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Decoding your Vendor's Philosophy

Posted by Colin Kingsbury

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Mar 31, 2006 12:24:00 PM

As a software buyer, one of the most important things to do is get a sense of the core philosophy of each vendor you're considering. With mostapplicant tracking systems today being purchased on an ASP or On Demand basis, you're buying into a company's way of doing business more than ever before.

Client references and RFPs are useful, but they are rear-view mirrors, and flawed at that ("objects may be closer than they appear"). As a user, the success of your deployment will be determined as much by the decisions that vendor makes in the future as by the ones they've made in the past. Call it what you prefer: personality, philosophy, core values; the important thing is to try to understand how the vendor will make those future decisions.

To give you an example, one of the things that I am seeing in the market right now is that many ATS vendors are emphasizing integrated product lines rather than their core applicant tracking system. Basically, they're saying, "buy our ATS because it is integrated with a talent management system, performance management system," and so on. This type of pitch tells us two very important things.
  1. They're done doing major development to their ATS
  2. The business is increasingly focused on upselling existing clients rather than getting new ones
The first item (more mature software) sounds like a good thing but it often isn't. In practice, it means that the application you buy tomorrow is the same exact application you will be using in two years when there are a whole host of new tools you want to use that won't integrate with it. More fundamentally, nearly all mid-market ATSs today are still operating on an ASP, rather than On Demand model. (Why this is a critical difference) In most cases, moving to an On Demand model will require a bottom-up rewrite of the entire software package, something that few companies have the stomach to do in such a competitive market. If they're talking about their other products when you're shopping for an ATS, it's a safe bet they won't be investing in their ATS anytime soon. So you had better be happy with what it is today.

There's a name for this type of software: legacy applications.

Our opinion here at HRMDirect is that recruiting is changing too rapidly to even think about saying there's no room left to innovate in terms of applicant tracking functionality. Many of today's most talked-about tools like Jobster didn't exist until a year or two ago, while people like Joel Cheesman are pointing us towards a future beyond job boards. Anyone who thinks today's ATSs are fully prepared to support this future will likely find him or herself buying a new system in 2-3 years.