Slowing down to evaluate best-fit technology saves time and money

Author: Edward F. Barry


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Technology has made instant or fast gratification a fixture of modern life. We expect to get what we want when we want it, with little or no effort. Quick-fix solutions, such as the ability to replace a toaster overnight, have reduced our tolerance for investing time to ensure we get what we truly need — not just what we think we want.

If your toaster dies and you want toast tomorrow, there's little risk in placing an order for next-day delivery. But when it comes to HR software, impulsive purchases or an unwillingness to invest time to assess your needs, strategize for the future and research products will almost certainly result in buyer's remorse. But unlike the toaster, your investment in HR technology is substantial and something you'll have to live with for a while.

Fast gratification leads to HR tech buying mistakes

Avoid these fast gratification mistakes that employers increasingly make when buying new HR technology.

Buying the salesperson

Successful salespeople quickly form relationships and create a sense of trust. It's easy to forget their job is to sell a product, not necessarily to act in your best interest. Many salespeople work to do right by you, but most are under tremendous pressure to sell. A salesperson will spend time highlighting all the product's great features, but less time understanding your requirements to ensure the product is a good fit. Such a process may result in a quick purchase decision based on the relationship with the product representative. Salespeople, however, often disappear once the contract is signed, because their jobs are sales — not service.

Buying your brokers' "partner" product

Insurance brokers sometimes form alliances with a product provider, adopting a "co-sell" approach and potentially offering preferred pricing or a service guarantee for those brokers' clients. Understandably, brokers become highly familiar with some products and may enthusiastically endorse a specific provider based on the offering or service. Indeed, the software may be a great product that meets your topmost needs. However, your broker should focus on a buying strategy driven by your needs.

Buying solely on price

Buying based on price alone makes for a fast decision. In some cases, it also makes sense — if you're buying widgets. HR technology software brings subtle complexities, requiring expertise and time to compare products and match your requirements to product features.

Related, buying service to support your HR technology is a growing challenge. "Service providers" increasingly refer to themselves as "software providers." They will train you to use their product, but ongoing service may not be available, or comes at a price. This detail may fall by the wayside during a fast buying decision focused on cost alone. Further, large service providers increasingly outsource their training and service.

Buying to solve a short-term problem

In a rush to address an immediate pain point, employers often skip the time-consuming but strategic assessment to ensure that what they buy today will deliver value down the road. Otherwise, you may need to shop again in a year or two, making for a difficult conversation with your CFO. In a true crisis, the best decision requires working with your current provider for a short-term fix, giving you time to determine the best long-term solution.

How to avoid buying mistakes

HR leaders can avoid these buying mistakes and significantly minimize the risk of making a poor purchase. Consider these tips:

Slow down your purchase decision

Start by re-setting your expectations for an immediate or fast fix. Unless an essential piece of software suddenly dies, plan to invest at least six weeks in the purchase decision for a basic point solution and three to six months when investing in a more comprehensive platform. Be wary of special offers with a short window and salespeople who pressure you to take advantage of an offer "before it's too late."

Don't wait for a problem

If your current software is more than five years old and your needs have diverged from its capabilities, start planning for replacement a year or more before you want to make the change. Lead time will allow your team to make the implementation when it makes sense for your people strategy. For example, plan your search for a new benefits administration platform during the first half of the year to ensure sufficient time to purchase, implement and train users before a fall open enrollment for the coming benefit plan year.

Invest in HR technology expertise

Unless you're regularly and actively engaged in the HR technology sector, it's hard to stay abreast of changes in the market and product innovations. A poor purchase decision inevitably results in the need to bring someone in to help fix the situation. Investing in expert help on the front end can save time and money. Talk with your broker about available HR technology consulting resources.

Gallagher can help you avoid buyer's remorse

Gallagher's HR Technology Practice consultants work with employers of all sizes. We help develop an HR tech strategy, define and document software wishes and requirements, shop for best-fit solutions and manage risk when implementing new software. We ask questions, listen and then guide you to a best-fit purchase or decision-making process that supports your HR and organizational goals.

Further, we can show you the bells and whistles, help negotiate the contract and address any immediate pain points. We're also equipped to help you optimize the technology you already own to reduce the need to buy something new. Employers often are surprised to learn about features that came with their software — or a subsequent upgrade — because no one read the release notes.

Instant gratification is fine for some purchases, but HR technology is not one of them. Most organizations plan to use their core platform for five to seven years. That's why making an informed purchase decision is essential — even if it takes a while. Living with technology that doesn't work well for your organization is painful and costly, both in terms of productivity and because likely you'll end up replacing it sooner rather than later.

Talk to your Gallagher advisor about a strategic approach to purchasing new HR technology or optimizing the technology you already own.

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Author Information


Consulting and insurance brokerage services to be provided by Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. and/or its affiliate Gallagher Benefit Services (Canada) Group Inc. Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc. is a licensed insurance agency that does business in California as "Gallagher Benefit Services of California Insurance Services" and in Massachusetts as "Gallagher Benefit Insurance Services." Neither Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., nor its affiliates provide accounting, legal or tax advice.