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How to make a business case for recruiting software

As a member of the Sales Operations team at Workable, the largest part of my job is making business cases for software that support our sales teams. The process I use to create these business cases isn’t confined to sales though; it can easily be used by HR professionals who’re looking for an ATS or recruiting software for their company.

It sounds like we’d be employing vastly different arguments, but trust me, all compelling business cases have the same basic elements. To help you make your own case, I’m going to walk you through my process of building a business case for recruiting software — or applicant tracking software (ATS) as an example.

1. Prepare and plan (1 – 2 hours)

Business plans are formulaic, but they take time. You should anticipate putting aside dedicated time on your calendar to hold yourself to deadlines. To help you plan, I’ve put rough time estimations next to each step of this checklist. However, it all depends on what you’d like to spend on the system, how complex your needs are and how many people are involved in your procurement process.

At this stage, ask your manager or someone on your procurement team what their process is for bringing on a new tool and what requirements they have for submissions. You may find unexpected red-tape or allies. Additionally, see if they will give you an idea of a budget so you can keep your evaluation reasonable. Successful business cases can overcome many budget objections, but knowing the potential issue from the start is crucial.

2. Identify business goals and pain points by reflecting on your team (1 – 2 hours)

Business cases become tactical by bringing in pain. Consider your daily workflow, what an hour of your time is worth and how much time you spend on tasks that can be automated with an ATS. Now extrapolate: How much time and money is invested on these tasks by your team or department? You may find that in hiring for a single role with your current process, you spend as much (or more) than the annual cost of an ATS.

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3. Research and combine the power of software review websites with your network’s feedback ( ~1 week)

Now that you know the resources that are under-utilized with your current process, it’s time to research three to five potential solutions that can solve this pain. You can do this solely through Google and rely on websites like Capterra, Trustpilot and G2Crowd. However, management will also want to see feedback from people in your network who actually use these systems. I’m a member of a local Sales Operations group and about a dozen similar ones on LinkedIn. Any time I’m evaluating a tool, I turn to my network first to get a sense of the landscape. Rave reviews about specific software might have been accurate a few months ago, but current customers will tell you that support is lacking or key features have yet to be released. Or there could be tool you’ve never considered that people swear by. After combining feedback from your peers with review sites, you’re well on your way to making your business case for recruiting software.

4. Evaluate your shortlist and distill your findings (1 – 2 weeks)

One of my favorite aspects of software evaluations is that they follow the same process: Discovery Call, Demo, Pilot/Trial (if applicable), Negotiation, Signature and Implementation. When you go to your boss, having a list of feedback isn’t enough. They’re going to want to know what you think of the tools and how it will help their team. To do that, solicit your ATS shortlist for demos, explain your pain, watch a quick demo, compile notes alongside peer feedback and, if possible, pilot the software.

Believe it or not, sales reps are there to help you make your business case and can offer additional competitive intelligence for tools on your list. I’ve gone into plenty of calls in the name of due diligence thinking I would eventually rule out the software, only to have the sales rep show another feature that put them at the top.

After you’ve gone through demos and received initial pricing, you should have a decent number of notes in a spreadsheet or notebook. Take these thoughts and condense them into a succinct pro-con sheet so when your manager asks for details, they can see their business pain and how each software would address those issues.

Your condensed pro-con sheet should outline:

  1. Software you evaluated
  2. Features that will solve your team’s pain – If there’s anything particularly exciting your team wants, highlight it.
  3. Implementation & Training Timeline – Describes how to make the switch from your current process and/or tool.
  4. Price – Remember that SaaS pricing is negotiable to ward off any “sticker shock”, but your business case is going to assuage any concern.
  5. Notes – This column is key as many software have similar features and prices making it tricky to determine competitive differences. Use this section to be specific about why you think a tool is a strong fit for your team. If you noticed any “red flags” when speaking to the sales rep, put them here too. The procurement process is a strong indication of what your implementation and support experience will be like.
  6. Present your findings in a thoughtful and compelling format (2 hours to create, 1 hour to present)

Through your evaluations, you learned the ATS landscape and you understood which tool(s) can solve your pain. To make your work truly digestible for your audience, it’s time to present. Do so in whichever manner makes sense for your team. Personally, I opt for short, concise slide decks and have my pro-con sheet ready should I be prompted for details.

Whatever you choose, remember that this is your chance to present return on investment (ROI) – make it count. You’ve made yourself a subject matter expert in the ATS space with this project, so carry yourself accordingly. The combination of team pain, network feedback, and software capabilities come together to make ROI. Start by reminding your team how painful the current hiring process is and what you lose by spending time on tasks that can be automated. Feedback from your network lends additional credibility to potential vendors and shows others have successfully solved the pain you described. Outlining key features shows how time and money are saved so your team can tackle more meaningful projects you’ve had to put on hold. Long story short, your business case for an ATS shouldn’t have to “spell out” ROI, it should be evident from your thoughtful work.

All business cases follow the same rough framework: Prepare to invest time in the evaluation, find pain in your existing process, research by engaging your network, run careful evaluations of top contenders, and distill your findings into a presentation for your team. Good luck and may you get the ATS of your dreams!

This post was written by Samantha Thompson, Senior Sales Enablement Specialist at Workable.

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