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Best-of-Breed vs. the Suite: Which Should You Choose?

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Choose wisely.

If you’re in the recruiting industry, you’ve no doubt heard someone suggest that it’s to your advantage to implement a full HR suite rather than specialized, best-of-breed applications. Suite proponents advocate purchasing an entire software set—even if you don’t need everything that it claims to do—because it’s supposed to be an easier way to connect business systems. And you, as a recruiter or hiring manager, just want things to be easy. Right?

Well, it depends on what challenges you’re trying to solve. Is the integration of business systems or HR components a primary concern for you? If so, which systems? After all, you’re not an HR generalist; you don’t care about benefits and payroll—you simply want automated, efficient process workflow that speaks to your everyday needs, so you can find and hire the best candidates. If it’s really going to make your job easier, recruiting technology needs to be dynamic and innovative, integrating tools that simplify your work and bring you closer to the talent you need—things like social networking, video screening, and candidate relationship management. And it absolutely has to be user-friendly.

So can an HR solution suite meet these criteria? Or are the advantages just a myth?

Here are four questions to ask before you make a decision.

  1. Does the solution focus on recruiting? Recruiting isn’t like other HR functions. Recruiters simply recruit, and need tools to do it well. Ask yourself: Is a suite-based HR system compiled to serve your needs, or the needs of HR professionals in general? You should seek software designed by experts in your field. If recruiting feels like an afterthought in a suite, it probably is an afterthought.
  2. Does it integrate with the systems you actually use? Can you use the recruiting component within a suite to connect with third-party applications you already have deployed and invested in? Does it offer an applicant tracking system that’s extensible enough to connect to your calendars, to your social networking platforms, to your candidate relationship system, to your scheduler, to your onboarding workflow, and so on? Truly integrated products make your job easier when they work well together—not because they were coerced into it by acquisition (like many suites are), but because they were built with open APIs and strengthened by partnerships.
  3. Can it move forward with you? Think about it. Before you invest in a bundled HR suite, look at where it came from and who built it. If it’s just a bunch of acquired technology, do you think the business that acquired it is going to put time and money into further developing its features—when they didn’t even develop it in the first place? When companies sell solution suites, their business is about retaining customers, not satisfying them. Why? Because after you invest in implementing their technology across the board for all your HR needs, you’re stuck. They have you. When you need new features—and in the dynamic world of recruiting today, you most certainly will need them—they’re not likely to oblige any time soon because innovating in the recruiting industry isn’t what they do.
  4. Will someone help you use it? Do you want to learn not just one new system, but whole suite of new applications—ones that probably weren’t even designed to work together? As suites become more complex and companies grow bigger through acquisitions, vendors may find it harder to provide end users with quality support, regular product updates, responsive invoicing, and so on. Is this a risk you’re willing to take?

It’s not likely that the great debate between suites and best-of-breed technology will end any time soon, but it seems pretty obvious that this myth is busted. The so-called advantages to buying comprehensive HR suites aren’t all they’re cracked up to be when you consider what really matters to recruiters. Do your homework. Line up questions for vendors in advance. Who has your best interests at heart?

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