Be the best or the bravest, or both!

In this blog, we cover our top tips for making the best Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and Human Resources (HR) System decisions, *or* for making the most of what you already have. In a contracting economy, the latter is often reality. However it can lead to surprising results, if true effort is invested and different viewpoints are brought together.

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You might wonder from what authority we are commenting on this subject. After all, we are not a consultancy firm that assists with decisions around creating system shortlists or selections or anything connected to that.

Fun fact is though, that our existence is predicated on the best of breed systems trend. Due to this foundation, we have lots of conversations about diverse IT environments, and have also seen how these can work extremely well, or not so well, depending on whether or not selected systems were fit for purpose or perhaps, badly configured.

So how did it all begin with Harmonizer?

At some point, whilst on a Google Friday project, an idea originated. Trend watching is often about taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture, and the bigger picture for our founders Thom and Guido was clear:

  • The number of cloud applications was ever growing, and becoming more specialised each year
  • More and more organisations could and were moving to a cloud based environment
  • They were set on using Best of Breed solutions for all their organisational functions*
  • Best of Breed applications often don’t all come from one vendor

Given where we came from, as it turns out a few years later, it is no surprise that most of our clients are Best of Breed supporters.

*Why is this?

Some time ago, BC (before cloud), Best of Suite was a much more viable approach than it is today. Applications were set up on premise and integration was difficult as vendors kept their applications closed to third parties. Integration was therefore often accomplished by slinging import and export files back and forth, which is a cumbersome and error prone approach. Therefore, a Best of Breed approach was considered a risky move. Without APIs or equivalent facilities, getting quality data in and out of an application adequately, can be hard.

As you might guess, one of the reasons for our existence and service offering is that APIs have become commonplace. SaaS applications are architected very differently to their old on-premise siblings (mothers, aunties, grandmas). The current dominance of SaaS applications with APIs, makes a Best of Suite approach sound very outdated. Because why would you use one big application that is good in some areas and mediocre in most other areas, while you can choose a combination of all the best apps, seamlessly integrated?

Of course this has implications for which applications you select and how you configure them

But, other than us and other IT savants, who would know? If you are running your business without a background in IT, this is not a level of detail around Cloud, IT environment strategy and architecture, APIs and integration technology that you would be familiar with. And, therefore, the associated biggest pitfall of them all is vendor-lock in.

Existing vendors, or vendors in your network argue very convincingly they are the ‘be-all-and-end-all’ of ATS and HR applications. End-to-end. To the point that we’ve seen that some software vendors use it as a misplaced sales strategy. Sometimes it gets worse than that, information is obfuscated from the customer, in hopes they won’t ask questions that are too difficult to answer.

Consequences of procuring a system that isn’t right for you can haunt you for years. We have seen cases where entire vendor teams quit, and supporting teams of system implementation companies quit alongside them because the project had failed badly and the environment had become negative or even toxic.

And the awful thing at the end is, the customer (i.e. you) is missing out because of it. The best value for money is obtained via a Best of Breed approach in most cases. Obviously, via the Best of Breed approach you will end up with the application that best meets your requirements, by definition. In the end, the application meeting your requirements is likely the most important determinant for success, supported by the invisible power of integrations to make the data in your Best of Breed winner application even richer.

So here they come, our three hot tips!

By now, we have laboured the point sufficiently. Best of Breed done right, means that you can have the cake and eat it too. We have seen amazing results working on a Best of Breed approach with our ATS and HR system partners like Emply en HR2day.

But, before you start thinking about solutions, define the problem properly.

  1. What are the key requirements this ATS or HR system needs to address? Find the applications that score the highest on that set of requirements. For instance, if customisation of recruitment pipelines and access control within your ATS is essential for you, then find the application that has the most customisation options in the most user friendly manner. Never start with the status quo in mind and retrofit requirements, it is a recipe for failure. As obvious as this sounds, we see this happen a lot, still.

  2. Then, go deeper in your analysis. Rather than just thinking about the system like a tool with specs, bells, whistles and shiny things, start with the process the system is meant to support. And then go even deeper. After identifying the detailed process steps, create data maps of how data flows through the process, and for each attribute, where the source of truth is. This will give you clarity about where user input and associated controls are required, and where integrations can assist to transport and transform data within and between systems.

  3. After step 2, you can chunk back up to your list of requirements, and edit it to suit your process and data flows. Of course price should then also factor into your decision, but if you are not led by deep process and data level requirements, you may experience what we refer to in Dutch as: ‘Cheap is an expensive buy’, or in better English: You get what you pay for. Price can never be a main or sole determinant of system selection.

What if we can’t do a system change (now)?

Now, if you are in the position where a new ATS or HR system isn’t on the cards due to financial or other resource constraints, don’t despair. Step 2 and 3 as laid out above can still be applied - be that within the scope of what you currently have. Having said that, you would be surprised to realise how much customisability modern (cloud) applications offer and also how much integration and automation technology can spruce up functionality!

We have seen many successes with clients that were locked-in to a system for whatever reason, by analysing the gaps in requirements stemming from the current system configurations and integrations between them, and then going deeper into the current processes, amazing results can be achieved. The key ingredient is having all relevant viewpoints at the table. IT, other supporting teams/vendors and end-users alike.

These change projects are more tactical in nature, but that can be a benefit as well. The level of change is less intrusive and so end-users only have to work with amended User Interfaces and process steps, rather than with whole new systems.

List me some systems please

If you are interested in exploring some examples of very flexible and interesting HR (related) systems, consider these ones: AFAS, BrainsFirst, Bullhorn, CheckedID, Emply, HR2day and PLNR. We already support these and many more (refer to our integrations page under the Human Resources category)


Either which way you go, huge gains are to be made in terms of efficiency, cost savings, employee experience and customer satisfaction by adopting a Best of Breed approach and selecting or deep-reviewing your ATS and HR systems to the best of your ability. If you want to know more, contact us here for a free consultation about your options!

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