Does your integration need to be a work of art? When should you use an out-of-the-box integration instead of building a custom one?

On the surface, integrations seem so simple: move data from system A to system B. Done.

In many cases, it is as simple as entering your credentials—and many SaaS vendors have pre-built integrations that do just that—and “Boom!” data begins to flow.

However, often the out-of-the-box integration doesn’t meet your unique requirements, and the excitement about the vendor’s promise of a pre-built integration fades. Many factors determine if you should build a custom integration and, if so, how “custom” it should be.

The Recruiting and Hiring Workflows

Consider, for example, the flow of data between an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and an HR platform (HRIS). Applicant tracking systems are used by talent acquisition teams to manage the processes related to recruiting, including finding, and managing job applicants and preparing and delivering job offers to successful candidates. The HR system generally contains organizational and employee data and is often used as the source of truth for open positions and job requisitions.

Integrations between these two systems are very common, as they streamline the end-to-end process of opening job requisitions, hiring against that requisition, and completing the hiring process for the new employee. Integrations can reduce administrative effort with these tasks, speed up the process, reduce errors, and improve candidate and employee experiences.

An ATS-HRIS integration is typically bi-directional, with the HRIS sending organizational and job requisition data to the ATS and the ATS sending back to the HRIS data regarding the successful candidate so that they can be hired and onboarded into the role.

Criteria to Determine if You Need a Custom Integration

When deciding if your organization needs a custom integration, here are some of the variables that may drive you to build a custom integration between your ATS and HRIS:

  • What are your business processes related to recruiting and hiring? How are job requisitions approved? How are offers approved? How does the talent acquisition teamwork with the HR team? How does your business process map to the applications you use? In many cases, the out-of-the-box integration will not be able to accommodate the way you prefer to operate your business processes.
  • Is the ATS and/or HRIS new to your business? If so, is this the right time to consider changing your business processes to accommodate how an out-of-the-box integration works?
  • Have you configured your ATS or HRIS to accommodate some unique workflow requirements? Non-standard or customized implementations of applications can necessitate a custom integration.
  • Do you require custom fields or templates to store and manage information related to candidates, the position, or your organization? Custom data typically requires some kind of integration customization or tailoring to ensure this type of data can be transmitted and received.
  • Is unstructured data being passed to a more structured system – for example, an address that is a simple open text field in one system and a highly structured group of objects in the destination system? In this case, the integration will need to be designed to transform and parse the data to meet the needs of the receiving system.
  • Is the ATS used as an internal job board? If so, you may need to create an integration to automatically provision user accounts for your employees. Additional logic is also required to avoid duplication of HRIS records when an existing employee is a successful candidate for a job.
  • Is special processing required when former employees or contractors apply for jobs? Often, custom integrations are required to handle the business logic associated with these situations. You may also require logic to assign previously used or existing employee IDs, so you don’t create duplicate records.
  • Do you have clearly defined systems of truth for all candidate and employee data, or do you have systems that are each updated independently and are managed as separate systems of truth? In this case, you may need to refine your business processes to allow an integration to overwrite data from one system to another or include logic to exclude certain data in specific use cases.
  • Do you have complex compensation rules, onboarding logic, or multi-jurisdictional hiring rules that require sophisticated data handling between systems?
  • Do you require special handling of certain types of hires? For example, executive hiring or union-based hires may require a different pattern than non-union salary positions.
  • Do you require specialized error and exception handling logic that alerts different people if different types of issues are detected during the hiring process?
  • How do you onboard new hires, and do you want to automate the process to complete onboarding tasks ranging from completing tax forms to assigning email addresses, software licenses, and procuring hardware?

What’s the Value Proposition of a Custom Integration?

The above factors tend to drive organizations towards building custom integrations because most out-of-the-box integrations won’t address these needs. There are a few other important criteria to consider when thinking about building a custom integration:

  • How many hires do you have each year, and in each category? How much time would you save, how many errors would be eliminated, and how much would this improve the candidate experience? Ultimately, how much is a custom integration worth to the company?
  • How much will it cost to build this integration? Cost is a function of the complexity of the design and the platform on which it is built. If your company uses a modern Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS), this can lower the cost of development. Regardless of platform, there will be costs associated with confirming business requirements, architecting a solution, and completing comprehensive test and validation steps.
  • Do you expect your business processes to remain relatively stable, or do you anticipate changes in your business that will change how you hire? If so, this may require the integration to be revised to accommodate those changes.

Custom integrations can provide immense value to organizations, especially for organizations with high recruiting volumes within a complex business environment. It is vital to understand the value of the automation and recognize that you should not attempt to automate every potential hiring scenario. Scoping at the initial stage of an integration project will give you a sense of the cost and timeline for a new integration, including the cost of building different components of the functionality. Keeping the integration’s value in mind throughout the project is crucial. Scope creep often happens during discovery sessions, but it is likely impractical to automate everything. An event that happens once a year may not justify building that scenario into an integration.

Custom Integration Return on Investment

By keeping the ROI of the integration top of mind, the project team can stay focused on building an integration that drives value and can reign in discussions about the “art of the possible.” A great integration project team will provide guidance around cost, effort, and risk related to complexity, helping you make sound decisions regarding the best way to invest your time and money for integration success.

At Dispatch, we encourage our clients to think about their “Victory Statements” at the start of the project – what does success look like and what do they anticipate as a return on their investment? These victory statements are touchstones throughout the project, and after the project is complete, we work with our clients to assess if victory was achieved. Sometimes we purposely eliminate functionality from the project that adds cost or risk without an adequate return. In many cases, once the initial integration is in production and stable, we can revisit these items to further enhance the value of the solution.

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