SIRH: eight questions to ask before choosing a publisher

There are many obvious questions to ask about features and functionality for evaluating HRIS . But there are also less obvious questions. Asking these more advanced questions can help you ensure that you comply with local privacy laws, protect against unforeseen incremental costs, and validate that a solution can be implemented within the time frame you want.

Where will the data be stored?

It is important to ask where the data will be stored. This can help you stay in compliance with local laws and regulations and / or internal policies.

For example, privacy laws may restrict where data can be stored. In addition, in some countries it is easier for intelligence to access employee data without informing businesses.

Finally, each organization may have specific policies on the processing and storage of HR data that must be considered before purchasing software.

When can implementation begin?

Before signing a contract, it is important to ask when the project will start. Although it is normal for a publisher not to be able to give an exact date, it must be able to provide a rough schedule. This is important for several reasons.

First, you will want to make sure you are ready for this date. You may need to build a team and make sure it is available. You may also have tasks to perform before the project starts, such as reviewing and updating policies and processes, or cleaning up HR data.

In addition, other internal projects may compete for resource allocation. Many organizations do not have the time and resources to carry out all their projects together.

Secondly, the publisher can have a loaded order book, which can lead to more or less long delays before the start of your project. It is reasonable to expect a delay of a month or two between the signing of the contract and the start of the implementation. But some publishers have delays of eight to ten months that could eliminate them from consideration if, for example, you use an application that will no longer be supported within six months.

Who determines when updates and upgrades are applied?

With SaaS , the publisher often controls all updates. This makes it easy for the provider and makes it easier to manage because all of its customers use a single code.

The downside is that software updates can happen at critical times for you, at times when you do not want to run the risk. If the publisher is in control of all updates, make sure they publish a calendar for the next six to twelve months so that you can schedule your calendar accordingly.

Has the application been developed internally or by acquisition?

Applications built entirely in-house often have a common UI , a more user-friendly and consistent experience, a single security model, and a centralized database. This can help employees learn how to use the application, but also make the system easier to administer. For example, it is less likely that you need to do complementary integrations  between applications; the means to configure and maintain the system will probably be more consistent; and, with a single database, the links between the modules can be easier.

When the application is built by acquisitions, it can support multiple databases that will require integration to maintain the consistency of information between modules. In addition, the user interfaces will almost certainly be different from one module to another, as will the security model, the administration and the help systems. Although this is not an obstacle in itself, it is better to take it into account.

Does the contract include a test environment? And how much does it cost to synchronize with production?

It is very important to have a test environment where you can try changes without affecting the system in production. HRIS providers often update the test environment before updating the production system, which gives you the opportunity to confirm that the update did not break existing features and review new features that you may want to implement.

Another question to ask is how to synchronize the test environment with the production data. Over time, the test environment will become obsolete, and to truly test a major change before putting it into production, you will need to make sure that both environments are similar.

When evaluating HRIS vendors, ask them if they offer a test environment, what is the process of updating production data, and what are the associated costs.

Where is the implementation team and will it affect your working hours?

Many HRIS publishers have employees all over the world who work from remote offices or at home. It’s not a problem at all. But be sure to understand the technology they will use to communicate with you.

Also ask for their normal hours of work. At a minimum, you want enough overlap with your own daily schedules to be able to hold regular, ad-hoc meetings without having to change your calendar.

Are there any additional fees to access training?

Many publishers require that you pay for access to their training sites – which may include detailed usage manuals and training videos. However, not all providers charge this type of service. Some consider that to succeed, you must learn to use the system and be able to train others.

Although, ideally, the training materials are free, this point will be a priori secondary, because the service often remains inexpensive – and will not normally be necessary in a year.

What are the different technical supports and response times?

Technical support will be your “lifeline”, right after commissioning, when the team in charge of your implementation has finished its work and will pass the baton. It is important to ask questions about the support you will have access to: availability times, average response and update times, options for submitting or modifying a support ticket, and so on.

You can also ask if the provider has a portal (forum type) that allows all its customers to interact with each other. In some cases, such a tool can give you a much faster response than opening a ticket with technical support.

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