Written by: Elissa Montoya
It’s not a secret that gaining the funding to implement a new ATS (Applicant Tracking System) is much like winning the lottery. However, if your organization had a great year, your CIO supports the value of using HCM (Human Capital Management) systems to gain efficiencies, Talent Acquisition holds an important role in your business, and all the planets align, it can happen!
What many don’t realize is that your actual implementation can become even more of a political campaign than convincing your leadership team to make the investment in the first place. Depending on the size of your organization, how formal they may be, and how easy they adapt to change, the politics can quickly become your biggest pitfall and potentially derail your project without some carefully executed strategy and sometimes a bit of fancy footwork.
One of the more important, and most overlooked, aspects of an ATS implementation (or any HCM system for that matter), is Change Management. It’s so easy to get caught up in design decisions, process improvements and candidate experience, that Change Management can feel like unnecessary busy work. Let’s face it, these tasks are not always as fun as designing a new career portal. Generally speaking this process involves some sometimes painful self-reflection, solicitation of often painful opinions, and an unbiased review of all your current processes and practices. After ripping that band-aid off, you have to then come up with a “What’s in it for you” sales pitch for all your different stakeholder groups, many of which may be deeply impacted by the change. The level of effort this process presents often deters a project team, especially a resource strapped one, from tackling the business of Change Management altogether.
Regardless of how much attention is put on Change Management, most work diligently to identify all opportunities for process optimization, as this is likely the reason you were in the market for a new ATS in the first place. There are probably pain points and bottle-necks that you hope to alleviate through the implementation. It would be unusual if at least one of these points didn’t involve another functional area. A few obvious examples are account provisioning or requisition and offer approvals. You will also have data integrations and migration, which will require collaboration and development by a technical team, which is usually housed in IT.
As you retool current processes and work through your technical pieces of the project, there is the possibility of blame being cast (or the perception of that) or for feelings to get hurt. To be successful, everyone needs to own up when a business process is not currently working, and for many, that ownership becomes very personal. The key to this process is to remain collaborative, be quick to accept whatever ownership for previous failure you rightfully should, and pay attention to your partners. If a conversation is difficult, keep it data driven and stick to those facts. Keep in mind that often times, it is not about being right or even proving you have perfected and plotted a “better way”, but instead to influence your peers of the value of the new process for everyone involved, and the accolades they will receive for being part of that improvement.
The politics of a project are not always in the wheel house of every project manager. They involve people and relationships, not deliverables and dates. In addition, in many organizations, while a politically savvy Project Manager will prove much more successful, they may still need the assistance of the project’s executive sponsor to help quell inter-functional tension and provide project support at a higher level. As important as the politicking is, overstepping can be political suicide as well. Again, be sensitive to the cues around you, over plan rather than under plan, and ensure you have a champion with the finesse to come to the rescue if necessary.