HR Analytics

May 8, 2024

15 Questions to Ask Before Choosing People Analytics Software

Finding the perfect people analytics software can be overwhelming.  All the fancy features and promises of data-driven insights are enticing, but how do you separate the truly valuable tools from the ones that won't deliver? 

Before diving into demos and sales pitches, it's crucial to take a step back and consider the key questions that will help you choose a platform that aligns with your specific needs. 

Here are 15 essential questions to ask any people analytics software vendor to ensure the best fit for your organization:

  1. What precise HR pain points and objectives does your software address?

  2. How seamlessly does your software integrate with our current HR technology stack?

  3. What data sources and formats does your platform support?

  4. What are your robust data security measures and compliance protocols?

  5. How user-friendly are the processes for creating custom reports and dashboards?

  6. Does your software empower ad-hoc analysis, self-service analytics, and data-driven storytelling?

  7. Can you explain your approach to data modeling and ETL processes?

  8. How does your platform handle data quality and governance?

  9. What comprehensive training and ongoing support resources do you provide?

  10. Can you provide case studies or client testimonials?

  11. What is your pricing model, and are there any hidden or variable costs?

  12. How often do you issue product updates, and what is your roadmap for innovation?

  13. How do you approach user adoption and organizational change management?

  14. How does your company approach data ownership and portability?

  15. How future-proof is your platform, and how does it adapt to evolving HR trends and analytics practices?

1. What precise HR pain points and objectives does your software address?

People analytics software isn't a magic solution for every single HR challenge. Vendors specialize in various focus areas. Understanding whether their strengths align with your top priorities will optimize the value you gain from this investment. Here's how to dig deeper:

  • Pinpoint Your Most Pressing Challenges: Honestly assess where your current HR processes are causing bottlenecks, inefficiencies, or blind spots. Are you struggling with high turnover? Is identifying high-potential employees a guessing game? Is your workforce planning reactive rather than proactive?

  • Areas of Software Excellence: Explore in detail the vendor's most impactful features. Do they have powerful attrition prediction models? Sophisticated tools for succession planning and leadership development? Advanced data visualization for workforce demographics or skills mapping?

  • Matchmaking for Maximum Impact: When the software's core strengths target your top pain points, you'll see the fastest, most significant return.

"We had so many systems and data but weren’t able to get any insights. We were delivering our metrics manually using spreadsheets. Since implementing eqtble, it has become a daily part of my workflow. The people insights we’ve been able to decipher has been phenomenal for us." – Lisa Blanchard, Articulate

Additional Questions to Consider:

  • Does the software focus solely on solving existing problems, or does it also empower proactive and strategic HR initiatives?

  • Is the platform designed to address the needs of your organization's specific size and industry, or is it a generic solution?

2. How seamlessly does your software integrate with our current HR technology stack?

A disconnected people analytics platform creates data silos and limits insights. Seamless integration with your HR tech stack is vital. Ask about pre-built connectors, robust APIs, and the ability to handle real-time data updates. With solutions like eqtble, pulling in data from your entire HR ecosystem becomes a hassle-free process. Seamless integration with your existing systems is vital for several key reasons:

  • Centralized Data Hub: Combining your people analytics data with existing information from your HRIS (Human Resource Information System), ATS (Applicant Tracking System), payroll software, and any other relevant tools gives you a powerful 360-degree view of your workforce. This holistic perspective is key for informed decision-making.

  • Streamlined Workflows: Easy data exchange between systems eliminates manual data entry and reduces the risk of errors. Integrated platforms automate tasks, freeing up HR professionals for more strategic work.

  • Enhanced Insights: When analytics software can cross-reference data across your HR tech stack, it uncovers deeper patterns and correlations. For example, integrating performance data with engagement survey results might reveal factors driving high-performer retention.

Additional Questions to Consider:

  • Specific Integrations: Don't be satisfied with vague promises of "easy integration." Ask for a detailed list of pre-built integrations with popular HR software. If your tech stack is more niche, inquire about the availability of APIs to facilitate custom integrations.

  • Data Transfer Mechanisms: Explore the technical methods used - real-time updates, scheduled data pulls, or a hybrid approach. This impacts how quickly your analytics can reflect the latest workforce information.

  • Cost and Complexity: Some integrations may incur additional fees from either the analytics vendor or your existing HR software providers. Ask about these upfront costs to avoid surprises and factor them into your budgeting.

3. What data sources and formats does your platform support?

Your people analytics software is only as powerful as the data it can analyze. To maximize insights and avoid frustrating limitations, it's critical to ensure the platform can handle structured data from your HRIS and core systems as well as unstructured data like performance review notes and survey responses. A truly flexible solution, like eqtble, even has built-in capabilities to analyze less traditional sources – offering deeper insights. Consider these aspects:

  • Structured vs. Unstructured Data:

    • Structured data resides neatly in databases, spreadsheets, and your HRIS, with clear definitions for each field (e.g., hire dates, job titles, compensation). Most analytics platforms easily handle this type.

    • Unstructured data encompasses text-heavy sources like employee surveys, performance reviews, social media posts, or even exit interview transcripts. Analyzing this qualitative data demands a platform with natural language processing (NLP) capabilities to extract meaning and sentiment.

  • Common File Formats: Can the software handle standard spreadsheet formats (.csv, .xlsx), database exports, structured text files like JSON or XML, and potentially even pull data from cloud-based storage solutions?

  • Real-Time vs. Batch Data: Does the software support real-time updates from live systems or predominantly work with periodic data imports? Real-time capabilities improve the responsiveness of your insights.

  • Future-Proofing your investment: It's wise to explore whether the platform can flexibly accommodate new data types you may want to incorporate down the line, such as data from wearable wellness trackers or productivity monitoring tools.

Questions to Consider:

  • Provide a comprehensive list of supported file formats and data sources. Don't just take a vendor's word for it; ask for specifics.

  • How does the platform handle complex or unusual data structures? If your organization stores data in a non-standard way, make sure it won't trip up the software.

  • What procedures are in place for validating and cleansing imported data? Data quality checks are essential before data is used for analytics.

  • Are there APIs or other mechanisms for building custom data integrations? This gives you the flexibility to connect with niche data sources.

4. What are your robust data security measures and compliance protocols?

Entrusting your sensitive HR data to an external vendor demands the highest level of security and adherence to relevant regulations. Here's why this area deserves close scrutiny:

  • Data at Risk: People analytics software often holds a treasure trove of personally identifiable information (PII) like names, addresses, birthdates, performance records, and potentially even medical data if your company handles health benefits. Any breach could have severe consequences for employees and your organization's reputation.

  • Compliance Obligations: Depending on your industry, region, and company size, you likely have legal obligations regarding the handling of personal data. These could include regulations like:

    • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU

    • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

    • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the US healthcare sector

  • Beyond Technical Safeguards: It's not just about the technology itself. A responsible vendor should have clear policies and processes in place for:

    • Incident Response: How quickly can they detect, contain, and report potential breaches?

    • Employee Training: Are their own staff regularly trained on secure data handling practices?

    • Transparency: Would they be transparent in the event of an issue?

Questions to Consider:

  • Certifications: Do they hold recognized security certifications, like SOC 2 Type II or ISO 27001? These demonstrate adherence to industry-standard practices.

  • Encryption: Understand both encryption at rest (when data is stored) and encryption in transit (when data moves between systems).

  • Access Controls: How granular are the controls for limiting who can access specific data within the platform? Can you implement role-based access to comply with the principle of least privilege?

  • Data Retention: How long does the vendor retain your data after contract termination? Is there an option to securely delete it according to your policies?

  • Third-Party Vendors: If the analytics vendor uses subcontractors for data storage or processing, inquire about their security measures as well.

5. How user-friendly are the processes for creating custom reports and dashboards?

People analytics shouldn't be limited to just data scientists. The best tools empower users across your HR team to explore and answer their own questions. Look for a platform with drag-and-drop interfaces, guided report builders, and a library of pre-built visualizations. Solutions like eqtble strike the right balance - offering ease of use while still providing depth for more complex analysis. Consider these aspects:

  • Intuitive Interface: Drag-and-drop report builders, clear visual menus, and a well-structured library of visualizations empower non-technical users to explore the data and craft their own reports. This reduces delays and dependence on IT teams for every new analysis.

  • Degree of Customization:

    • Reports: Can you easily choose which metrics to include, apply filters, change time periods for comparison, set calculation rules for derived data, and adjust the visual presentation (charts, tables, etc.)?

    • Dashboards: Can you create separate dashboards for different audiences (e.g., C-suite vs. line managers)? Do you have control over the layout, which data to highlight, and how frequently data is refreshed?

  • Flexibility vs. Guidance: The best platforms strike a balance between freedom and helpful guardrails. Look for features like a library of pre-built report templates you can adapt or suggestions for appropriate visualization types based on the chosen data.

  • Sharing and Collaboration: Can you easily export reports in various formats (PDF, Excel) or share interactive dashboards online? Can multiple users contribute to a dashboard or add comments, driving insights-focused discussions?

"eqtble is a great tool that helps you get data at your fingertips. eqtble is especially helpful if you aren't historically as strong in data and Google Sheets or Excel." - Katie Schumann, GoFundMe

Questions to Consider:

  • Could you provide a live demonstration demonstrating the ease of creating a custom report? Don't just rely on marketing materials, ask the vendor to walk you through the actual process.

  • Are there built-in controls for ensuring data consistency? Look for options to define formulas, metrics, and filters centrally to prevent users from accidentally creating mismatched reports.

  • Can we add elements like our company logo and color scheme to enhance the branding of reports and dashboards? This small touch can promote internal buy-in and adoption.

6. Does your software empower ad-hoc analysis, self-service analytics, and data-driven storytelling?

While the ability to explore data and discover insights is crucial, the real impact comes from communicating these findings in a way that is compelling and drives action. Here's how storytelling fits in:

  • Beyond Just Numbers: Raw data dumps don't persuade or inspire. Storytelling means weaving in narratives that give context, explain the "why" behind the trends, and make the implications tangible for stakeholders.

  • Visual Storytelling: Effective dashboards and reports aren't just a jumble of charts. Consider how visual layout, color choice, clear annotations, and even strategic use of white space can guide the viewer's eye and focus attention on the key message.

  • Tailored for the Audience: An HR business partner will want to explore the data differently than a C-suite executive. Understanding how to tailor the story – through emphasis, level of detail, and the key takeaways highlighted – ensures the insights truly resonate.

Additional Questions to Consider:

  • Does your platform offer features for adding narrative text alongside charts and visualizations? This allows users to explain their findings and build a storyline.

  • Are there built-in presentation modes designed to guide viewers step-by-step through an analysis? This enhances storytelling during meetings or executive presentations.

  • Could you provide examples of how your software has been used to tell compelling data stories? Look for case studies that demonstrate the power of going beyond the facts and figures.

7. Can you explain your approach to data modeling and ETL processes?

ETL processes and data modeling are the foundation upon which reliable analytics rest. Vendors differ significantly in how much control and transparency they offer in these areas, impacting both accuracy and flexibility.

  • ETL (Extract, Transform, Load):

    • Extract: How does the software pull data from various sources, and what tools or integrations are used to achieve this?

    • Transform: This is where raw data is cleaned, standardized, and prepared for analysis. Explore their methods for handling missing data, anomalies, and meaningfully combining data from disparate systems.

    • Load: How is the transformed data loaded into the analytics platform's data warehouse or database? Are there options for incremental updates or full refreshes?

  • Data Modeling:

    • Understanding Relationships: How does the vendor help you define how different datasets and HR concepts relate to each other? (E.g., the connection between employee records, performance data, and departmental structure)

    • Prebuilt vs. Customizable: Do they offer a preconfigured data model for common HR metrics, or do you have full flexibility to design your own? This balance influences how quickly you can get started vs. the level of tailoring to your unique needs.

  • Importance of Control: When your HR team understands how your people data is structured and processed, it builds trust in the results. Additionally, the ability to refine ETL processes and data models as your organization's reporting requirements evolve is a key factor in the software's longevity.

Questions to Ask:

  • Can you provide a non-technical walkthrough of your ETL process? This helps assess if it's compatible with your IT environment and whether you have the necessary in-house skills to maintain it.

  • Do you offer any documentation, templates, or guidance for designing data models? Support is crucial, especially for smaller HR teams without a dedicated data engineer.

  • What level of access do we have to modify ETL processes and data models? Can you do this through a user-friendly interface, or does it require code-level changes?

  • How does the software handle changes in our source systems? If you upgrade your HRIS, for example, how would this impact the analytics platform?

8. How does your platform handle data quality and governance?

It's a harsh reality: Even sophisticated analytics and fancy dashboards are not useful if fed with inaccurate, inconsistent, or poorly managed data. Here's why this is important:

  • Garbage In, Garbage Out: Automated analysis can only magnify existing data problems. Without safeguards, errors, duplicates, and outdated information spread throughout your reports, destroying trust in the insights.

  • Data Governance: This refers to an organization's policies and procedures for ensuring data integrity, accessibility, security, and appropriate use. Your people analytics platform needs to align with your established governance framework.

  • Aspects of Data Quality to Consider:

    • Accuracy: Does the data reflect reality?

    • Completeness: Are there missing or inconsistent entries that could skew results?

    • Timeliness: How frequently is data updated? Stale data undermines decision-making.

    • Consistency: Are there standardized definitions and formats used across different systems?

Questions to Ask:

  • What built-in tools exist for automated data validation and error detection? Look for options like range checks, duplication detection, and checks against known data inconsistencies.

  • Can we set up custom data quality rules aligned with our governance policies? This is especially important for complex calculated metrics or industry-specific data requirements.

  • How does the platform handle data cleansing and anomaly resolution? Are there workflows where users can fix issues or provide input, improving data quality over time?

  • Are there auditing and logging features to track changes to data or definitions? This is critical for compliance and understanding the source of any discrepancies.

  • Can the platform integrate with our existing data governance or data catalog tools? This ensures consistency across the organization.

9. What comprehensive training and ongoing support resources do you provide?

The best people analytics software in the world won't deliver value if your team doesn't know how to use it or gets stuck. Thorough training and accessible support are key to maximizing your investment.

Types of Training to Consider:

  • Initial Onboarding: This should cover a structured walkthrough of core features, common analysis workflows, and best practices tailored to your HR data.

  • Role-Specific Training: The needs of a data-savvy HR analyst differ from a line manager accessing dashboards. Do they offer training modules specific to various user groups?

  • Advanced Features: For teams looking to fully leverage complex modeling or self-service capabilities, is there in-depth training available?

  • Training Formats: To accommodate different learning styles, look for a mix of live sessions, on-demand video tutorials, and written documentation.

Key Support Channels:

  • Knowledge Base: A well-organized, searchable repository of articles and how-tos empowers users to find solutions самостоятельно.

  • Technical Support: Define their response times and availability (phone, email, ticketing system, etc.). Is there a tiered support model for urgent issues?

  • Community Forums: A vibrant user community provides a space to learn from experienced peers, share tips, and even suggest product enhancements.

  • Proactive Support: Do they offer regular webinars, feature updates, or best practices newsletters, helping you stay ahead of the curve?

Questions to Ask:

  • Do you offer a dedicated onboarding program with a set timeframe and milestones? Avoid vague promises of "support whenever you need it."

  • Are there additional costs for customized training or premium support options? Factor this into your initial budgeting.

  • How do you measure the success of your training programs? Ask for evidence that their approach drives actual knowledge and skill acquisition.

  • How does your company stay connected with its user base to understand evolving needs and pain points? This signals whether the vendor is responsive and committed to product improvement.

10. Can you provide case studies or client testimonials?

Theoretical discussions about software features only get you so far. Seeing a people analytics platform in action, especially within a company similar to yours, is far more powerful. Here's why case studies and testimonials matter:

  • Real-World Success: They provide concrete examples of how the software has solved specific HR challenges, improved metrics, or driven strategic initiatives. Pay attention to quantifiable outcomes, not just marketing fluff.

  • Industry Relevance: A glowing testimonial from a tech startup has less weight if you're in a heavily regulated industry like healthcare. Seek out case studies that demonstrate success in businesses similar to yours.

  • Unexpected Benefits: Testimonials can sometimes reveal secondary benefits or innovative use cases that the vendor may not even highlight in their standard sales materials. This sparks ideas for your own application.

  • Identifying Potential Red Flags: While mostly positive, honest testimonials might mention implementation challenges, feature gaps, or areas where the support fell short. This allows you to inquire deeper about these issues with the vendor.

Questions to Ask:

  • Do you have case studies available in my industry or specific to companies of similar size? Don't be afraid to demand relevant examples.

  • Could you connect us with a reference customer for a direct conversation? This peer-to-peer exchange offers invaluable insights.

  • Are there any public testimonials or reviews available on third-party websites? An independent perspective adds balance.

11.  What is your pricing model, and are there any hidden or variable costs?

Don't let an attractive initial price tag fool you. People analytics software costs can have many moving parts. Gain complete transparency into the vendor's pricing structure, including licensing fees, implementation costs, user-based pricing tiers, and any additional fees for premium features, so you can budget with confidence.

  • License Models: The most common are subscription-based, often tiered by the number of users, data volume, or feature access. Some vendors may have perpetual licenses, where you pay a larger upfront cost. Understand which aligns with your budgeting preference.

  • Implementation Charges: Does the initial price quote cover setup fees, data migration, or extensive customization? Be wary of low headline prices that balloon once these are added.

  • The User Trap: Per-user pricing seems simple, but it gets tricky. Do they charge for every employee in your HRIS or just active users of the analytics platform? How about occasional dashboard viewers? Get the true calculation.

  • Pay-As-You-Go Extras: Some features like advanced predictive modeling, premium support, or large data storage may come with additional variable costs. Factor these into your long-term estimates.

Questions to Ask:

  • Could you provide a detailed breakdown of all potential costs, including one-time and ongoing fees? Avoid surprises down the road.

  • How scalable is your pricing model? If our company grows or our analytics needs become more complex, how does this change the cost?

  • Are there discounts or bundled pricing options if we choose multiple modules or a multi-year contract? Sometimes, there's room for negotiation.

  • What's your policy on price increases? Are there any caps or limitations to how much contract renewals can change from year to year?

12. How often do you issue product updates, and what is your roadmap for innovation?

The people analytics landscape is constantly changing, so you need a vendor who isn't content to rest on its laurels. Inquire about the frequency of product updates, their roadmap for innovation, and how they stay ahead of emerging HR trends - this commitment to continuous improvement is crucial for the long-term success of your investment.

  • The Pace of Change: The HR analytics field is evolving rapidly. A vendor content with only their current features will quickly fall behind. Look for a consistent cadence of updates, both bug fixes and new capabilities.

  • Transparency is Key: Do they have a public roadmap for major releases? This demonstrates they have a long-term vision and are responsive to industry trends.

  • User Involvement: How do they collect customer feedback and prioritize features? The best vendors have mechanisms for users to suggest and vote on new developments.

  • Beyond Software: It's not just the tool itself but the knowledge base and resources they provide. Frequent best practice webinars and updated training show that they invest in keeping their clients ahead of the curve.

Questions to Ask:

  • How frequently do you release updates on average? Is there a distinction between minor and major feature releases?

  • Where can we find your product roadmap? Do you publish release notes detailing changes?

  • How does your company involve customers in the development process? Do you have a feedback forum or other mechanisms?

  • Do you offer a preview or beta program where we can test new features before they are widely released?

13. How do you approach user adoption and organizational change management?

Even the most powerful analytics software is useless if people don't use it or struggle to integrate it into their workflows. Choose a vendor who understands that successful implementation is about more than technical training. Explore how they support user adoption, promote change management, and help you overcome any resistance to a data-driven culture.

  • Beyond Just Training: Implementing new technology touches on process change, internal communication, and overcoming ingrained habits. Does their approach extend beyond simple software tutorials?

  • Change Champions: Do they help identify internal advocates to drive enthusiasm and peer-to-peer training? These internal champions are crucial to success.

  • The Executive Sponsor: Getting leadership buy-in for data-driven decision-making is vital. Do they provide resources or guidance on this aspect of change?

  • Phasing It In: Sometimes, a "big bang" launch is overwhelming. Can they help you design a phased rollout plan, focusing on quick wins to build early successes?

Questions to Ask:

  • Do you offer any consultative services or customizable materials focused on change management related to analytics adoption?

  • Could you share any examples of how you've helped other organizations navigate cultural shifts toward data-driven decision-making?

  • What resources do you provide to help us make a compelling business case for the software to key stakeholders?

  • Do you have strategies for overcoming resistance to change, especially among less data-savvy employees or managers?

14. How does your company approach data ownership and portability?

It's your most valuable asset – your people's data. Before committing to a vendor, it's vital to understand your rights regarding data ownership and what happens if you ever decide to switch platforms in the future. Ensure you aren't locked into a system that makes it difficult or costly to access your own information.

  • Clarity of Ownership: Their terms of service should explicitly state that you retain ownership of your data, even if you terminate the contract.

  • Export Options: Can you extract your data in a usable, industry-standard format (like CSV, JSON, etc.)? This is crucial should you move to a different platform.

  • Data Archiving: If you end your contract, is there an option for the vendor to archive your historical data for a period, allowing retrieval later if needed?

  • Vendor Lock-In: Are there any fees or limitations associated with extracting your data? Some vendors may make it difficult or expensive to leave.

Questions to Ask:

  • Can you provide a sample extract of our data to illustrate the format and level of detail we could export?

  • Do you have documented APIs to facilitate data extraction and integration with other systems we may use in the future?

  • What is your policy for deleting a client's data upon contract termination? Are there options for secure archiving?

  • Under what circumstances, if any, would you use a client's anonymized people data for product development or benchmarking purposes?

15. How future-proof is your platform, and how does it adapt to evolving HR trends and analytics practices?

The HR technology landscape is in constant flux. Choosing a people analytics platform isn't a one-time decision - you need a partner that will evolve alongside your needs. Look for a vendor with a track record of innovation and a clear commitment to staying ahead of the curve. This adaptability is crucial to maximizing the long-term value of your investment.

  • Modular Design: Does the architecture allow for updates to specific components without disrupting the entire system? This aids integration with new HR tools.

  • Open APIs: Can the platform easily integrate with complementary tools as your technology stack evolves?

  • Focus on Configurability: Can you modify dashboards, reports, and some analyses without heavy reliance on developer support? This empowers you to adapt as your needs change.

  • Cloud-Based Architecture: This generally enables the vendor to roll out updates, new features, and scalability enhancements more seamlessly.

  • Commitment to Innovation: Do they have a dedicated R&D team focused on tracking the latest trends in HR analytics? Do they have a history of responding to the changing landscape?

Questions to Ask:

  • How frequently do you release major updates, and how are these updates typically communicated and rolled out to clients?

  • Can you share insights into your product roadmap and how you prioritize new feature development?

  • How do you collect and incorporate customer feedback to drive your product's evolution?

  • Are there user groups or conferences where we can connect with your team and other clients to learn about best practices and emerging trends?

Making a decision!

Choosing people analytics software is a decision that impacts your entire HR function's ability to gain strategic insights. By carefully considering the questions we've discussed, you'll be equipped to find a partner that not only meets your needs today but also helps you evolve your analytics capabilities. 

See how businesses of all sizes – from Nuro to Etsy – have transformed their HR decision-making with the right analytics platform. If you're looking for a solution that empowers your team to tell compelling data stories, collaborate seamlessly, and get a true single source of truth for your HR reporting, consider booking a demo with eqtble.