Are your staffing requirements being addressed by your company’s overall IT strategy? Are the needs of HR ó and in particular recruiting and talent management systems ó on the IT “A” list? CIOs can be faced with a bewildering array of competing demands: resources need to be allocated to call centers, data warehousing, security, CRM and other initiatives. As a result, staffing automation technology can often end up well down the list of priorities. So how can you ensure that staffing gets its due in corporate IT plans? A Tale of Woe Recently, someone asked me, “What happens if the IT department is recommending the selection of a vendor that meets IT requirements but does not meet HR recruitment needs?” My immediate reply was, “Don’t agree to it!” Functionality is paramount. A tool that does not meet the recruiting needs of its users will quickly fall into disuse and end up as a poor corporate investment. But it may not be that simple. What if it is IT’s funding that is paying for the software? Without a doubt, it should not be IT’s decision, nor IT’s funding. So, how do you secure HR decision-making and funding for a staffing management solution? Become a Strategic Initiative The staffing function is often not seen as strategic. This perception needs to be combated. A staffing director has to impress upon C-level executives the strategic importance of successful staffing and the critical role it plays in the success of any business plan. Present a compelling business case including strategic targets and benefits, ROI, and business impact study. Make the right executive- or board-level case, and the funding will follow. We have been involved in many discussions within the staffing function of large corporations in which a common issue is HR’s lack of self confidence in its value. Understand the Technology HR management is often not conversant in computer technology, which can lead to the staffing solution decision being left to IT. Avoid this through self-education. Understand what characteristics IT considers important in enterprise software ó traits such as low maintenance, high security, and the ability to work well with the rest of the corporate IT infrastructure. Sometimes, IT values a certain trait more for its own sake than anything else. Make sure you understand the true significance of features that IT advocates, and how it adds value to your business function. Don’t be oversold on points that have little impact on creating a high-caliber recruiting function. For instance, an overemphasis on integration will bring little value if the system’s functionality is inadequate. Then it is only integration in a vacuum. The Low-IT Solution The application service provider (ASP) model of staffing management solution delivery is state-of-the-art. There are good reasons for a staffing department to select a staffing management solution delivered via an ASP, one of the most important being that an ASP places minimal strain on company IT resources. ASP-delivered software (also known as web-based software) is a low-impact IT solution, since there is nothing installed on the company network. ASP software is independent of the company’s hardware, operating system, and network architecture. With nothing to install on corporate servers, limited IT resources are freed up for other aspects of the corporate IT strategy. The implementation of an ASP can go ahead on its own schedule, not tied to the schedule of wider (often multi-year) enterprise software implementation plans. At the kick-off meeting for the implementation of ASP software, IT personnel are frequently present, under the false impression that they will have tremendous involvement in the project. When IT is overburdened, it is constructive to have a successful project that does not require heavy lifting on their part. You will usually find two types of IT managers. One wants to protect his or her team and his or her job, and wants to implement a client-server system or build it in-house. The other is the strategic IT manager who really thinks of the good of the corporation and considers functionality and how to reach business targets. That manager is consequently more open to ASP solutions. That begs the question, what is the role of the IT function? The True Role for IT IT is a business enabler, not an end in and of itself, so the real level of involvement by IT in your vendor selection is actually quite minimal. You might include one person from IT as an advisor to the selection committee, to tap his or her expertise when vetting the technological infrastructure of a proposed solution. As noted above, involvement from IT will be minimal during implementation and beyond, so their involvement in the decision should be correspondingly minimal. Taking Charge Do not let your decision process be governed by an IT agenda. Agree upon a rigorous and objective selection methodology with the right weighting of functionality and IT-related issues, and stick to the vendor that scores the highest. Make sure that the people who have the ultimate decision recognize the strategic view of the recruiting process. Do this, and you will make sure that the vendor you choose will partner with you to reach your corporate staffing goals. Staffing can often be subordinated to a broader company-wide IT strategy and implementation timeline. However, independence and freedom for staffing are important. The staffing department should not be tied lock-step with a company-wide IT strategy. Rather, HR should be free to seek out the vendor that will deliver the staffing solution that will perform the critical business function ó a function that may be your company’s greatest competitive asset.