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ATS Market Basics VI
(February 11, 2004) - So, you might be asking yourself, how did Peoplesoft come to hold such a dominant position in the little ATS market? The answer is simple. They gave away a badly designed product as a part of a larger buy, sort of like the crummy little AM radio that comes as standard equipment on most cars. Although Peoplesoft had its roots in the HR sector, the emphasis was on the administrative areas.
In the early days, Webhire (then known as Restrac) and Resumix both made a great deal of money in the aftermarket. They were the equivalent of 8-track tape system installers. Pretty much everyone who bought Peoplesoft sought an aftermarket solution to the Recruiting problem. From the beginning, Recruiting was a bastard stepchild at Peoplesoft.
For nearly a decade, the two firms played a "Coke and Pepsi" game with the market. Webhire's product was for companies with an ad hoc process while the Resumix service worked well in settings that emphasized preplanning. They accomplished the same function. Webhire required mastery over a complex searching process. Resumix focused on anticipating need in advance through the development of "lexicons" (dictionaries of related terminologies).
The explosion of the electronic recruiting market, the introduction of web technology and the years of economic growth changed the market. Both Resumix and Webhire were initially conceived as 'mainframe' software. They both had serious problems transitioning to client-server technologies in the mid 90's. Their failures to anticipate market changes created major opportunities just at the time that a hiring explosion was creating a market of scarcity in some professions and regions. Effectively, they were trying to produce a superior 8-track stereo at the dawn of the CD age.
(Note: Both Resumix and Webhire survive - and nearly prosper - to this day after upheavals in ownership, structure and offerings. Resumix, now a part of Yahoo!, has very deep roots in the government market. Webhire maintains its customer base as well. Both companies have learned, the hard way, that existing customers are a real strength.)
Things have changed since those early days. In 1990, software was a discrete thing, devoid of organizational customization (like spreadsheets and other productivity software). Although Peoplesoft, Oracle and SAP were evolving, there was no solid understanding of the Enterprise Software deployment process. Between technology changes and increased sophistication from vendors, the market is profoundly different though much of the language remains the same.
Peoplesoft had the opportunity, at the height of the market, the reinvigorate its miserable offering. With great fanfare, an upgraded solution was provided. The tool managed to devolve from crummy AM radio to a Rube Goldberg apparatus. While Peoplesoft could advertise deeper functionality and more comprehensive services, the tool is a usability nightmare requiring disciplined utilization of a pile of manuals and screen shifts to accomplish the simple origination of a requisition.
The company suffered the misfortune of losing its founder, much of its talent and most of its market capitalization just as the window of opportunity opened. Once again, Recruiting and ATS became an afterthought for a huge operation with much bigger fish to fry. So, as we mentioned earlier, the company continues to give its Recruiting solutions to customers at "no additional charge" or approximately what they are worth.
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