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Unraveling Build vs Buy (vs Integrate) Dilemma for Applicant Tracking System

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There’s one statistic that caught our attention.

Nearly 60% of SMB organizations have an ATS in place today, and yet 50% of them are dissatisfied with their primary ATS. (Source)

But why? Well, there are numerous reasons such as,

    1. Lack of features and functionality

    2. Scalability concerns

    3. Unintuitive design

    4. Expensive in long-term

This creates a dilemma of whether to build your own applicant tracking system or switch to another vendor.

However, Azilen being a product engineering company, we believe that it was never a build vs buy situation.

Instead, maximizing the ATS potential through integration has always been the main goal.

Because whether you opt for custom ATS or pre-built – without integration, it’ll be difficult for you to streamline your hiring process due to manual workflows, limited collaboration, and error-prone processes.

That makes the ATS integration with other HRTech solutions a vital role in modernizing your hiring process.

Build vs Buy (vs Integrate) an Applicant Tracking System – A Decision-Making Framework

Heads or tails? We’re just joking!

Flipping a coin shouldn’t determine whether to build or buy. Although, there is still a 50% possibility that you will end up with the right decision.

However, with this framework, you can make those odds 100% right for you.

We have listed 7 key considerations in the framework. In each of them, you have to select whether build or buy.

You can also rank their weight in your decision, and use the final score as recommended course of action.

1. Integration compatibility

Seamless integration capability is a deal breaker when it comes to an applicant tracking system.

By integrating ATS with various HRTech solutions, you can experience several benefits ranging from improved workflow efficiency to enhanced candidate experience and centralized data management to seamless candidate evaluation.

📌 Read our detailed guide on Workday Greenhouse Integration for better understanding

  • Built-in compatibility
  • Extensive integration capabilities
  • Tailored integrations
  • Scalability and futureproofing
  • Packaged integration with additional cost
  • Dependency on third-party vendors
  • Limited customization
  • Easy setup and maintenance

2. Features

Whether you want to buy or build an applicant tracking system, it’s essential to prioritize the needs of your end users.

For that, you can use the MoSCoW method.

build ATS

  • Tailored features
  • Flexibility to add or modify features
  • Enhanced user experience
  • Future-proof scalability
  • Pre-built features
  • Automatic updates
  • Standardized user experience
  • Maintenance from the vendor

3. Performance

The measure of true elegance lies in the solution that holds the ability to meet your performance requirements.

Furthermore, the solution should not only meet your current performance requirements but also possess the scalability to cater to your future needs.

  • Requirement-driven scaling up or down
  • Direct control over performance
  • Faster response to your needs
  • Lower latency and faster response time
  • Performance relies on server capacity
  • Performance optimization relies on vendor
  • Limited customization
  • Multi-tenancy impacts performance

4. Time to market

The time-to-market is a crucial consideration when deciding whether to buy or build your own applicant tracking system.

SaaS solutions, which are pre-built, typically have a faster time-to-market due to the rapid deployment and implementation process.

Meanwhile, custom ATS, which is tailored to your specific business needs, generally takes a longer time to market.

However, it’s important to note that – in both cases – the timeframe can vary on the specific requirements, circumstances, and overall project scope.

  • Longer time to market
  • Deployment takes time
  • Agility in adapting to changing needs
  • Rapid feedback and improvement
  • Relatively shorter time to market
  • Independent deployment
  • Delayed adoption of changing needs
  • Cost efficiency

5. Customization

A lot of recruitment firms or agencies have unique requirements. They seek an ATS that aligns with their company’s identity.

So, if customization is a top priority for you, opting for a custom ATS is particularly the superior choice.

Because with custom ATS, you have full control over features, functionality, and design which you can tailor precisely according to your needs.

On the other hand, pre-built ATS offers limited customization options as they’re designed to serve a broad user base.

  • Enhanced user experience
  • Alignment with unique business goals
  • Long-term cost saving
  • Seamless integration with other systems
  • Standardized user experience
  • Limited customization options
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Localization and internationalization

6. Security and compliance

When considering whether to buy or build an applicant tracking system, this is one of the most important considerations to take into account.

Prioritizing security and compliance helps you establish trust among applicants, protects sensitive data, and reduces the risk of legal and financial consequences.

  • Direct control over security
  • Integrate additional security layers
  • Implement preferred global compliance
  • Customizable security protocols
  • Minimal control over security
  • Industry-standard security practices
  • Backup and disaster recovery systems
  • Standardized security protocols

7. Cost and ROI

Without a doubt, cost and ROI are the bottom-line looks at your build vs buy decision.

Therefore, it’s important to note that each option can vary depending on factors such as – your specific requirements, integration complexity, size of your organization, and availability of SaaS solutions in the market.

  • Higher upfront cost
  • Long-term ROI cost savings
  • Higher scalability and flexibility
  • High overhead costs
  • Lower upfront cost
  • Short-term cost savings
  • Minimal scalability and flexibility
  • Reduced maintenance costs

Evaluate and Weight the Key Consideration Score

As you have assessed the various considerations in this framework, you may find that ‘Build’ wins in some areas while ‘Buy’ wins in others.

However, it’s important to recognize that not all considerations carry equal weight.

Therefore, take a moment to think about not only the winner area but also the importance you would attribute to each key consideration. By doing this, you will arrive at the right conclusion.

Key Consideration Scoring Table
Key Consideration Add Importance Between 1 - 10
Build vs Buy
Integration Compatibility
Time vs Value
Security and Compliance
Your Final Score

If your final score is below 45, you can buy pre-built ATS. But if your final score is above 45, you must build your own as your requirements seem to be exclusive.

The Verdict: To Build vs Buy (vs Integrate) an Applicant Tracking System

As you navigate the build vs buy (vs integrate) dilemma for ATS, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

The decision you make will depend on your organization’s specific requirements, objectives, future plans, and available resources.

By understanding the benefits and challenges associated with each option and carefully evaluating key considerations, it’ll be easier for you to make well-informed decisions.

So, whether you choose to buy, integrate, or build your own applicant tracking system, we’re here to support you throughout the entire journey.

We understand the complexities involved with ATS and offer our 14+ years of HRTech expertise to minimize risks, optimize costs, and ensure successful ATS engineering and implementation.

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