In response to my recent blog post with five things to consider before selecting an HCM vendor, I was asked about some best practices when choosing a consulting firm to assist with vendor selection. It’s a conversation that comes up often – although usually in the form of “Why should we select Sability to assist us with our decision?”

It’s a great question. The HCM space is changing faster than ever before. Companies are no longer tied to the same vendor longer than they want to due to excessive implementation costs and timeframes. But how do you know which vendor is right for you?

Here are 5 tips for selecting a Vendor Selection Consulting firm. While our focus is on the HCM space, these tips are applicable for any type of software system that you need to purchase.


1. Find a vendor-neutral consultant.

Here’s where our industry gets a bad rap. Vendor Selection projects are often disguised as business development opportunities that always lead in the same direction. Choose a consulting firm that has many partnerships and is not tied to a particular vendor. Don’t get me wrong – these partnerships are important. You want your consultant to have access to the right people to get you the best information, but you want your consultant to have relationships with different HCM companies..

Ask prospective consulting firms to show you their track record with helping companies on their selections. If you see a strong pattern of the same vendor being selected, find out why. Trust your instincts.


2. Don’t reinvent the wheel.

Your consultant should be armed with a methodology and tools they bring in on day one of the project. This includes Vendor Profiles, Discovery Templates, Project Plans and RFI’s (Request for Information).

At the same time, make sure to tailor these to your needs. For example, a solid RFI template will reduce development time, but make sure your consultant uses information from your discovery session to ensure vendors meet your company’s requirements. Work with your consultant to formulate differentiating questions, so the vendor responses don’t look like marketing brochures.


3. Make sure they have an effective scoring system.

You always want the data to do the talking. For each step of the process, you and your consulting team should be scoring and rating each vendor based on how they fit your needs. The scoring system should account for product strength and how it fits with your requirements.

Ask to see examples and templates to ensure the scoring system is complete. Like a scouting team, the consulting company should bring you some top choices for the job, but as the NFL owner, you need to make the final call on the best draft pick.


4. Don’t let the vendor run the show.

 When you have a vendor coming in to do a demo, make sure they follow your rules. Each software has its strengths and weaknesses, and the vendor will always try and spend more time on the things they do best. Work with your consultant to preset the agenda, including the allowed time spent on each section. Use scripted demos to ensure they don’t dance around the things they can’t do. It’s then that you’ll be glad you chose a consultant with a little “Clint Eastwood” in them, able to flex some muscle when it matters, so that you don’t waste your time.


5. Look for negotiation help.

It’s hard to know if you’re paying the right amount when it comes to purchasing HCM software. Make sure your consultant works with the vendors to understand the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). Have your HCM consultant help you identify recurring costs versus up-front implementation costs. Make sure your consultant pushes to find any hidden costs as well.

A seasoned consultant should also be able to help you determine where you can negotiate. Unlike used cars, HCM software system values aren’t published on the internet. You’ll need someone to guide you through the process.


If you have more questions, feel free to email me at or stop by and visit the Sability team at HR Tech, October 7-10, in Booth 1318.


James Shryock, Chief Strategist

As Sability’s longest standing member of the management team, James brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the firm. Having spent many years in the trenches of HCM implementations James’ focus is on bringing efficiency, effectiveness and robustness to the implementation process. James also works with both enterprise and mid-market clients on strategy and vendor selection using his knowledge of Workforce Management, HR/Payroll, and Talent Management.