You’re gazing into a crystal ball, hoping you can tell the future because your company is depending on you. Sound crazy? Maybe, but that’s how selecting HR software can feel sometimes.
In the hyper-competitive HR space, expected to hit $30 billion USD by 2025, picking the best human resource information system (HRIS) can feel like a mystical art. Thankfully, you don’t need to rely on a crystal ball. You have a lot more control over the process than that. One main option is the HRIS RFP.
If you’re on the hunt for a new HRIS, our RFP template and guide are here to help. Let’s jump in!
What’s an RFP?
To understand what an RFP is, you also need an introduction to its close relatives, the RFI and RFQ. Don’t worry — we’ll keep the formalities short. And if you’re already well-versed on the RFx clan, feel free to skip ahead to the RFP template section.
But back to the three requests. Think of them as a funnel. At the top, you have the RFI. The middle is where the RFP hangs out, and the bottom is RFQ territory. Each of them serves to gather a certain amount of information as you narrow down the number of vendors on your list.
Request for Information
The request for information captures the greatest amount of info. Besides hopping on the web and doing your own searching, it serves as the starting point as you look for a new HRIS. Begin here if you need to formally gather information — a good idea if you’re not familiar with the industry or don’t have enough experience yet.
At this point, you’re not trying to get picky with the vendors you contact. The more information you can review, the better off you’ll be.
You know you need to implement an HRIS but aren’t sure which vendors would best serve your needs. A wide funnel lets you compare each company’s offerings and provides a high-level view of the HRIS software landscape. This gives you a view of vendor-specific nuances and industry best practices. You can worry about filtering the results later.
For best results, include the following in your RFI:
- General information about your company
- The challenge(s) you need the HRIS to overcome
- Minimum requirements a vendor needs to meet
- A response deadline
Your goal with the RFI is to determine which vendors are suitable to continue the conversation with. So it’s always helpful to be specific with the info you send.
- Don’t leave holes that send the vendor back asking for clarification
- Fill in the context to provide a framework for vendors
Put yourself in the vendor’s shoes and examine your RFI. Does it leave any potential questions unanswered? If so, revise it so that every section is as clear as possible and includes necessary details.
Request for Proposal
The RFP (request for proposal) process takes the information you have and narrows your choices down to a vendor shortlist. This is the same concept as the sales funnel slowly eliminating contacts who aren’t right for a product or not ready to buy.
HubSpot lists the following components as a general outline. But no matter how you create your RFP, make sure to adjust it based on your personalized needs.
- Background info about your company
- The reason you need a solution and the goals you want to achieve
- Your expected schedule for selection
- Details on how and where to submit proposals
- The RFP timeline
- A checklist of elements you’re looking for
- The criteria you’ll use to vet vendors
- Nuances about your company that may hinder implementation
- Your budget
Request for Quote
In some cases, you’ll need to send an RFQ (request for quote), which is the most narrow in scope. As such, you’ll send an RFQ to no more than a few vendors.
The responses you get will be the most specific. You’ll ask for a quote — aka the cost — along with details like implementation process, users supported and deployment methods.
Create and Manage Your HRIS RFP in 5 Simple Steps
Now it’s time to launch into the RFP process.
1. Determine Your Software Requirements
This is a crucial step in creating your RFP. It lays the foundation for what you’re going to send to vendors.
That said, let’s be honest — defining your requirements isn’t easy. You need to take the input of multiple stakeholders into account. Everyone from the C-Suite to the HR team who’ll use the software needs to have a voice.
Ask what the users need out of a new system. Find the flaws in your current system (whether it’s another HRIS or the folder and file cabinet combo). If you have an HRIS already, examine its functionalities so you have a framework for the needed capabilities and features in the new software. For example, your current system may have an archaic, confusing interface. In that case, you’d list usability as a requirement.
You also need to agree on what constitutes a need vs a want. When you have different departments that all have different focuses, it can be like wrangling wild horses:
- The executives want a solution in a certain price range
- The HR manager wants a centralized system and streamlined reporting
- Employees want self-service access so they can have control over their information
Take your time with this step and don’t leave any details on the table. Ending up with the right HRIS for your company depends on it.
2. Compile the Requirements Into Your HRIS RFP
Got your criteria listed out? Good. It’s time to put them into a formal RFP. Whether you use a template or create a document from scratch, make sure it’s professional. If vendors receive a sloppy, disorganized RFP, they’ll ignore it and move on.
Here again, don’t leave any details out. Let’s turn to Pictionary for an analogy:
You’re drawing a picture, and you want the vendors to guess it correctly. If your object is a grand piano, scratching out a couple lines and curves won’t give the vendors enough info (and unlike Pictionary, wild guesses are a no-no). You need to include the keys, strings, pedals and every other part of the piano to make it obvious.
In the same way, you can’t expect vendors to send a detailed response without first giving them a lot of details to respond to.
Describe the specific problems you’re facing. Maybe your current solution doesn’t support payroll. Or perhaps you’re looking for your first HRIS so you can escape the file cabinets and mountains of paper that comprise your current system. Whatever your unique situation, let the vendor know.
You also need to talk about goals. Is running payroll enough, or do you need multi-currency support for your London office? A vendor can’t talk about the features that will help your business achieve its goals unless they first know what your goals are.
Other helpful information includes general details about your company: the industry you’re in, the size of your organization, how your operations function and so on. And don’t forget to include technical information. If you need a SaaS solution that supports 5,000 users, make it clear. You’re drawing a picture, remember, so include whatever details you need to make it complete.
If you’ve been thorough, it shows vendors the exact ways their solution can meet your needs. Or exceed expectations. Or even not offer what you’re looking for.
The point is to find out now. Because ending up with a solution that sounds good in theory but fails to fulfill expectations is like buying a Subaru Outback only to discover the wheels keep slipping off.
If you want to cut the typical RFP time in half, the SelectHub platform guides you through the entire process from gathering requirements to managing RFPs. It’ll make your job faster and easier.
3. Submit the RFP to Your Vendor Shortlist
Once you complete your RFP, it’s time to send it off to vendors. Your initial research (and RFI, if you sent one) should have helped you narrow down your list to a handful of vendors. If not, take some time to finish that phase first.
When it comes to sending RFPs, less is more. You should only send an RFP if a provider’s solution can fulfill your expectations. Ideally, your shortlist should have three to five vendors. It’ll take your review team long enough to give that many adequate attention.
To increase efficiency, use a program designed to manage the RFP process. Such software will make it easier for vendors to send proposals and for you to handle the communications.
Our HR requirements template lets you customize the settings based on the criteria you chose, gather stakeholder validation and review proposals without any hassle. The RFP process is work-intensive, so why not use software to streamline the process?
4. Review the RFP Responses
Don’t demand (or expect) a fast turnaround. It takes vendors a few weeks to put together a detailed proposal, and the more information they include, the easier it makes your job.
Keep in mind that some vendors may not respond at all. For companies in the small or mid-sized markets, sending a proposal may be impractical. If that’s the case, and you’ve identified a company you want to follow up with, consider reaching out via alternative methods to initiate a conversation.
Otherwise, once the responses start flowing in, it’s review time. Don’t rush this step. Give each document full attention as you (or your evaluation team) examine the specific ways the vendor’s software meets your criteria. By comparing them, you’ll get an overview of your options and identify which stand out and which fall short.
Beyond the standard replies, do the vendors offer additional info or mention extra functionality? What do their responses fail to address? Consider each proposal from every angle — it’ll give you a more complete idea of how a specific solution will integrate into your operations and serve your HR needs.
One red flag is a response that’s obviously copied and pasted from a generic template with some details switched. You’re looking for personalized responses to your unique situation, not generalizations.
5. Follow Up
Your job isn’t finished after you review proposals. In fact, the follow-up step is vital if you want to land a system that helps instead of hinders your HR operations. If you’ve removed any vendors at this point, it’s common courtesy to inform them.
For those still in the running, it’s time to go deep. Seeing “yes” responses to your requirements is nice, but that doesn’t convey enough to let you pick a solution with confidence. For that, you need to get a feel for the software.
Just like you wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive (in case of wheels that are prone to coming off), you need to test each solution you’re considering.
- Schedule demos where the vendor walks you through the software so you can see it in action.
- Get a presentation for proof of concept, where you’ll see how the software performs specific tasks such as processing payroll.
- Gather references — both positive and negative. This will give you a complete view of what customers think of a vendor. Make sure the references are similar in size to your company and had comparable needs so you get the most accurate assessment.
Finally, you may be able to schedule a live demo day. This is, in essence, a trial run for your team. The vendor can set up temporary accounts and provide tech support so your team can use the software like they would in the office.
Make sure you’re prepared so you get the most out of the exercise. Have team members work through scenarios, such as choosing benefits or setting up direct deposit for their pay stubs. It’s also useful to include a feedback system so you can seamlessly gather everyone’s thoughts.
The point of conducting thorough follow-up is to identify any gaps that you can’t get from reading a document. It gives you a firsthand idea if a system is user-friendly or if all those capabilities mentioned in the vendor’s proposal are actually a hassle to configure. And more importantly, it lets your teams raise any concerns or confirm that the software does exactly what they need it to without causing headaches.
After you’ve made your choice and finalized the contract, turn your attention to the rollout. Your selection process should have shown if the vendor offers implementation support and what that looks like. You should also know what training, if any, they provide.
Adjusting to a new system takes time, so it’s in your best interest to understand how the vendor will equip your team for success and make sure you get the most out of your new HRIS.
Beware These 6 Pitfalls
Implementing new HR software isn’t as simple as doing research, sending RFPs, choosing a vendor and rolling out the solution. It’s a fluid process. You can’t nail everything down in a single document.
With that in mind, here are some dangers to be aware of:
1. Relying too heavily on the RFP process.
The RFP is a helpful tool. But just like a construction worker wouldn’t depend solely on a hammer at the jobsite, you can’t count on the RFP to take care of everything. The follow-up stage is crucial to ensure a solution works in real life.
2. Overlooking details.
It’s hard to get a complete picture of a specific software solution by looking at RFP responses. Sure, vendors may say their system has benefits administration. But software nowadays comes with loads of configuration options. So the question is you always need to ask is, “How?”
3. Having unrealistic timelines.
Selecting new software isn’t an overnight process. You need to conduct lengthy research, as well as give vendors time to respond to your RFP.
4. Being too generic.
The devil’s in the details, as they say — especially when it comes to software selection via RFP. For the best results, be as specific as possible with every step. This cuts both ways, though. You also want to ensure vendors are drilling into the details as well.
5. Not analyzing vendor viability.
You need to know your vendor of choice is financially stable. Your HRIS won’t be helpful in the long run if you choose a vendor that goes under in five years. One way to avoid that is talking to investors, particularly if you’re looking at a startup that hasn’t established a long track record of success.
6. Confusing business-critical and desired features.
What features does your business need to run smoothly and execute strategic plans? Those are the ones to focus on. Anything else is icing on the cake — nice to have, but not imperative.
Conclusion — Choose the Right HRIS
There you have it! A guide to help create your HRIS RFP. Selecting software requires a lot of investment, so it’s important you end up with the right HRIS on the first try. Our mission is to make that process faster, simpler and less costly.
If you’re near the start of your journey, grab our free HR comparison report. It gives a detailed look at the current market and the features of the top HR vendors so you can accelerate your research.
And if you’re further along, check out our HR pricing guide. You’ll get a customized report with pricing details, info on cost structure, insight into product limitations and more.
What top challenges are you facing with managing your HRIS RFP? Comment below to let us know how we can help!