Buying HR technology can be hard enough. Now HR Tech customers need a plan to avoid the data version of “fake news.”

Recently, some HR tech pricing data from a site called siftery  hit my radar in our industry Facebook group Talent Product Plays. It was immediately met with tech execs, analysts, and influencers calling bullshit about the pricing report’s veracity. Siftery represents a trend in on-line content that targets buyers of just about anything: crowd sourcing. Crowd sourcing data to help with a purchasing decision, at face value, is a very good thing. It can be in incredible tool during an HR tech buyer’s research phase. But, any data that doesn’t rHR Tech Buyer Bewareepresent what’s happening in the market, crowd sourced or otherwise, can be misleading and rather than help the buyer, or give them an advantage in the buying process, it hurts them and could lead to bad decisions, or being ill-prepared come negotiation time.

Crowd source data sites, like siftery, have good intentions. Get customers to input data and fill a gap in the market – in this case, for pricing data. And, everyone loves to see pricing data. It’s a perennially provocative topic. However, those of us that spend a lot of time with both buyers of HR technology and the vendors that provide it find that this siftery report is largely misleading and inaccurate. One industry executive, that shall remain nameless, has commented that they have gone so far as to demand that siftery stop contacting their users, because the questions that were being asked in return for gift cards were largely questions that users don’t have perspective on. There may be dozens, hundreds, or thousands of users on a B2B tech platform, but normally only a handful of business people that get to see the contract details. For this reason, it’s surprising to see a crowd sourced site try to tackle pricing. Crowd sourced review sites, where users give their perspective on features, functions, and support can be incredibly useful, and tech vendors with nothing to hide will encourage their users to write reviews in order to stand out.

The review sites are counting on buyers finding them on Google and engaging with their content, before contacting any vendors. As B2B tech buyers have become more sophisticated, the trend has been to do more and more research before ever contacting a vendor. These ratings sites are counting on this to continue as they build their traffic. Why? This eventually allows them to implement a revenue model based on ads, or sometimes “featured vendor content.”

So, what should an HR tech buyer do, when starting the process?

Follow these tips to avoid common mistakes made early in the process.

As an HR and HR technology market analyst I spend a lot of time helping employers decipher the tech vendor landscape while also helping the tech vendors decipher their customer’s needs. It’s a big part of the analyst role. Having spent 10 years in each of the buying and selling roles and now 7 as an analyst, I’m uniquely qualified to help.

When business leaders set out to buy software they want to make an informed decision. Ten or more years ago it was almost impossible for a company to evaluate software without talking to vendors. The world has certainly changed a lot, and continues to at a rapid pace.

The data readily available to us on just about any type of technology products has empowered us to make incredibly informed decisions. So much so that according to Gartner buyers of business-to-business (B2B) tech have drastically changed their buying habits, opting to complete 57% of their research and buying process on average before ever contacting a vendor.

Can you blame them? No one likes to be sold to.

As I work with buyers of HR technology, they consistently tell me that the following seven starting points are those leveraged most consistently when surveying the landscape of HR tech:

  • Personal networks – Not to be confused with social networks. These are actual networks. Reaching out to people you know and respect that have evaluated a similar technology is, of course the most trusted source of input far and above any others.
  • Industry trade shows – Normally described as an opportunity to get a view of several products and hear from thought leaders about trends. Approached properly, this can be an incredibly efficient way to do research.
  • Meet-ups – Small, local networking and information sharing events where you meet industry peers and mentors while getting answers to questions about buying tech, and beyond.
  • Reaching out to investors and board members – These folks have an understanding of your business and perspective on what other people are doing.
  • Market/industry analysts – Leveraged more by CHROs or VPs of HR functions in large enterprises, these relationships rarely trickle down to technology users. However, this is starting to change as analysts (like yours truly) have moved away from putting report access behind paywalls and are focusing on providing some much needed context for employers of all sizes.
  • Blogs and Trade Press – Much of the time these are the result of a Google search and then turn into “subscriptions.”
  • Consultants – There is a growing list of consultants that specialize in helping employers get a handle on HR technology, including strategy, selection, and pricing.
  • Google – Is there a search for anything that doesn’t start with Google?

I put Google last on the list on purpose. Google, and other search engines, can be your door to a world of incredible research and data. If you’re not careful, it can also be the first step on a slippery slope of wasted time and effort. Which was the impetus behind this blog post. As you start your research, My recommendation is to depend on industry networks to vet the myriad sources that you find. Otherwise, you my spend all of your time sifting through data with little to no value.