As companies evolve, they follow a natural inclination to acquire new technologies that can streamline their processes and support organizational growth. At the heart of these technological advancements lies an indispensable tool that, when used correctly, empowers HR professionals to optimize talent management, automate routine tasks, and deliver data-driven insights –  the HR software suite. 

The process of choosing the right HR software suite is no simple task. It requires navigating through a diverse group of decision-makers who govern unique functional areas, each with their own priorities and expertise. HR directors may prioritize talent retention or performance management, whereas IT departments often value data security and technical support. C-suite executives with an eye on budgets might scrutinize the costs of each program vs. its benefits along with how well they support the long-term goals of the organization. With so many viewpoints prioritizing different functions, how does one find a solution that satisfies everyone?

We’ll spoil the answer for you now: you won’t. 

There are no perfect solutions. There are no perfect vendors. So you will have to find a solution that works best for your organization and team members while preparing to address the shortcomings you will face. This can be a serious challenge. A comprehensive suite influences decision-making processes in numerous functional areas – for better or for worse. 

But all is not lost. In this article, we’ll unravel the intricacies behind this decision-making landscape and learn how to prioritize the benefits that different solutions bring to the table.


Ownership of Functional Area

One of the biggest challenges of purchasing an HR Software suite is learning that each functional area in the system usually has a different owner within your organization. Think about this: in a large, enterprise organization, you may have a number of different leaders administering performance management, employee onboarding, payroll management, benefits management, offboarding, succession planning, compliance and legal reporting, employee engagement, time and attendance management, and applicant tracking systems (ATS).

HR software suites are by their very nature ‘big solutions.’ There will always be one area of a vendor’s multi-purpose software offering that pales in comparison to another’s in the same area. There will also be situations where one functional owner will not accept anything but the best fit for their area, regardless of what other functional owners say.  They each have responsibility and accountability over their respective areas.  If one owner has to accept something mediocre because another product owner is getting what they want, we would guess that the owner accepting the second-rate solution will ultimately sacrifice more than just functionality.

When choosing a comprehensive solution like an HR suite, it’s important to openly communicate with both decision-makers and functional owners in order to understand the costs/benefits of choosing to excel in one area and simply “get by” in another. In previous articles, we’ve discussed the importance of evaluating both customer service offerings as well as compensation management capabilities when choosing HR software solutions. Just as we highlighted in these pieces, there are some functional areas that will be more important to your organization than others. By discussing and communicating these priorities to all parties involved, you mitigate the risk of creating tension, resentment, or friction from leaders and managers who feel they were given a tool that doesn’t meet their needs.


The Meetings Will Continue Until Morale Improve

Now that you have a team of functional owners who have agreed to amicably collaborate on a key decision-making process that affects their entire organization, the rest is a cinch, right?

If only that were the case.

It is far too common for one functional owner to effectively drive the decision-making process with an application vendor, vetoing over their peers. This means one leader effectively gets everything they want while others get burdened with sub-optimal tools. Not only can this hamper the effectiveness of that functional area, but it will generate resentment, burnout, frustration, and disproportionately increased cost burdens. 

But let’s say you follow a team-based approach. You locate a vendor with a top-notch recruiting system but their performance management offering is weak, so instead of playing hardball with each other, the functional owners choose a vendor with average capabilities in both areas. This solution means no one gets completely gutted, but also leads to the organization purchasing a software suite that is only 60% or 70% effective across the board. While conventional wisdom says that a problem solved is a problem halved, subpar efficiency spread across multiple functional areas is a net drain on resources, time, money, and even employee satisfaction (in areas related to compensation, it may also be a drain on talent retention across your entire organization). Choosing a tool that doesn’t excel at any of your requirements is a poor choice.

So what if the functional owners choose to take the best offering from multiple different vendors?  In this case, the point of purchasing a suite is entirely defeated. 

The truth is this: when purchasing an HR software suite, there will rarely be a “perfect” that fits the exact needs of your organization. Someone, somewhere, will have to make compromises. Spreading these compromises equally across functional areas is a poor choice because some functional areas are more important than others for achieving your organization’s long-term goals. This doesn’t mean that an HR suite is bad; only that you must know how to prioritize what you need out of each offering. Read on to learn how to do that.


How To Judge What You Need

Here are four things to keep in mind as you prioritize your needs in an HR software suite:

  • Long-Term Growth – It is essential that your company’s HR software solution contributes towards its long-term growth strategy. Consider which aspects promote scalability for future requirements. Do you intend to hire a cluster of new talent, or mean to incentivize a strong team you already have? Do you plan to expand new divisions into international branches? Then you may need to perform payroll in multiple different currencies. In order to plan ahead, decision-makers need to know what future goals the company needs to work towards and how their chosen solution will help them fulfill those plans.
  • Know What You Can Work Around – Sometimes a solution may have features or benefits that are nice, but not necessary. In some cases, you may need to forgo what you want for what you need, but in other cases, you may be able to find a workaround or alternative solution. This could involve using manual processes or additional tools that can help you bridge the gap. This is especially true for certain functional areas such as compensation that require more specific or varied requirements.
  • Know What You Can’t Live Without – Every company searching for a software suite is trying to find a key solution for at least one large problem. Before going on the hunt, establish your core requirements and ensure they are communicated to every leader and decision-maker involved in choosing which solution to acquire. This requires intentional communication and consensus-building among all affected parties. Work together and learn ahead of time what your non-negotiables are and prepare to narrow your search around them. 
  • Consult Your Vendor – You may find yourself in a position where your chosen software serves almost every need you have….with perhaps one key exception. It can be frustrating to find a nearly-perfect solution, but don’t quit yet! Your vendor may actually be willing to accommodate some modifications. What’s also likely, however, is that they may know a third-party solution that perfectly integrates with their suite to bridge the gap you need. This happens more often than you may realize. Consult with your vendor to find out if they help connect you to the last part of the solution you need.


The Right HR Product Is…

Despite best efforts, your organization may find itself in a position where no one solution pleases every functional owner involved. You may also face a situation where one functional owner refuses to accept compromise on their needs, regardless of how other functional owners are affected. This is why it is important to begin your search with all of the functional owners and decision-makers on the same page. 

Still, there is no perfect solution, and your organization may find itself at a crossroads where no one solution checks all your boxes, and because each function owner must shoulder accountability over their respective areas, asking one owner or another to sacrifice their part for the whole can be a difficult situation.

When this happens, who makes the sacrifice?

Refer back to the long-term strategy discussed early in your planning process. What can you not afford to sacrifice? The question is not whether one vendor has better products than another.  The key decision pertains to which products best fit your company’s long-term goals.  Most medium and enterprise companies today have complex strategies, business rules, and logic around how they approach each functional area of Talent Management.  Even if one vendor offers a far superior performance management product over another, if it doesn’t fit within the company’s strategy, then it isn’t the right product! And if you haven’t discussed these goals and priorities with your key managers who govern functional areas, you’re not preparing them to do their jobs efficiently, with or without the perfect tool. Communication and strategic development should be the backbone of your purchasing decision.


Final Thoughts

The marketplace is filled with options that can overwhelm and paralyze decision-makers.

Some procrastinating purchasers may feel compelled to wait until the one, true apex of comprehensive HR software emerges. Why settle for anything less than the best? But to those who want to find and purchase a solution during this century or the next, we encourage you to heed our advice and identify the type and scope of work you need to accomplish in order to achieve your organization’s goals.

In many cases, compensation planning and management will require special considerations. 

When pursuing an HR suite solution, here are some questions to ask yourself:  

  • What are the most important features that your solution has to have? Which aspects are essential to have and which can you work around with adjacent solutions? 
  • What are the long-term strategy goals of your company and how will your likely solution help you achieve them?
  • Are the demands of the functional owners in your company such that they are willing to accept weaknesses in a vendor’s offering to accommodate another functional area?
  • Are you looking for the “best” product on the market, or learning enough about your goals and needs to find the best solution for your company?


This is our fourth and final entry in our series, Rethinking Compensation’s Role in the HR Suite. If you’ve enjoyed this article, you can find the other articles on our blog.




CompensationXL is the flexible compensation planning solution for merit, bonus, long-term awards, and total reward statements, enabling mid- to large-size organizations to implement competitive pay structures such as vested stock options and variable incentive pay.  .   [email protected]  .  Dial: 866-376-7769

CompXL is now part of the family!

Together, we're redefining the future of compensation management.

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CompXL is now part of the family!

Together, we're redefining the future of compensation management.

Schedule a demo on the website!


CompXL is now part of the family!

Together, we're redefining the future of compensation management.

Schedule a demo on the website!