In the current economic climate many companies are assessing their e-recruitment solutions not just for the obvious reasons of cost savings, but more often than not to ensure that they are getting the best value for money service out there.
The offering of any good e-recruitment solution should not stop purely at the technology it provides, infact this should really just set the starting point. A deeper dive in to support, delivery, flexibility and customer care really completes the overall service offering and many organisations find that their solutions just don’t tick all the boxes.
Its fair to say we have seen a huge change in the e-recruitment space over the last 5 years. Many providers have been acquired by other organisations and what once was a solid service, with good support and a strong development plan has now been swallowed up by a larger organisation with a different strategy or product offering. This has had the effect of leaving the customer with little choice, with many of the providers out there simply closing down their product development plans with a view that the client will have no option but to embrace whatever new service the acquiring company has to offer.
There seems to be a huge turn against the tide, as many organisations, as a result of their assessments realise that their solution just doesn’t provide the service that they require, not only to support their business requirements today, but perhaps more importantly to meet them tomorrow. Some of the main reasons for re-evaluation are:
- Customer Service – This is actually understandable, when you think about an evaluation process how do you assess their customer service? Pretty tricky, and usually once you do find out its not up to scratch its too late.
- Lack of Flexibility – When you originally decide on a vendor they ordinarily will configure / customise the system to your requirements. However it can be a very different story when changes need to be made later on. Inflexible systems usually mean there is a cost for making changes, edits and updates
- Poor / No Road Map – No organisation stays static and no software solution should do the same. As mentioned above many vendors have ditched their development path in favour of passing their clients through to a partner / acquiring organisation. Meaning that the client gets no new features, functions or developments.
- Cost – There are many pricing models out there but with changes in technology over the last few years Software as a Service (SaaS) is really the only option to consider. Most SaaS providers will charge a one off fee to set the system up and then a fixed monthly license fee that allows for access to the system, Hosting, Maintenance, Customer support, Development etc. SaaS has allowed for huge reductions in service costs, most organisations find out there paying too much.
- Feature Set – Although many vendors out there offer a huge feature set with all the ‘bells and whistles’ that look great in a presentation, many times this seems to be at the expense of some of the basics. Many organisations realise that some of the simplest tasks that a system should offer either don’t exist or take a lot longer to complete than they should.
So what are the options? is there such a thing as one solution for all? Well in short no, there isn’t even a highly customised solution is only going to meet your requirements at the stage of implementation and will become highly inflexible the more your online process evolves. While many organisations invested originally in customised solutions a large proportion of them are now moving to the more flexible highly configurable SaaS based solutions, which can offer some huge benefits (see other ‘Advantages of SaaS’ post).
A previous CEO of mine coined a phrase regarding any technology purchase we invested in ‘Timely and Imperfect’ basically meaning that as long as it was delivered on time and could address the basics then the project was a success. The hunt for a ‘perfect’ solution will not only take you down ‘decision cul-de-sacs’ whereby features that you think you need to be successful just aren’t available (or a combination of features you think you need aren’t available from one vendor) but will also extend the project timeline (sometimes beyond recognition). Long way of saying that good advice when assessing a new solution is to strip back what you need to the basics, what minimum requirements do you need to complete yours and your colleagues jobs on a daily basis?
So you have identified the basics but what about the ability to make changes? What if you want to add a new data field? Change the information on your start page or dashboard, what if you need to create a new report or rebrand the career pages? All of this comes under the flexibility heading and opens up the custom vs configure discussion (see other ‘custom vs configure’ post). In short the ability to make these type of changes on a customised environment albeit more than possible will usually mean a £ value associated with it (and it can be more than a few £ !) The advantage of the configured solution is that these changes are usually made free of charge (or as part of a monthly allowance) In truth the industry is moving away from the custom solutions, configurable solutions have become so flexible the cost justification of the custom solutions just doesn’t stack up any more. There are a host of other benefits of the configured solution which spill over into the ‘Advantages of SaaS’ post.
Most HR solutions are constantly being developed whether its new features, bug fixes, security updates etc. A good vendor should be able to share their development roadmap with you. Giving you an idea of the direction the solution is being developed towards. Bare in mind that most organisations don’t / cant commit to delivery timescale of what is on the roadmap, this is normal due to development priorities e.g. if a new security standard is released then the vendor may need to prioritise that over the development of a new feature etc. However as already mentioned you should get the idea of where the organisation is planning on going with the service. I personally feel this is a hugely important part of the review, there are many vendors out there that due to a number of reasons are not developing their service further (normally due to acquisition) so check this in detail, if they cant share it with you ask the question why not. Some may try and say they don’t share the details of development due to the competitive nature of the industry. I would offer to sign an NDA to get around this, if they still cant supply anything I would discount the vendor.
Once you have found several vendors that can supply the basics, the type of delivery you are looking for and identified their development plans its time to take a look at their support and customer service. This is where my biggest bugbear lies. My wife still rolls her eyes every time I complain in a restaurant or hotel because the service has been poor, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a serial complainer but I really appreciate the value of great customer service and why should business be any different? To me there should be no excuse for poor customer care and service and it forms such an important part of any providers overall service. I already mentioned above that its difficult to assess the potential customer service and support levels of a vendor before you engage with them but there is some due diligence that you can run through to help you identify what you should be able to expect:
- Review the SLA (Service Level Agreement) – An SLA should cover more than technology, it should also refer to what the vendor will commit to regarding support response times and methods etc
- Retention Rate – Request the vendors retention rate of clients, the higher the rate the better chances there is a good level of customer service
- References – Probably the best feedback your going to get are from existing clients of the vendor. Personally I wouldn’t settle for the clients that the vendor may suggest you chat to, why not be pro active, visit the vendors site and find some clients you recognise. Pick up the phone and ask if you can get some feedback on the system. Remember HR people are nice like you! And generally are more than happy to share their experiences. (I would take some feedback with a pinch of salt, remember there are always two sides to every story)
- Percentage of Employees Customer focused – Not always an easy statistic to get but see if you can identify what sort of split within the company there is to people who support the client. The industry average is about 25 – 30% however some vendors who offer great client service have up to 45%.
So with all those elements covered you will need to review the cost of the service. Both types of solutions (custom and configured) usually attract an implementation fee and then there would be a monthly, quarterly or annual charge. A custom solution may have a one off license fee but most vendors now charge out on a monthly basis. There are a huge number of factors in order to address the ROI of a solution, if your reviewing solutions against your current provider its an easier job as the system has already been justified / budgeted. So you need to look at if your going to save anything, gain additional benefits, reduce the time taken to carry out common tasks etc. Also look at more intangible benefits, will a different system improve your brand image, candidate experience etc. For more on this area see the ‘Cost Justification / ROI’ post. Remember you are in the driving seat with regards to price; I would always negotiate to get the best deal possible. In my experience the most flexible area these vendors have on cost is in regards to the implementation fee. A true SaaS delivered solution will have a set monthly fee that they will find difficult to deviate from as its based on a predefined expense of user cost, support, maintenance, hosting and profit.
In summary, there can be some huge benefits of assessing if your solution is cutting it both financial, service and process improvement alike. There might be a host of reasons why you might consider reviewing your solution, technology changes at such a fast pace and something purchased a few years ago may be functioning but you might not know what you are missing out on, and for the sake of a few days looking into what the market has to offer it may just open your eyes. Alternatively you might just reinforce the fact that you have the best system for your organisation and then you can give yourself a pat on the back for choosing the best supplier already!