The business and economic uncertainties of 2001 resulted in many companies choosing to delay their investment in recruiting technology. It wasn’t uncommon for projects to come to a halt midway through the vendor analysis process. But now that 2002 is well underway, budgets are opening up and the vendor selection task forces are beginning to assemble. For companies that started the process last year and think that they can just pick up where they left off, you need to think again. Your purchasing budgets may have been put on hold, but the vendors did not stop making improvements, adding new features, building alliances, and consolidating. Features that were not offered six months ago are now an integral part of some vendors’ packages. Cumbersome processes have been revamped to make them more user friendly. “Add-on” features are becoming more the norm than the exception. What does this all mean for you? It’s time to go back and re-evaluate vendors that you may have eliminated in the first half of 2001. It’s also time to take a closer look at the vendors that you are currently considering. Has anything changed in the last six months that you are unaware of? Here are a few ideas to consider as you start your 2002 vendor selection process. Reevaluate Eliminated Vendors Go back to your list of vendors and reconsider those you really liked but eliminated because they either did not offer a feature you needed, had processes that were too cumbersome, or offered a pricing model that didn’t work for your company. Chances are these vendors have added those needed features, revamped their processes, or changed their pricing model. Don’t be afraid to consider vendors that you don’t hear as much about publicly. Some of the best, most flexible pieces of software are developed by little known vendors. Many are the result of collaborations between really talented software developers and recruiters, and chose to invest their money in technology and not in large-ad campaigns. That isn’t to say that you should consider every vendor. However, if you have heard some good things about a vendor but haven’t seen lots of advertising, consider giving them a chance to demo their systems. You may be very pleasantly surprised. Consider priorities for today’s and tomorrow’s needs. Consider what you want today and what you think you may want in six months or a year. Evaluate vendors not only on what they can deliver today, but on what they are planning for the future. Don’t accept lip service. Do appropriate due diligence. What has their history been on delivering promised upgrades? Has there been recent turnover in their technology development group? Has the turnover resulted in a stronger or weaker technical organization? Understand Vendor Alliances Companies are beginning to recognize the value of having such features as employee referral program management software, job launching software, and more advanced candidate screening and testing tools incorporated into a candidate management system. While some vendors have chosen to develop these features internally, many do not have the technical bandwidth or investment capital to do so as quickly as is necessary to respond to market requests. These vendors tend to establish alliances with software companies that specialize in these add-on features. These alliances typically create a “win-win-win” situation: for the add-on vendor, the primary vendor, and you. However, as the industry landscape changes, the nature of these alliances may change as well, possibly leaving you on the bad end of a deal. As long as you ask the right questions and build in solid contract terms, you should be fine. I am a strong advocate of these types of vendor alliances. Why reinvent the wheel? If another software company develops a great feature that can be added on to a vendor’s current software without integration issues, then the entire marketplace benefits from the alliance. The message here is not to discourage you from working with ATS vendors that have alliances for various components of their systems. It is merely to heighten your awareness of staying abreast of industry trends and to ask the right kinds of questions before you sign the bottom line. Hundreds of small software companies have developed unique solutions to address the varied needs of recruiting departments. While most have developed great software tools, market success tends to be slower without the benefit of vendor alliances. There are two primary reasons for this. First, many of these small vendors cannot afford the advertising, nor do they have a large enough of a sales team to make a significant impact on the market. Second, and more importantly, companies tend to want to deal with one vendor for their entire Candidate Management System. They want to be assured that all features integrate properly and that any issues can be resolved through one primary resource. By building alliances with primary vendors, these small software companies get the market exposure they need; the primary vendors can offer a suite of tools their client’s want; and you only have to deal with one primary vendor. Hence the “win-win-win.” Sounds great, everyone is happy?? right? Most of the time, yes. However, in today’s ever-changing marketplace, there are a few things to consider, and you need to ask the right questions:
- What happens when another vendor purchases your alliance vendor? Are you covered?
- Do you stand to lose license to software that you just spent months integrating into your processes and training employees to use?
- If your ATS vendor loses access to this add-on software, are they going to guarantee you an alternative solution in a timely manner?
- To keep using your add-on vendor’s software, will you have to negotiate an entirely new, and possibly unfavorable, contract with their new owner?
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Consider these as you write contract terms. The best ways to stay abreast of market changes is to track press releases and continue to read list serves like the ER Forum. There are several newsletters that you can join to stay on top of what is happening in the market. Your PR department may already have access to paid news feeds, so it may just be a matter of having them add this particular market segment to the list that they track. However you do it, it behooves you to remain educated. The landscape of recruiting technology is forever changing. What was true six months ago may not be true today. Since major technology decisions often take months to develop, it’s critical to stay abreast of the market and to ask lots of questions. If the decision-making process is taking a long time in your company, it may be worthwhile to take a step backwards midstream and re-evaluate landscape changes. Your perfect solution may now be available.