Top seven things to do before buying a time and attendance system

By: Jason DeGraw

The steps to acquiring software and hardware systems are basically the same for every project, and attendance system software purchasing is no different. However, the consequences are severe when the systems in question are used by virtually every employee in your company. If something goes wrong, a company can expect to lose thousands of people-hours and spend thousands of additional dollars on training and maintenance. But if you follow these seven (fairly simple) steps, purchasing time and attendance systems should be relatively painless - and successful.
1) First, find out what your time and attendance business processes are currently. Do a thorough audit of your tech capabilities and systems. Review all hardware and software systems that you current run or plan to acquire in the near future. Record your current attendance tracking and scheduling procedures. Make sure to consult with the staff who interact with the system the most. List your company's hours-of-work policy and pay procedures, and the step-by-step attendance tracking admin details.
2) Draw up your requirements document. First and foremost, what are your technical needs - and limitations? What do you actually need the attendance tracking software and hardware to do? Seriously, this sounds simple, but it's the most neglected step in this process. Separate required from nice to have, and don't consider of any nice-to-haves unless there is the need for a tie-breaker. Weight your requirements by how operationally essential they are - if the system was unavailable for a day, what processes would simply fail? Rank those first!
3) Request proposals. Send the request to at least five software vendors who specialize in time and attendance software. Be sure to specify that vendors need not be an exact fit - if they can't meet all of your "must-haves," they can still detail the time and cost of creating something just for you. Ask about new industry developments, and if you can, hire a consultant - one who who can't bid but understands the technology - to go over the technical details with you before you shortlist the applications.
4) Ask your shortlist to present high-level overviews, along with a broad budget proposal. Make sure the company's philosophy fits with your own mission and values. Also see if they can bring an engineer or two to the presentation along with their sales team, and see how the group gets along. This is an often-overlooked sign of how well their talk matches their walk - if they don't present as a team now, chances are good they'll have trouble addressing your needs later!
5) Pick vendors like you'd select employees - focus on great references, and a winning personality. Then courier the winner a letter of intent subject to a reference check. One tip: make sure the reference can speak to the areas that are most important to your company specifically, and not just the vendor's services in general.
6) If none of the vendors are a complete match, see if your top choice will agree to a trial period for a nominal fee. This will let you test the system and track the results. If the time and attendance software does most things, request quotes on just the specific functions or additions that you still require.
7) Enjoy! Satisfaction with new attendance tracking software often starts out with huge expectations; staff hope that it will function much better than the old system, and it should. However, new is threatning, so this is often followed by despair as use brings users down to earth. An adjustment period always has a learning curve, which is often painful. But your users' experience will level out, and within a few months staff will begin to enjoy the new system's strengths and capabilities, and use them to the fullest!

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If you're looking for the top time and attendance systems or software, be sure to visit Jason's attendance tracking and monitoring reviews and discussions.

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