by Visus Group Partners Bill Ehrmantraut and Chris Leigeb, Principals at Strategic Value Partners
Top Considerations When Upgrading Your Technology Stack
Face it, if you are not continuously evaluating and upgrading your technology stack, you are losing ground in the highly competitive staffing industry. There are challenges:
- you did not build your business around being experts in technology.
- most staffing companies do not have the resources to have a full time Chief Technology Officer.
- technology is changing and evolving at breakneck speeds, it is hard to keep up.
Where to start? You need to begin with an assessment of your current technology. There is a wide spectrum where your company may land here. On the one end, you could be using a bunch of home-grown solutions that include a great deal of manual processes and fragmented vendors, that operate in silos that are not connected in any meaningful way. Or you may have be using one of the major staffing software solutions and taking advantage of integrated technology partners that allow for seamless data transfers. Most likely you fall somewhere in the middle. There are opportunities for improvement no matter where your company falls on this spectrum.
Let us dive into the assessment of your current technology to get your baseline.
- To truly understand your current state and help you in your technology upgrade, you must map out your current workflows and processes.
- What are your key performance indicators (KPI’s) and metrics you utilize in your business?
- Highlight areas of weakness. For example, where there are manual processes, duplicate entries between systems or databases, confusing or complex work arounds?
- If you’re using an ATS, how long has it been since you implemented, and have you stayed up to date on the upgrades, new functionality or new integrations?
- Does your organization fully utilize the systems that you already have? If not, why?
- Evaluate your size verses when you made previous investments, growth plans, expansions into new regions or new business verticals. What will be needed to service that business and feed that growth?
Now that you have your technology baseline, its time to explore the technology marketplace. It is mind boggling how many staffing software solutions are out there and the claims that are made regarding their capabilities. And there are more staffing software providers coming to market all the time. You need to know what technology providers to evaluate.
When you look at technology, there are two major components:
- Staffing Software ATS, System of Record -This is the main software that will be the heart and soul of your technology. In some cases, it is just the Front Office (Applicant Tracking System, Onboarding) and others it offers a full Front and Back Office (payroll, invoicing, AR and general ledger interface). Many of the larger ATS systems have added in many of the features and benefits as internal functionality that used to provided by outside vendors. These can include items such as paperless on-boarding systems, website interfaces, social media integrations, job board interfaces, business analytical tools, texting, scheduling, timekeeping solutions, ACA tools, E-verify, CRM components and other solutions that bring real value, and keep as much work as possible within the primary ATS.
- Ancillary Technology Vendors– these are vendors that provide critical technology solutions. They are typically more robust than some of the internal tools provided by the ATS and can often be integrated via open API’s or simple file transfers. Think automated timekeeping, payroll processing, scheduling, paycards, WOTC providers, health care providers, job board management, recruiting solutions, funding, automated texting/communication, video interviews, mobile capability, Chat Bots, AI Interface, call center software, and so many more.
If you have several partners that fall into the second bucket in that they are key to your business, you need to find a Staffing Software solution that is integrated with your most important partners or offer an open Application Programming Interface (API). An API is a way for data to be automatically pushed or pulled seamlessly between the Staffing Software and the integrated partner. It allows you to stay in your software system and not have to log into other systems to complete tasks or view reports. If one of your key technology partners does not have an integration, a work around would be ftp file transfers.
Keep your expectations in check here. Not all your partners will have an integration with a Staffing Software ATS. Also, understand that while both the ATS and the Vendor may have open API’s the programing work will still need to be completed and can be very expensive and take time.
Vetting Staffing Software ATS
We will focus most of this section on vetting the Staffing Software ATS. At this point you have evaluated your current workflows and identified weaknesses and gaps in your current process. Some key points:
- As you go through the vetting process, create an internal team made up of staff from a broad representation of your organization: Operations, Finance, HR, IT, Sales, etc. Too many times we see just IT personnel involved in this part of the process. Make no mistake, they need to be included, but omitting the other key areas from the vetting will likely lead to a bad outcome.
- How big is your company? What are your growth plans?
- What staffing vertical (s) are you in currently? What verticals are you contemplating to add in the future?
- Do you need a Front Office and Back Office Solution? (define these). Or just FO or BO?
- What is your budget?
- Is there a slower period in your typical work year that could be filled with a new implementation?
Once you have answered these questions, now it is time to start the interview process. We recommend you identify at least 3 and at most 6 Staffing Software companies to evaluate.
One thing to consider. You may think your incumbent software provider should not be in the mix as a candidate. You may think they have let you down or that they do not have the right technology for your business. Beware, the grass is not always greener on the other side. We have seen companies switch only to come back to their original vendor. Take this opportunity to let your incumbent know you are evaluating your software providers and you would like to include them in the vetting process. You may be surprised at what their capabilities are when you take a deep dive in an organized fashion. Also, it puts them on notice that you are looking, and you may get some better terms or attention now that they know they need to re-earn your business.
Key parts of the Staffing Software ATS evaluation:
- Map out your current processes and workflows and identify the areas that you would like to improve.
- What staffing verticals do they service? Does this line up with your core competencies and future plans?
- What is the culture? Is this a good fit for your business culture?
- What is currently available in their software and what is upcoming and when?
- Demos – This is a key part of the evaluation process. Have a list of items you want to see prior to the demo. Record the demo. Believe it or not, sometimes a company will demo something that is not live yet. Having a recording to refer to can be very helpful.
- References – get a good spectrum of references. Those that have been long term clients. Those that have recently gone live. Ask for companies that are of the same size and staffing vertical. Ask the tough questions. Understand most staffing companies will only give you references that are going to say good things. Do your best to find companies that are using the software that may not have been provided by the ATS and get their perspective.
As your go through the above process, you will be able to eliminate vendors and narrow your choice down to a top 2. This will provide you a good negotiating position as the vendors will be willing to provide their best offer. From here you should be able to select the Staffing Software partner that is right for your business.
Feeling like you do not have the expertise or resources to do an evaluation? This is where a knowledgeable consultant can be a godsend. They understand the marketplace and the capabilities of all the players. They can fill the gaps for you and manage or guide you through the process.
Now the fun part – Implementation of your new Software solution! This will be the subject of our next blog.