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Over the years I have worked with a lot of clients helping them with their business process software (CRM – Client Relationship Management / ATS – Applicant Tracking Systems) and I am often stumped at how little time businesses have taken to get it right – and how negative an impact this can have.

I bet most of you love buying new cars! The spec’ing up, researching, What Car, Top Gear, Hamsters and tall opinionated men in flash cars telling you which mid range shopping trolley to buy… The new car smell, new buttons, blue tooth, sat nav, auto-parking etc…

Cars are critical bits of kit. They enable us to bulk buy loo rolls, take our kids to school, have romantic breaks in the middle of nowhere, go to the tip with our DIY offcuts, have arguments on long journeys. We spend loads of time deciding what we need, seeking advice, test driving. And we rarely simply buy the next new version of the same car.

Equally, we DON’T walk into a car dealer and just buy a car. And we certainly don’t take a car sales person’s word for it that it’s the car for us…

So why do I often see that just that has been done with CRM / ATS?

It’s not that the client has just gone to the CRM / ATS shop and bought something. I appreciate that time has been spent on talking to suppliers and demo’ing, but using the analogy of buying a car, have they gone far enough? Did they know what they really wanted? Had they really spec’d up what they needed? Did they get any impartial advice, or do they simply trust software sales? Did they know enough about the market and the future of tech to build a spec that they could test the software against? I recently saw a CRM provider claim the other day that it does everything but make tea – it doesn’t and is nowhere near!

The issue is never that the Directors don’t get the point of how valuable the system is – they all get that. I often find the issue can be one or more of the following:

  • there can be too much trust in the sales process – where’s the impartiality?
  • not enough understanding of the future of tech and how it can massively impact on a user’s day
  • when a system reaches it’s end of life, the instinct is to simply upgrade to the next version… I would never do that with my car – I’d get a handle on what’s out there first! I’d educate myself, test drive; take a little time to see what’s changed and if the brand I have is still what I want.
  • a lack of “spec” – the first thing I always do before even mention the word “system” is build a process map for my clients (like and architect would build plans before the builders even get a look in!) Then we test that against the demo… Even I  can get distracted by shiny new tings, and the spec keeps me focussed.
  • the role of finding and implementing the system is often delegated to people who are not going to actually use it or who really understand the business processes (eg. IT / Admin), and these people already are really busy too!
  • And please… step away from the bespoke system (unless you are loaded and have limitless of time and energy to keep it up to date, gen up on tech and manage the company / staff that build it for you)

Now this may seem like an unashamed plug of what my business does (consulting on business process, systems and social media), and maybe it is, but I really feel for businesses who are really struggling with their systems and have bought stuff that makes the average staff day a mare. The irony in many cases, is if the system was right, the money to buy the car would possibly be easier to source!

The right system can have far reaching effects: happy staff, happy managers, reduced staff turnover, happier clients, visibility more money…. And better company cars!

I am going to step down from my soap box now.

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