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Implementation Best Practices - Starting Slow to Finish Fast

The world of talent acquisition is rapidly evolving, and for businesses to thrive in this changing landscape, they must embark on a talent transformation journey, shedding their legacy recruitment systems and processes and embracing the latest Talent Tech Trends. At the time of writing, our team of expert Implementation Managers have led hundreds of ATS & CRM implementations or optimisations across multiple industry categories, company sizes, and countries around the world, so we know what works, and what doesn't.


One of the biggest mistakes we often see companies make is actually the simplest: rushing into the implementation. Often the difference between a successful talent transformation and an unsuccessful one is simply taking the time to properly prepare, plan, and allocate resources. These well-prepared companies can also complete their implementations faster than the rushers, who are often plagued by confusion and delay, thus our mantra of “Start Slow to Finish Fast” was born.


In this blog post, we will explore the importance of doing thorough due diligence around tech stack design, processes design and documenting business requirements upfront, by drawing insights from three real-world case studies (the great, the good and the ugly) to illustrate the significance of this approach.


Note: The names of the companies in our case studies, as well as any other identifying information, has been anonymised.


Case Study One: Acme Acorns - Decentralised TA Model


Recommendations:

Acme’s goal was simple - improve the candidate experience and improve efficiency in the hiring process. Tracking of candidate communication was haphazard and managers were logging into multiple systems to execute their recruitment. Based on this, we gave them the following suite of recommendations.


  • Start Simple and Add Complexity Gradually: Acmes' journey began with a clear emphasis on starting with simplicity. We told them to progressively add complexity as users became more familiar with the system, to ensure that it is not overwhelming, especially for those with complex HRIS.

  • Have a Thorough Design Phase: We stressed the importance of investing more time in the design phase. This extra effort upfront pays off by saving time during the build and testing phases.

  • Document Everything: We suggested that Acme create a configuration workbook to document every decision. This external record outside of the SmartRecruiters system serves as a valuable reference point.

  • Governance Framework: Early establishment of a governance framework would allow Acme to maintain control and consistency throughout the project.

  • Identify Change Champions: Identifying change champions early on and involving them in user acceptance testing (UAT) and communication to the business would prove essential.


Action:


Acme took our recommendations to heart, meticulously recording decisions in the configuration workbook and maintaining a log of questions and post-implementation considerations. This ongoing dialogue among admin users fostered continuous improvement.


They also dedicated extra time to UAT and provided thorough training to managers before going live, ensuring everyone was comfortable with the system.


Result:


Acme experienced a relatively smooth implementation and go-live process, thanks to their measured and meticulous approach. Their new system is working exactly as they had hoped it was, the project launched within timelines and budget, and their stakeholders are satisfied.


Case Study Two: Boggis Beans - Decentralised TA Model


Recommendations:

Boggis’s goal was to create a single source of truth, digitise many manual processes and streamline candidate communication eliminating candidates being double-contacted by Hiring Managers or Recruiters. Based on this, we gave them the following suite of recommendations.


  • Start Simple and Add Complexity Gradually: Similar to Acme, we suggested that Boggis follow the practice of starting with simplicity and gradually adding complexity as users became more comfortable with the system.

  • Clear Communication: For Boggis, we really emphasised the importance of clear communication about the project's scope and milestones. We could see that resource and time management may have been a risk, so this recommendation was designed to address that.

  • Phased Approach: Recognizing the limited resources within the project team, we also suggested that Boggis adopt a phased approach to go-live, launching with a smaller “core” of features and gradually more functionality.

  • Soft Go-Live: Again, due to limited resources, we suggested a soft go-live ahead of the official launch to allow the team to test the system and load new roles with a smaller group of hiring managers before rolling out to the entire business.


Action:


Boggis also understood and acknowledged our recommendations, setting up a simple and intuitive job and organisational field structure. To avoid rushing the implementation and ensuring they could use a phased approach, they extended access to their old ATS to manage Christmas hiring.


They actively involved two hiring managers in the UAT process and rolled out the system to their departments, gradually expanding to other departments, and finally, they implemented a soft go-live a week ahead of official launch, which provided valuable insights and testing opportunities.


Result:


Boggis achieved a relatively smooth go-live and implementation process, benefiting from their methodical approach. Their hiring managers and recruiters never felt overwhelmed by the system because they were introduced to it slowly and gradually, and they were able to leverage and slowly wean themselves off their old ATS that could still be used as a redundancy.


Case Study Three: Carl’s Canaries - A Mix of Centralised and Decentralised TA Model


Recommendation:

Carl’s goal was to incorporate the recruitment processes of multiple brands on the one platform whilst providing greater transparency of vacancies to encourage global internal mobility. Carl’s Canaries also wanted to streamline and digitise their contract creation and execution… Based on this, we gave them the following suite of recommendations.


  • Extended Implementation Time: To allow for adequate discovery and design, and to ensure a best-fit configuration, a longer, 12-14 week implementation timeline was recommended for Carl’s.

  • Inclusive Stakeholder Engagement: Carl’s was advised to involve all relevant subject matter experts (SMEs) from the start and have representatives from all brands on project calls to make quick decisions.

  • Collaboration: Given the size and scope of Carl’s project, extensive collaboration between brands was deemed critical, both during and outside of meetings.

  • Pre-emptive Training: We recommended that training of the various pieces of software be completed ahead of workshops in order to ensure that our limited workshopping time was best utilised.


Actions:


Unfortunately, Carl’s didn’t take heed of our initial recommendations, shortening the go-live timeline to just 2 weeks. This left insufficient time for proper discovery and design, and instead, they settled for a minimum viable product (MVP) configuration.


HR business partners, critical to the job and offer approval processes, were not initially engaged, which significantly slowed down the progress of rolling out contracts post-go-live. A governance framework was not established, and there was no designated system owner or resource for maintaining data integrity.


General lack of trust among the project team members across the brands hindered information sharing and decision-making, again delaying the project.


Finally, despite our insistence, training was not completed ahead of workshops, leading to additional calls and emails to address queries.


Result:


Carl’s rushed go-live experience lacked proper change management, and without a governance framework, many administrators made changes without mutual consent, impacting users across the brands. The basic configuration was set up, but there was inadequate time for further enhancements.


Outstanding items remained unresolved weeks after the initial go-live, highlighting the challenges faced due to a rushed approach.


 

Conclusion

The "Start Slow to Finish Fast" approach, as demonstrated by these case studies, emphasises the importance of thorough research and understanding all requirements upfront when building your recruitment software suite. Taking the time to design and document processes, business requirements and decisions, and communicate effectively can lead to smoother implementations and successful talent transformations. By following these recommendations and learning from the actions and results of these case studies, businesses can achieve a more efficient and effective talent tech stack that aligns with their needs and goals. In a rapidly evolving talent acquisition landscape, this approach ensures adaptability and future success.


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