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Why do Talent Tech implementations fail?

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

Your Talent team is struggling to attract, engage and hire top talent. You think you need better tools. Let’s assume that you’ve succeeded in crafting a business case for investment in new tech. After countless hours, you’ll have navigated over 2,500 Talent Tech vendors to select your tech stack and it feels like you’ve reached the end of the rainbow, a pot of gold awaits. Just over the horizon is a new dawn where your team is finally winning. Let’s stop daydreaming. The odds of your technology project successfully solving your TA issues and delivering ROI are stacked against you. By most industry insider estimates, around 60-70% of Talent Tech Implementations fail. That’s a lot of time and money wasted, and personal reputations eroded. Nailing your tech project is not easy. In this blog we’re sharing from our experience the 6 key reasons why projects fail. By following our pro-tips and best practices you can overcome common implementation challenges and turn the odds in your favour. The potential upside of successfully delivering your tech project is huge. Technology can be transformative; it can bring to life your vision, drive efficiency, facilitate experience and be the mechanism to push your amazing brand into the world. The magic only happens when the right technology is properly implemented, fully adopted and continually optimised. Technology cannot make up for broken or missing process; misaligned people, capabilities or mindset. Through my career I’ve led around 100 Talent Tech implementations (I’m not that old but I am a great multitasker). I don’t have all the answers, I’ve failed often but I make a point of learning from those mistakes. Having worked with firms of all sizes and shapes, in a myriad of industries, and with different leading tech platforms, I have seen that the difference between a success and failure, time and again, comes down to 6 key factors. I have also identified that for each of these factors there are a few ‘Pro-tips’ that distinguish highly successful implementations. So why do talent tech implementations fail, and how can we turn the odds around in favour of a successful implementation?

1. Failing to identify the problem So many implementations fail at the very first hurdle, or rather before they even get to the starting line. When buying and implementing talent tech start by documenting the business or TA problems that you’re trying to solve. Without clearly articulated problem statements your project lacks purpose, focus and the underlying issues are unlikely to be solved. Ask yourself; without clear problem statements, what is guiding the buying process? How will you design and implement the solution to address those problems? How will you measure improvement and ROI? Seemingly small and obvious, why are problem statements often missed then?

  • During the buying process you jumped straight into vendor demos and never looked back.

  • Disconnect between the buying team and the project team.

The first thing I ask at any project kick off or implementation workshops “what is the problem we are here to solve”. It is frightening how many times this simple question has been met with a table of blank faces that stare back. “We were just told to be here”. A problem statement is usually one or two sentences to explain the problem the project will address and offer a solution. You might have multiple problems. You’ll find that well written problem statements also add value to your business case, change management and communications. Pro tips:

  • Your problem statements should be referenced throughout all stages of the project to guide solution design, decision making and even testing.

  • Use the problem statements to create aspirational benchmarks/ metrics for the short, medium and long terms. E.g. increase percentage of job vacancies filled on time from 60% to 90%.


2. Lack of focus on process Process eats Technology for breakfast. For sure, selecting good tech is important but the best technology in the world means little if your underlying recruiting processes are broken. Ideally, you’ve documented your ideal end-to-end recruiting process prior to selecting tech. If you haven’t, stop reading and do it now.

  • Map out who does what, when and how.

  • Document all the technology touch points, and which system does what. With Talent Tech you’ll often find that several systems within your stack can do the same thing. E.g. Automated offer letters/ contract functionality exists within most ATS’s and onboarding tools.

  • Identify which parts of the process can be executed flexibly versus which must be done in a consistent, uniform way.

  • Document the moments when you’ll be communicating with stakeholders (candidates, hiring leaders etc); from which technology; and how that message will be sent.

  • Think about the moments within your process that really matter to you, your candidates, and your hiring leaders. After all, it’s the experience you define which will differentiate your brand from others.

Your detailed process document will pay dividends when it comes to solution design, change management and training. Additionally, you’ll score major brownie points with your tech vendor. Pro tips:

  • The fastest way to failure is to replicate legacy process and system design in your implementation. Take the time to challenge the status quo.

  • Trust your vendor’s implementation team and their experience to help optimise the process. They should be able to quickly spot opportunities to leverage the tech to create the efficiencies and experiences that you’ve designed for.

  • Avoid the temptation to skip over process and jump ahead to the fun stuff.


3. Benching your A-Team It’s time to think about resourcing. Who do you need on your project team, when and for how long? If you’ve not implemented tech before it’s okay to admit that you don’t know what you’re in for or “we don’t know what we don’t know”. It’s no secret that a great team is required to successfully deliver a great project. If you’re unsure of the resources required, create a resource plan. A resource plan is part of your project plan where you assign tasks to people who have the knowledge, skills and time to complete the task. Validate the resource plan with your vendor, ask their advice based on your project scope, complexity, desired timelines and budget. Consider if you have access to the right resource capabilities (e.g. project manager, process specialist, business analyst, recruitment SME’s, marketing, change management, training, communications, IT/ integrations, legal…) and ensure that they are available for the project. Underestimating the resources required is a major project risk and one which is likely to negatively impact on project timelines and quality. Pro tips:

  • Secure the right resource capabilities, and make sure they’re available for the duration of the project. If you don’t have the resources internally, augment your team by contracting specialists.

  • Leverage the skills and experience of your vendors, find out which resources they’re allocating to your project (project manager, configuration specialists, trainers, customer success/ account manager) and ensure cultural fit. If you’re not happy ask for other options.


4. Not managing change It’s easy to assume that all stakeholder groups will be as excited as you are and will instinctively ‘get it’. The reality is that change can be scary, pockets of resistance can appear, create chaos and cause delay. Change management is critical to the successful delivery of the project. Communicate, and keep communicating the upside of change. Tech projects are difficult to coordinate but with the right planning, capabilities and communication it’s not impossible. Assuming you’ve selected the right tech, designed a great solution, implemented and tested it well, don’t fall at the final hurdle. Poor change management is a serious risk to new technology and processes being fully adopted. Pro tips:

  • Communicate early (before implementation starts) and regularly using a variety of media. Depending on the scope and scale of the implementation you may have different stakeholder groups that need a different approach.

  • Understand the impact of the changes on stakeholder groups and address with targeted communication. Don’t forget to communicate the upside.

  • Executive engagement in the project can help unblock tasks, prioritisation and communicate key messages to impacted groups. Your execs will want to align themselves with a successful project, it should be win:win.


5. Complicating and obfuscating The key here is easy to say, but deceptively hard to adhere to…Keep it simple Perfection is admirable but elusive. To keep your project moving forward, prioritise and compromise. I’ve seen so many projects get bogged down trying to find “Hail Mary” solutions to every conceivable problem or issue. Timelines and costs blow out and user experience is often compromised because the solution is over engineered. Accept that some problems can’t be solved with technology and will need to be addressed through process changes or people working differently. Pro tip:

  • Consider implementing the ‘minimal viable product’ (MVP) and add future improvements to your ‘roadmap’ to complete post go-live.


6. Setting off without a roadmap System go-live is often thought of as the “end of the end”. Project resources go back to BAU work, the solution stabilizes (hooray) and then, over weeks and months slowly begins to die (boo). Your talent tech stack might be optimised for your company’s current hiring strategy, priorities and culture but things change. 2020 handed us that lesson. Your talent tech stack shouldn’t be stable for long periods, there will always be room to improve or innovate (but you need to keep actively looking for these opportunities). If you’re going to achieve long term ROI, you need a roadmap. The roadmap might be micro improvements in configurations, simplifications or disruptive innovations in candidate experience or brand. For clarity, when I say ‘roadmap’ I’m not talking about your tech vendors product roadmap of new features (Side note: that’s important for tech selection. Read this blog post). I’m talking about your continuous system improvements and innovation. Pro tip:

  • Be agile.

  • Budget for resource/s to own your talent tech stack and drive innovation and continuous improvement.

  • Consider bringing in fresh eyes to see how your current talent tech could be optimised.

Conclusion Talent Tech implementations fail for several reasons, but each can be overcome. You control the implementation and its outcomes. Follow the advice here, plan well, monitor closely, redirect or reset if you need to and you’ll be well on the way to winning with talent tech. About Us Talent Tech Solutions advise and provide solutions to ensure our clients win with Talent Tech. We understand that our clients’ reputations are built on the successful delivery of Tech projects. We’re here to help our clients achieve project objectives and realise ROI without the pain. We do this by guiding clients at each and any stage of the project: selection, implementation and ongoing optimisation. With over a decade of local and international experience we add capability and capacity to our clients existing team and leverage project management, consulting and implementation best practices. We're technology agnostic and specialise in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), Candidate Relationship Management (CRM), psychometric testing, video interviewing, reference & background checking technology and system integrations. #implementation

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