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Software - Solutions

(February 25, 2004) - Underlying our recent discussion of the ATS industry (see the archives for the series of a dozen or so articles), is a puzzle worth thinking about. Software, as we've come to know it, isn't really an adequate term to describe the offerings of the higher quality enterprise businesses. Many of them use the word "solutions" as a way of trying to tell their customers that they will be receiving both automation and expertise. Somehow, "solutions" doesn't really express the dynamic properties of a well executed delivery either.

Software is what it is, a collection of lines of code that accomplish very specific things. In the early days, when we learned programming, a deck of computer cards was used to communicate very specific instructions to the machine. Programs, back then, were simple tasks that could be 'compiled' into larger sequences of tasks. The limit that continues to haunt automation projects is that computers are stupid.

The 40 year long movement to automate core business processes began with things that were profoundly repeatable...accounting, payroll, drafting, engineering, purchasing, and even operations management. If the process could be quantified or proceduralized, it was converted into lines of code and data collection.

To the extent that Recruiting and retention are about the management of commodities, they can be automated and turned into that conventional kind of software. When recruiting involves decision making within a broad policy framework, pure automation is less likely to succeed. Recruiting "solutions" involve a complex array of expertise and automated tools.

The "problem" is that Recruiting is the membership gateway for an organization. Different kinds of people should, and do, receive differing kinds of treatment. This makes Recruiting far more like marketing, in terms of the kinds of systems and approaches required to build successful systems. Recruiting will not automate in the same way that more repeatable functions do.

Great implementations begin with well-formed customer strategies. Unfortunately, this is the weak link in the chain. Most customers are simultaneously missing the expertise required to develop a clear requirements document and a little short on the strategy front. In many cases, these two elements drive all of the cost of the final project. They are certainly determining factors in 'customer satisfaction'.

That means that successful providers have to accomplish the missing work, gain customer buy-in and successfully bill the time required to accomplish those goals. When the final product is sold as "software", the ability to make a customer successful is very limited. "Solutions" simply doesn't describe all of the ground that needs to be covered.


 PS Take a look at Google's benefit structure if you are thinking about retention.

John Sumser

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