Researching with Care

In today’s digitally connected world, HR leaders should tread carefully as they research and evaluate their technology options.

That was a recurring theme in a presentation delivered by Blackbox Consulting Principal Consultant Jonathan Grafft and Aptitude Research Partners Co-founder Madeline Laurano at a session titled “Research to Practice: How to Use Industry Resource to Make Better HR Technology Decisions” at the 2017 HR Tech Conference.

To be sure, the hunt for new technologies is fraught with danger.

“There are more and more vendors in the HR technology space,” said Laurano, adding that a report by the research firm CB Insights estimates that investments in HR technology have gone from $400 million in 2012 to $2 billion today. “That indicates a lot of new providers, a lot of new opportunities and a lot of confusion.”

Between the dozens of different analyst firms dedicated to covering human capital management and the hundreds of bloggers and vendors that do their own research, the process of selecting new technology can be extremely difficult.

Grafft said that the process needs to start with figuring out the problem you’re trying to solve.

Then, he said, the next step needs to involve collecting the information that’s going to help you solve your problem. “It might be research reports,” he explained. “It might be [talking to] colleagues in the space. It might be coming to HR Tech and talking to vendors.”

Laurano pointed to research her firm conducted last year that found word of mouth and reference calls with customers were the two sources employers trusted the most. “When I look at ratings or reviews, whether it’s to buy shoes or clothes, I look at what other people are saying,” she said, adding that the same is often true for those evaluating HR technology.

Both Grafft and Laurano advised employers to take a lot of the information out there with a grain of salt.

“Is your source a trusted analyst firm … or a vendor that’s trying to push a particular message?” Laurano asked. “You need to figure out where the information is coming from.”

Often, Laurano said, the information might be coming from someone with a relationship with one the firms.

HR leaders should look at multiple sources of information as they weigh their options, Laurano said. “Don’t just depend on one source.”

Laurano placed analyst firms in three buckets: Those that receive all of their revenue from vendors for writing a report; those that have a membership model and work with corporations to conduct research; and hybrids of the two.

In evaluating analysts, she said, it’s important to ask about their expertise, their knowledge of the space they’re covering and their business model.

At the end of the day, Laurano and Grafft said, you need to narrow the field of vendors down to a manageable number and be comfortable with the decision you ultimately make.

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