Wednesday, March 23, 2005

More on Application Tracking Systems

Kevin Wheeler's article on Electronic Recruiting Exchange How to choose and implement an ATS is a good introduction to a very complex task.

As I have said before, I am of the belief that the technologies involved are maturing and the advantages to be gained from changing from one provider to another are reducing every month. (Let me caveat that with 'unless you're stuck with a legacy product' or 'you chose a solution which was never going to be suitable')

As Kevin suggests the majority of those issues lie with implementation. Not analysing and redefining processes, not following a controlled, systematic procurement process and not managing the implementation as any complex business change project are recipes for disaster. I would like to add 'not designing a candidate optimised process'.

If you deconstruct the value an ATS offers I believe that their are two main functions - managing and attracting applicants and managing the workflow. What too many companies focus on is the latter. There is little competitive advantage to be gained here so if this is your goal then I expect any ATS implementation is going to be a tactical solution, not strategic.

For an ATS implementation to be considered strategic it needs to give you a competitive advantage - it needs to shift your ability to position in the market. How will it help the business meet it's objectives? Cutting x% off costs is advantageous but probably a drop in the ocean as far as your firms financial outlook is concerned. The only way to get competitive advantage with an ATS is for you to be better at building relationships with your customers / candidates. You need the best people there are.

Would your ATS be considered as a best in class relationship management system? I doubt it. Was it a big part of your brief? Almost certainly not. Is it delivering the sort of value you want? No? Surprised?

So what can you do? Well you could think about 'exploding' the two components. How about a great workflow system (I know one company looking at a Siebel implementation to manage the 'sales' / workflow end) and a best in class front end? Given the sort of Webservices type approach most facilitate this might not be impossible. Alternatively focus your efforts on getting the front end right.