Live From SHRM 2013: How HR Can Come to the Table for Software Buying Decisions

You don’t often find HR as a player in software purchases. And according to Joe Rotella, Delphia Consulting’s CTO and speaker at SHRM 2013, it typically doesn’t deserve one.


Because you need to earn it. Photo showing top of peoples heads with blurry stage in the background

As Rotella explained to more than 200 in attendance, HR personnel haven’t equipped themselves with the solution knowledge they need to influence those with purchasing power in their company.

“You’re not working to earn a seat at the table,” he explained. “[You need to] knock their socks off with your expertise.”

Now, if you’re like me, joining this conversation is intimidating – I’m tech-savvy (I can work my iPhone and laptop with ease) – but I don’t know how I could ever provide value to my CTO or IT director when it comes to purchasing software. But after listening to Rotella’s presentation, I’m confident I can add value.

In order to join the table with your executives and exude a bit of confidence when making the case for a software investment, Rotella encourages HR employees to do their homework. Here’s a list of seven steps he suggests HR professionals follow to ensure their voice is heard when searching for new technology:

Step 1: Complete a self-assessment and internal needs analysis

When you begin the search, there are several critical questions to ask yourself regarding what you’re seeking in a solution. Important areas for assessment include:

  • Functionality – What do you want the software to do?
  • Best of class vs. single solution – Do you want to work with one provider or multiple, each excelling in a certain area of interest?
  • Process automation – How much do you want?
  • Training and implementation – What kind of training will you need? Face-to-face instruction? A brief video?
  • Integration – Will it work well with your other important software systems?

These are a few questions to ask yourself to get the ball rolling. As Rotella explained, if you don’t understand your problems and what you’re hoping to achieve, you won’t get the buy-in you need from IT purchasers.

Step 2: Rank requirements based on organizational impact

Once you’ve developed an understanding of your needs, you next need to determine the value of achieving those specific results. According to Rotella, what’s most important are the features that will yield the most immediate and dramatic impact to your bottom line. Consider benefits like:

  • Increased revenue
  • Decreased costs
  • Improved cash flow
  • Cultural improvements
  • Process improvements
  • Enhanced client satisfaction

If you struggle determining the value of a solution, try ranking each benefit on a scale of 1 to 10. Or, rephrase the question – what is the problem you’re trying to solve? What capabilities will you gain as a result?

Step 3: Identify potential solutions

Once you’ve identified your needs, it’s time to start researching potential solutions and vendors. To get started:

  • Research best practices – Analyst research firms like Gartner and Forrester provide valuable insight about making the right IT investments for your organization. You can speak directly with consultants or gather information through webinars, blogs, seminars, surveys and reports.
  • Talk with peers – By soliciting recommendations from similar organizations and talking with peers, you’ll continue to develop your perspective on how a solution will function in a real-world scenario.

Step 4: Get real with providers

After doing your homework, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty with providers. Ask vendors for references and look at the client lists on their websites. Call a few organizations similar to yours. Better yet, start the conversation directly with potential providers. See what they offer and communicate your requirements to them.

Once you’ve had a chance to evaluate a handful vendors or so, it’s time to narrow the field. While Rotella acknowledges that this is hard to do, it’s crucial to prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. Who wants to meet with 20 vendors? Save yourself the headache – refine your list until you’ve narrowed it to one or two.

Step 5: View demos from promising providers

No one wants to see a canned demo – we want one that addresses our individual needs. As result, it’s important you give these vendors detailed scenarios and roles regarding the solution you seek. Rotella suggests coming up with a demo framework that highlights what you’d like to see and for what specific roles/users. By being specific, you’ll get a realistic idea of what the solution can do for you and at what price.

Step 6: Score solutions based on requirements

After each demo, rate each feature based on the requirements you created in Step 2. How did each vendor stack up? Once you’ve analyzed the results and discussed with peers, you’ll easily determine what vendor meets your needs.

Step 7: Select desired solution and develop a business case

Before taking a seat at the buyer’s table, create a business case for the solution to share with your IT purchasers. Make a business case for the solution that includes:

  • The problems this solution will solve
  • The results you want to achieve
  • Your return on investment (i.e., money, time, etc.)

Taking the time to research your needs and possible solutions takes time. But it pays off in the end. Not only will you find a solution that meets the needs of your organization, you’ll be able to justify your decision with the research you’ve conducted. It also gives you a voice – a voice that will be listened to when you finally pull up that chair and take a seat at the buyer’s table.

Katie Alberti has expertise in content services platforms and has been a contributor to the Hyland blog.
Katie Alberti

Katie Alberti

Katie Alberti has expertise in content services platforms and has been a contributor to the Hyland blog.

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