Blog & News

Who Said the ATS Is Dead?

Written By
Agustín Donati
Director of Product Marketing

How many times in recent years have we heard the phrase: The ATS is dead? “Applicant Tracking Systems are systems of the past” is something that I have read on too many blog articles and presentations by emerging recruiting systems and even analysts. And yet, the ATS market keeps growing at a staggering 8% a year and is expected to reach 2.34 billion by 2026. All major companies have one, or are spending millions replacing and implementing one. The reason why is simple: The need to track applicants is not going anywhere.

State of the Nation: Addressing the Current ATS Market

To understand why this claim is being made, it’s important to analyze the current market landscape of recruiting systems. On the one hand, you have the legacy ATS vendors, those that inaugurated the category and are struggling to survive by purchasing other companies or even sunsetting their legacy systems and promising their customers with a new platform panacea that has no clear horizon.

And on the other hand, you have a new wave of vendors that are the sons and daughters of the era of social media – and most importantly of venture capital. They have reduced the talent acquisition needs of large corporations to something that looks more like a social media platform than a business transformation platform. And don’t get me wrong, TA as with any other practice that involves multiple stakeholders, is a social endeavour, but by no means it is as trivial as sharing a picture of your brunch. Aligning talent acquisition with the core objectives of the business, complying with privacy regulations, handling recruiting across multiple branches of the business at a global scale, collecting and processing complex data, and adapting to the needs of individual stakeholders are only some of the huge challenges TA teams face in their daily lives.

The Point Problem

In the last decade we’ve also seen the rise and fall of a big variety of point solutions. We can all probably name at least 10 systems that became trendy for a while and eventually lost their candor. From assisted search to mobile apply systems, some of them were really interesting technologies, but they were mostly band-aids meant to cover the shortcomings of legacy systems. In a way they distracted the market, and generated a sort of point solutions FOMO syndrome.

All in all, in most cases these band-aids couldn’t save traditional ATS solutions from themselves and became yet another integration point that broke from time to time. Moreover, the lack of centralization resulted in yet another system recruiters had to log into and with data scattered across different platforms, reporting suffered as well. So, even though they made some improvements to the current TA tech stack of some companies, for most it only delayed the inevitable: finding a new ATS.

So, Where Is the Claim “the ATS Is Dead” Coming From?

First and foremost, it sounds like a claim that is looking to break with the status quo and provide you with something new and refreshing. Exciting, right? But, is it? One of the main flaws of legacy applicant tracking systems is that they were not built to keep up. They were designed to do exactly what they did, in exactly the way they did it. So when social interactions, consumers expectations and all-in-all technology evolved, they were simply left behind. They were unable to embrace change and use it to make their offerings relevant to their (new) age.

The new wave of recruiting platforms, the “ATS denialists” as I will call them from now on, landed on the market with the promise that their systems are built to be relevant and deliver on what people are expecting today. What people are used to today. And today is the keyword here. Because that’s where the ATS denialists become one with what they are denying. Their architecture makes them very similar to what legacy ATS vendors are: one trick ponies. They are built with very specific business logics in their code, based on their best practices of today. And that is like building a road that ends in a cliff. The same cliff that legacy vendors are falling off now: change.

 A New ATS: Built For Change

We all agree with the fact that legacy ATS systems are not what companies need in order to keep pace with the level of disruption and innovation of this modern age. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t need an ATS. It just means that the ATS needs to be re-defined. But this cannot be simply a name change, a flamboyant slogan, or the introduction of some shiny new features. It needs to happen from the ground up. The new ATS needs to enable innovation, be extensible and should be disruption-free. And that can only be achieved with a platform model that allows companies to use the system as their own innovation lab.

This is where ATSs, both legacy and emerging ones, have failed tremendously: they have trapped customers into their way of recruiting. They haven’t been enablers of recruiting practices, more so the contrary: they have limited them. And this is something we have been working on at Avature since we started, we have conceived our system as a business and innovation tool that can be used as an ATS. Most importantly: that can be used as what our customers consider their ATS should be. And we understand that that will change over time, it might become more complex, simpler, or just different, and that’s why Avature was built to change and adapt together with you. This is the way our code has been built and the way it has evolved over 10 years. Enabling change is something that is embedded in our system architecture. We truly believe that that’s what makes Avature unique*.

The ATS Is Dead. Long Live the ATS

So, that’s why “the ATS is dead” is not only a false premise that lacks depth, but it is also a trap: it is a wolf disguised as a sheep. It is a legacy ATS disguised as a unicorn. I believe that the really meaningful questions are: how will your system allow you to embrace the change you ignore will happen? Will you outgrow it? What is your current system’s ability to turn upside down completely? If the technology you are using doesn’t have a good answer to these questions, it’s scary. Because this is not something that can be changed easily. Asking a system to do something different to what it’s architecture dictates is like asking a chicken to be an eagle: It won’t fly high.

*We’re not alone in thinking that. Brandon Hall Group honored the Avature ATS with its gold award for Best Advance in Talent Acquisition Technology in December 2019. In their own words, the Avature ATS combines modern web technology with powerful customization and automation, and they were impressed by the collective results achieved by our clients

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