We Want To Automate Our Performance Appraisal System Because Our Existing System Is Really Poor. Where Do We Start?
If you want to automate your performance appraisal system because what you have isn't working, chances are that the existing system is or was ill-conceived and not thought through. So, you can't just automate it. You have to rethink the whole process -- in effect, starting over.
Choosing and using performance appraisal software requires the same process (a process of systems analysis) that applies to any major software undertaking, whether you are buying a product or developing one in-house. If you have access to an IT systems analysis person, get them on-board to help guide you through the initial analysis.
You might think that the first step is to look at available products and software, but it's not. In fact, that's not a good idea as a starting point, because you'll simply get overwhelmed, and may lose sight of WHY you want to automate.
The initial starting point is to determine what you want ANY performance appraisal or performance management system to achieve. That's the first question. "What results should the process bring about in terms of our business?".
In other words, start with the biggest questions first. It's only later on that you ask more specific questions about specific features and needs. The answers to this initial question serve to guide you, so you can make informed, goal-oriented and results-oriented decisions about the features you want from the software.