In HR you deal with highly sensitive information – and failing to protect it can be disastrous (and expensive!).  Staff should not be able to access others’ personal data – and nor should anyone else should a password fall into the wrong hands.

Don’t just assume that a provider is secure.  Reputable providers will appreciate you asking whether they hold ISO27001 and checking who will have access to your data, both in your organisation and theirs.

Cheap software is a red flag.  Thorough testing, security, support, UK hosting, liability & indemnity insurance and getting ISO27001 certification are expensive processes – some providers don’t bother.

Questions to ask about the provider:

  • How long have they been trading?
  • How many customers do they have, and can they provide testimonials from customers in your industry?
  • Are they ISO27001 certified?
  • Will their team have access to your data?  What policies do they have in place to protect that data from misuse?
  • Do they have a disaster recovery plan?
  • If they go out of business, or if you leave, how do you get your data back?

Training and Support – what does that mean?

Most software providers include training and support as part of the package – but you need to make sure that your provider’s idea of ‘same day support’ is compatible with yours!

There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for an overseas company’s support desk to open so you can access a report you need for a ten o’clock meeting.  

Avoid the hard sell and being blinded by tech talk

Choosing HR software is a big decision - a reputable provider will go at your pace, so keep asking questions until you are happy.  Unless you have a deadline in mind, don't be pressured into a fast decision.

If a provider is using terms you don't understand, it really is ok to ask them to explain without the tech talk.  You are the customer, so if you don't understand, that's THEIR problem.  If you feel intimated after asking, they are the wrong provider for you.

Be confident and certain about what you need, let them know and let them solve the challenges.  That way you will have confidence in your decision as well as improving your HR processes substantially.

Adrian Lewis

Adrian Lewis is a respected writer on HR issues and is also the Commercial Director for Activ People HR. Adrian has spent more than 20 years helping HR professionals solve challenges with software.


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