Three Lessons Learned Through the HCM Vendor Selection Process

Many thanks to Katy Owen for this article, which provides a client side perspective of HCM vendor selection. Katy has been instrumental in successfully transforming, replacing or updating components of HCM systems at various companies in her career. She brings a wealth of experience to bear.

‘Human Capital Management (HCM) vendor selection is not for the faint of heart. In my last role as head of HR for a large homebuilder, we embarked on this exhaustive effort, which took many months and, at times, felt a bit like a political campaign, as we worked to get support for what would be a significant change to our people-related processes.  After going through the experience, I came away with three lessons learned:

Sparkly dress.

There have been many advances in the HCM space, with numerous vendors and a multitude of solutions – it’s dazzling. The good thing is that businesses genuinely recognize the importance of people processes, and vendors have stepped up with impactful, exciting solutions. The problem is, if your requirements are not well-defined, you can become distracted by what I’ll call the “sparkly dress.”  It’s like going to the mall for a basic white blouse, then seeing a sparkly dresses out of the corner of your eye.  All of a sudden, something you didn’t think you needed becomes something you just can’t live without! There are some amazing sparkly things in the HCM space, but you have to take care of the basics first, or you just might not have anything to wear to work on Monday morning.


Remember what Alec Baldwin said in the movie, Glengarry Glen Ross? “ABC – Always Be Closing.” The same is true when introducing a new HCM system. Every part of the process – from concept to implementation – is an opportunity to influence thinking and socialize the idea of a new system. And the earlier you start, the easier it will be. Every conversation you have, from senior management to line managers and employees, is an opportunity to create awareness, build support, and generate excitement.  The more people across your organization that understand what you are trying to do and how it will help them, the easier it will be to sell the system.


When you’re in the process of vendor selection, start selling early and create awareness that change is coming. For most of us, change is scary, so if you hear grumbling or feel resistance, deal with the concerns right away while they’re small embers.  If not, those tiny embers can turn into a full flame, causing unnecessary distraction and worst-case, even derailing the project.

Lastly, be honest with yourself about what you and your team are good at and where you will need help.  Leverage internal and/or external advisors who will add value to the process.  If you’ve not done an RFI/RFP before, chances are your purchasing or IT departments have resources to help you. If you’re not comfortable with how to best illustrate the financial impact of the project, recruit the help of your finance department.

The same goes for a vendor selection partner.  Most HR teams can’t take the time away from their day jobs to research all the HCM players and offerings adequately.  As a good steward of the company, you have a responsibility to be diligent and comprehensive in your evaluation process.  Also, for your own credibility, you don’t want to be blind-sided if someone brings up a vendor solution that you know nothing about.  If you have been entrusted with running the vendor selection process, your company is counting on you to be thorough.

So, to make a great selection decision, keep your wits about you when presented with the sparkly dress, Always Be Closing and socialize the project at every opportunity, and address any embers of resistance directly and actively.  You will soon be on your way to transforming your business and achieving your goals.