Last year, Web-based recruiting applications were the fanfare of the electronic recruiting industry. Since then companies like Webhire and Peopleclick have become the standard among HR departments and recruiters, fulfilling a host of HR functions such as the management of resumes, candidates, contacts, on-going placements, pricing and margins, multiple locations, contracts, the automation of reporting and billing, and the integration of front office and financial data. But as more solutions are being integrated with the Web, applications that are not dynamic will prove as moribund and obsolete as shrink-wrap software. In the fluid world of the Internet, applicant tracking software that is rigid will be as useful as selling a one-size wrench to a mechanic. Already both commercial and corporate job boards are discovering that they must have the scale and technology to become career networks or communities in order to meet the expanding demands of customers. These evolving spaces will offer training, editorial content, and the ability to produce vital one-on-one relationships between candidate and company. One of the ways job boards are accomplishing this is by turning to customized versions of application tracking tools to allow their clients to not only recruit, but also manage and process their applicants as well. Yet, with the exception of a few vendors, there is no one offering open architecture in their applications. Open architecture allows a company to customize its applicant software in order to capture the expanding functionality necessary for competitive edge. It is even more critical for small to mid-size companies, who in the past have attempted total enterprise management through an integrated network of software solutions, where updates to third-party packages can be problematic. Only those vendors that offer open code will be able to meet the individual needs of their clients and thus establish the long-term business relationships necessary to succeed. With these companies, it will matter less how they define their product–e.g. applicant tracking software, hiring process management, or whatever the latest buzz term may be–because they will offer true “solutions.” A client may want to integrate payroll and billing with its already-existing applications of another vendor. But if the applicant software is not open code, that client will be forced to “bolt on” the new application with legacy systems. Similarly, a company may have a unique need particular to their services, and again, unless the application is open code, they will be handcuffed in obtaining a solution. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> For customers faced with such challenges, their options are either to wait until the release of the next version of their current application, and hope that it contains the features they need, or to purchase an application that provides the source code to make changes as necessary. This option will provide for complete customization of the application, allowing it to be responsive to changing strategies and business needs. All too often, firms have had to modify their strategies and processes to suit the limitations of the software. For example, reports should not be generated based on assumptions of how a company does business, but rather adapted to the solutions created to meet their unique needs. Another advantage to doing business with a company that offers open code is that they often are truly technology-driven, and less marketing-driven. The result is a company that also provides great technical support, since that component is critical and essential to their product offering. Of course, it is important when buying open-source applications to be clear what customization costs will be. As with anything, you should negotiate fees. The Internet is a mercurial region, and any company playing in that space had better be equally fluid if it wants to succeed. Choosing open-source software is one step companies can take to provide themselves with the flexibility to adapt and evolve in this era of constant change.