The Practicality of Purchasing an ATS
How do you know you need a new ATS?
(Part one of a three-part series)
When looking for an applicant tracking system (ATS) your first job is to critically evaluate your motivations as to why you need one, and if you currently have one, why you need to change vendors. Analyzing where and why the current ATS is not performing and why a new ATS is needed should be bona fide business reasons, not driven by subjectivity. Looking objectively and pragmatically at your business and motivation to switch providers or when making an initial purchase are the biggest factors to consider when shopping for a new ATS.
Mind the Gap
Start by conducting a gap analysis of your recruitment business and looking objectively at what you are lacking. Consider your company’s present requirements as well as anticipated future needs. For example, if your business is growing, your software needs to be scalable to suit your anticipated plans, if not, you may face having to re-evaluate ATS systems down the road. Further, prioritizing your needs is critically important to evaluate competing systems, since no off-the-shelf software will likely satisfy all of your requirements.
Before you begin the product evaluation process, look objectively at your talent acquisition processes, your current ATS’s performance for reliability and support along with your future goals. Without this in-depth knowledge, it will be difficult for you to adequately compare ATS products to determine which is best suited for your business goals and talent acquisition practices. I recommend having end-users’ input when determining where your current software is falling short. These individuals can provide the feedback you need to know as part of the due diligence in your analysis.
Also, part of the due diligence in understanding what you need for your business will help you avoid over-purchasing or under-purchasing what is actually needed to sustain your talent acquisition workflow and pressing business needs.
Where it Goes Sideways
Over the past 30 years, I have heard many subjective reasons as to why a company wants to leave their current applicant tracking software provider or make an initial ATS purchase… this case rarely ends well. Reasons that aren’t supported by a solid business case generally means the decision makers bypassed a needs analysis, and what ultimately results are one or more of the following mistakes: Buyers creating a broad list of overly general questions, using a templated RFP, not applicable to the buyer’s organization and sent to a long list of (mostly) unqualified vendors, preemptively choosing a vendor used in the past at a previous employer, or selecting a vendor exclusively on cost versus knowing the true value to the buyer’s organization.
I’ve also experienced interactions with organizations that have assigned the task of evaluating potential ATS providers to a third-party consultant or departments outside of the area where the end-users sit. This can spell disaster for the end-users and job candidates because the decision usually doesn’t serve the end-users and support the business needs of the company. We recommend designating one or more “power users” or internal subject matter experts who can help with the product evaluation process, and later serve as key points of contact to support user adoption and maximize the ongoing cost-effectiveness of the system.
Further, fostering good communications with your current provider and understanding the full complement of what your system has to offer is important for understanding what you really have at your fingertips, and I’ll address more about this is part three.
Keeping in line with good communications, the first place you should take your completed gap analysis is to your existing vendor and discuss the results. Often times your current software provider has the functions you need, but you simply aren’t aware. You should be satisfied that you have reason to explore other options and not just assume the grass is always greener based on the latest marketing hype of a potentially new vendor.
In part two of this series, I’ll discuss how cost versus the true value and why a vendor’s company culture matters in helping you make the right decision for your ATS purchase. In part three of the series, I’ll discuss the implementation and care and feeding of your ATS.
Photo Credit: alberthobbs Flickr via Compfight cc