Off-the-shelf vs configurable HR software: what’s right for you?



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7 mins

HR software has become an integral part of modern business operations, making it easier for HR professionals to manage all of the employee lifecycle. With the growing demand for HRIS systems, businesses are now faced with the dilemma of choosing between off-the-shelf HR software and HR systems that offer a greater degree of configurability. While both options have their advantages and disadvantages, choosing the right option for your organisation can make a significant impact on your overall operations, efficiency, and success.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between off-the-shelf and configurable HR software and provide guidance on which option may be the right fit for you.

Understanding off-the-shelf HR software

Off-the-shelf HR software, also known as ‘plug-and-play’ software, refers to software solutions that are developed and sold as a product, typically with a fixed set of features and functionality. These solutions are designed to meet the needs of a wide range of organisations across various industries. Off-the-shelf HR software is usually offered as a cloud-based or on-premise solution.

One of the main advantages of off-the-shelf HR software is that it is relatively inexpensive and easy to deploy. These solutions typically have a fixed price, which makes it easy for businesses to budget for the cost of the software. Additionally, off-the-shelf HR software is designed to be easy to use, which means that HR teams – and employees – can start using the software quickly, without needing an extensive implementation process or period of training.

Another advantage of off-the-shelf HR software is that it is typically well-supported. Since these solutions are widely used, software vendors often have dedicated support teams to help you with any issues that arise. Additionally, off-the-shelf HR software vendors regularly release updates and patches to their software to fix bugs and improve functionality.

However, one of the main drawbacks is that these solutions may not be customisable to meet your specific needs. In time, you may find that certain functionality or features of HR software are missing, or that the vendor is unable to set up the software to mirror your processes, or you’re your specific requirements.

Another disadvantage of off-the-shelf HR software is that it may not be scalable. As your organisation grows and evolves, your HR needs may change – meaning you may need more advanced functionality that is not available in off-the-shelf HR software. This can be particularly problematic for businesses that are looking to expand rapidly or that operate in industries with specific HR and compliance requirements.

Understanding configurable HR software

Configurable HR software, also known as customisable HR software, is designed to meet the unique needs of an organisation by allowing the customer to modify or customise the software to a certain degree to meet their specific HR requirements. Unlike off-the-shelf HR software, which has a fixed set of features and functionality, configurable HR software can be modified to include custom fields, workflows, and integrations. Configurable HR software can also be offered as a cloud-based or on-premise solution.

One of the main advantages of configurable HR software is that it can be tailored to meet the specific needs and HR processes of an organisation, which can result in improved efficiency and productivity. Also, configurable HR software is often designed to be scalable, which means that organisations can easily add or remove functionality as their HR needs change over time.

Configurable HR software can also be integrated with other people management software that you may already be using, such as payroll software or a learning management system. This helps to streamline your HR operations by reducing the need for manual data entry and improving data accuracy.

But there are also some disadvantages to using configurable HR software. One of the main drawbacks is that it can be more expensive and time-consuming to implement than off-the-shelf HR software. You may need to invest in additional resources, such as IT experts or project managers, to help customise the system and integrate it with your HR tech stack. When assessing the market, look out for an HR software vendor that has a tried-and-tested approach to the HR system implementation process, and can help you get up and running as soon as possible. 

Another potential disadvantage is that configurable HR software may require more training and support than off-the-shelf HR software, given the range of options at your disposal. Again, when assessing the market, look out for a provider, such as Ciphr, that invests in its customer training experience, both during and after implementation. 

For more information on support during the implementation process, see our actionable roadmap to implementing software for HR teams in mid-sized organisations.

Five factors to consider when choosing HR software

When it comes to selecting the right HR software for your organisation, there are certain factors to consider. One of the key decisions you’ll need to make is whether to choose off-the-shelf HR software or configurable HR software. Here are some important factors to consider when making your choice:

  1. Organisation size: Off-the-shelf HR software may be more appropriate for smaller companies that have less complex requirements and processes. Configurable software, on the other hand, may be a better fit for larger companies with more complex HR processes and a greater need for customisation, or organisations operating within a sector with specialist requirements
  2. Budget: Off-the-shelf software is generally less expensive than configurable HR systems. If you have a limited budget, off-the-shelf software may be the better option. However, if you have the budget for it, configurable software may offer a better return on investment by providing more customised solutions and greater flexibility in the long run
  3. Scalability: As your organisation grows, your HR needs will evolve. Configurable software can be more easily scaled to meet these changing needs, while off-the-shelf software may become insufficient and require replacement. Ask yourself: what’s the longevity of your HR system? Do you have the appetite for a new system in three years’ time, or do you want to invest now in HR software that will grow with you?
  4. Integration: If you already have other software systems in place, such as payroll or LMS software, it is important to consider whether the HR software you choose can integrate with these systems. Configurable software may offer more options for integration
  5. User interface: The user interface of the software is an important consideration, as it can impact user adoption and overall user experience. Off-the-shelf software may have a more standardised interface, while configurable software may allow for a more tailored and user-friendly interface

Be sure to explore these insights into choosing HR software for medium-sized businesses.

Making the right choice

Ultimately, deciding which option is right for your organisation will depend on your circumstances, needs, and priorities. It’s imperative to carefully evaluate all the relevant factors and consider your budget, organisation size, growth plans, integration needs, and user interface preferences when making your choice. In your decision-making process, remember to:

  • Define the specific HR tasks that need to be streamlined and automated, such as recruitment, performance management, HR and onboarding, payroll, or benefits administration
  • Evaluate the features and capabilities of different HR software options to determine which one aligns best with your needs
  • Consider the HR system’s user-friendliness, cost, scalability, and integration with other business systems
  • Seek recommendations and feedback from other organisations in the same industry, or that are of a similar size 

Deciding between off-the-shelf HR software and a configurable system is just the first step in your journey to implementing and using your new system. But we’re here to help: discover the difference between HR systems in small and large firms, download our brochure to learn what Ciphr’s configurable HR platform can do for you, or book a demo to see our HR system in action.