Digital technology is supposed to make our lives easier. But for many staffing and recruiting organizations, it almost does the opposite.
Staffing firms who have attempted to build their own tech stacks will be familiar with the feeling: the endless demos (why not? They’re free!), the dozens of Band-Aid solutions, the confusion as to how you might stitch all these disparate tools together. We’re in an age of software abundance, but it turns out that there can be too much of a good thing.
It’s time that we as an industry take a closer look at our approach to digital technology, to gain a better understanding of the most effective tech stack construction methods, and what role a professional partner might play.
But before we get to the best ways a modern staffing firm can manage their stack, let’s take a look at how you shouldn’t.
Perhaps you’ve charged yourself with building your own tech stack – bringing together the digital tools that will make your firm better. Perhaps you haven’t thought about your tech stack, and have organically and somewhat unknowingly found yourself piecing one together.
Whether it be a conscious decision or not, this can be a dangerous path to take, full of hurdles, potholes, and roadblocks, as shown by the three main mistakes DIY tech stack firms tend to make:
In implementing a new tool you commit to doing things differently; more efficiently, more effectively, more productively… until you don’t. Many firms will implement a new tool, only to force it into doing the same things they did before. The ATS is a common example: a firm upgrades to an efficient cloud-based ATS, but then customizes it to work in a similar way to their old, clunky solution, diluting the new tool’s efficiency and functionality in the process.
Implementing a new tool will not solve all your firm’s problems. “Whatever issues or challenges you have in your organization, those are going to be magnified when you implement a new technology solution,” says Holly Cohoon, Managing Partner at Regents Consulting Group. “You are not going to fix organizational problems with new technology.” You need to prioritize culture over technology, process over technology, planning over technology.
The staffing and recruiting industry has become so much more excited by tech in recent years, which is great, but with excitement comes confusion. Sometimes firms implement a technology because they want to, they feel they have to, or they’ve seen it elsewhere. They impulse buy, they don’t take the time to understand what the underlying purpose is, and they, therefore, end up with an endless list of duplicate and underutilized tools. They don’t stop to ask whether a current solution has the functionality they require, or whether a single tool could do the job of many.
At the same time, staffing firm stakeholders are busy people. Should they really be required to know exactly what every tool is able to do? No, not at all.
That’s what a systems integration (SI) partner is for.
I'm buying software as a service and making that service work should be the responsibility of the software vendor. Why do I need an SI partner? What can they do that my technology vendor can’t?
These are questions that many businesses ask, and they’re entirely fair. When implementing and utilizing a tool, you should look for solid levels of support from whoever supplied it. But the capabilities and responsibilities of an SI partner extend far beyond those of a technology vendor.
A clue is in the name: system integrators integrate systems. While a technology vendor will have deep knowledge of their specific solution, they won’t have deep knowledge about its place within a complex web of other solutions.
“A good SI Partner should have a broader perspective on things,” says Cohoon. “They’ll look at both the individual technology, and its place in your broader technology stack. A good SI partner will work to understand the problems you’re trying to solve, and the objectives you’re trying to achieve. They're both a technology translator and a conductor that gets your orchestra of solutions playing together perfectly.”
A good SI partner will work for you, the staffing and recruiting firm, understanding your situation, your needs, your hopes, and your dreams. But they will also have a healthy relationship with key technology vendors, so they can understand the true capabilities of each tool, and how one can integrate with and enhance another.
You might feel as though your firm is too small to warrant an SI partner, or that you’re too early in your implementation journey. But you’d be wrong. In the best-case scenario, a staffing firm will engage with an SI partner as early as possible.
SI partners are often pigeon-holed as enterprise-only because it used to be that only the biggest companies could afford a suite of software solutions. But with SaaS, that’s no longer the case. Every organization is now deeply reliant on technology (and if you’re not, you won’t be around for long.) A good SI Partner will be able to scale their service offering depending on the size of both your firm and the degree of change you hope to undertake. In an ideal world, the relationship will start the moment you begin to consider the construction of your tech stack.
With even the smallest operations now able to afford dozens of tools, technology decisions are often made on a whim, rather than being based on what a firm needs to succeed. There’s real danger in bringing in an SI partner after you’ve implemented a raft of solutions, because more often than not work will need to be undone. Early engagement can ensure you’re heading in the right direction from the get-go.
In short, the best time to build a relationship with an SI partner is right now.
An SI partner can also help with the ‘silver bullet’ mindset to which so many firms are prone. There will be a real temptation to slap technology over clunky, legacy, analog processes – and then expect everything to be fixed. A good SI can help you re-evaluate your processes, then make best practice recommendations. They’ll challenge your thinking, look at processes, and ask ‘why are you doing it that way?’, before bringing strategies to the table that help you make the change.
A staffing firm is quite right to be excited by the seemingly limitless potential of technology, and an SI partner can ensure that this excitement is channeled in the right direction.
But with the likes of Fiverr and Upwork top of mind, some staffing and recruiting firms are looking to turn themselves into direct competitors to these Silicon Valley giants, pitting their own technology against the established players. But they should think twice, says Cohoon.
“I think that's a mistake. The things that will continue to differentiate staffing companies from tech companies is keeping their business fundamentally about people, and using technology as an enabler for those relationships.”
There’s no point in trying to compete against a world-leading technology company that enjoys millions of dollars of investment. In order to succeed, staffing firms need to continue to play to their strengths: the relationships they develop, and the service they deliver. Technology is key, sure, but for now, the focus should be on using it to take care of the low-value busy work, freeing staffing professionals up to do what they do best.
If you needed an MNDA or MSA, you’d call your attorney. By the same token, if you need to make the most of technology – and you do – you should get advice from an expert.
No matter your size or situation, there’ll be an SI partner for you. All you need to do to secure your firm's tech-driven future is to ask for that helping hand.