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(July 11, 2001) We're looking forward to the moment that Monster unveils its integrated product. The stream of acquisitions has been astonishing. With positions across the Human Capital Management market, from contract staffing to college Recruiting, from low end applicant tracking systems to high end consulting, the company is positioned to fill our notion of a fully featured, results oriented 21st Century advertising agency. The burning question is how do they organize all of this stuff and present it seamlessly to a customer?

Disparate pricing, redundant sales forces, limited experience in brand management, emptiness in the account management function and conflicting business perspectives are but a few of the global issues facing our new giant. Buying toys and growing based on aggregation is one thing. Managing the implicit cost reductions and realignments is a different issue. Delivering customers a constant stream of novelty and value is yet another.

It's not that we don't think they are competent. Our jaws drop on a nearly daily basis as we watch the acquisition patterns unfold. It's more like the skills required to convert acquisitions into profitable subcomponents are different than good shopping requires. Marrying differing cultures, functions, business models and world views into a unified offering is a heady challenge. Most merger/acquisition efforts ultimately fail because the chore of integration is so daunting.

You could almost imagine that TMP would be considering the purchase of Hire.com as an architectural backbone. In Hire.com's case, the acquisitions have been as broad, if somewhat smaller. The goal at Hire.com, however, has been to clearly define a fully featured Recruiting system as opposed to Monster's data machine. By purchasing Hire.com in its current configuration, Monster would be acquiring the necessary organizational design, pricing structures and market positioning to make the pieces assemble into the potential reality.

We've watched the newspapers fumble acquisitions and their integration, confused by the search for a single brand identity. We've sat in rooms in which customers explained to the vendor that it was impossible to purchase all of the products that they offered from a single representative. Collecting pieces and establishing a single face to the market is not an easy chore.

Recruiting, for any organization larger than 100, requires a repeatable system with process orientation, documentation, sources, techniques, infrastructure and legal defensibility. While Hire.com is organized to provide these services through a single representative, Monster needs to convert its new holdings into a vision. The Hire.com approach is precisely opposite.

Because Hire.com offers a comprehensive and unifying vision beneath its functional offerings, it is possible to imagine customers' utilization at a variety of levels of involvement, from completely hands-off to completely hands-on and all of the shades of difference in between. That's the fundamental difference between a platform play and a consolidation play.

We're not saying that the marketplace will only have room for one or the other. Many customers are willing to bear the costs of using a non-integrated supplier; it happens all of the time. What we are saying is that the ultimate shape of the TMP entrant, multiple brands or not, will have to be a platform, not a sampler.

We're also not saying that it won't happen. Just that Hire.com is demonstrating the model in the marketplace as we speak.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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