There’s a rule of thumb when it comes to purchasing technology: always look deep down the horse’s throat. Because it’s never a gift horse, and what you don’t know is probably going to hurt you. Or, to follow the metaphor a bit: bite you, kick you, and possibly stomp all over you.
When you’re doing your due diligence prior to a large tech purchase, doing your process mapping, gathering requirements, etc, you are also (one would hope) gathering lists of vendors who might possibly fit the bill for what you need. As part of that process, you’ll also be doing things like looking at your integration points, working out what current systems you’ll need your new system to plug into, etc, etc. And, if you’re being thoughtful about it, you’re going to give weight to vendors who have already created integrations with the tools you have in place (ie, you’re looking at CRM - you probably want to know if those vendors have track records integrating with your ATS).
That’s natural - and smart. You’re right to worry about that. Heck, if you buy something that you can’t connect, it’s a bit like buying a washing machine only to discover you should have measured your doorways first because now it’s sitting in your driveway, you’ve paid for it, and your options are to return it or doing some sort of construction - and taking a financial hit either way. All because you forgot to measure first.
But, that’s not you, is it? YOU measure. Heck, you do it a couple of times: “measure twice, cut once”, as dad always used to say. And so it is - you made sure this would work. And, it does. Your integration begins to move forward, and it’s smooth sailing.
Or… is it? Let’s say you bought that shiny CRM with a good, proven track record of integrations with your ATS. Everything lined up - just like the vendor told you it would. Heck, as a bonus, just before you issued your RFP, they acquired a cool career site technology vendor and an AI chatbot from some company in Luxembourg. (Which was a funny coincidence, because one of your favorite shows of all time, Amazon’s “Patriot", is partially set there). So you took this as a good sign and when they offered you a significant discount for the additional tools, you decided to make your internal case.
It was a little bit of a stretch to get the funding for the career site and chatbot, but your boss liked the point you made: your company was going to have to invest in tools like then sooner or later, and waiting means having to pay a higher cost, either to your CRM vendor, or - if you decided to go with yet another vendor, additional integration costs and time. Striking now seemed like a no-brainer when you factored in the discount.
Remember the gift horse, the one who’d as happily stomp on you as bite you? Yeah. That one. Here’s the thing: it just raised its rear leg, and you’re walking directly behind it. Not only are you about to step in something nasty, but there’s also a decent chance you’ll get kicked in the head as a follow-up.
There’s a reason you’re being offered that “great rate”. It’s not because your salesperson (nice as I’m sure they are) has taken a shine to you. It’s because they’re in an M&A environment, and the pressures on them are… weird. Particularly if - as is often the case - these mergers were driven by outside investors.
See, here’s the thing: when an investor pours money into technology companies, it’s not usually a long-term investment. They’re looking to ramp up sales and revenue as quickly as possible so they can get their money back, along with a nice return as a thank you. “Revenue Acceleration” is the name of the game. Part of that may well mean that they’re gently, ahem, “encouraging” the sales team to get aggressive out there. Which means they’re trotting out a lot of gift horses and praying you don’t look down their throats.
Let’s just put this out there: do you want to be the test pilot, guinea pig, first kiss. Seriously, I know we all claim we remember our first kiss, but… do any of us remember it being any good? There was awkwardness, noses getting crushed, braces locking together, and very likely horrible breath. Being first is rarely a good thing. Especially when your job is on the line.
Remember, all that due diligence, making sure your new toolset could connect with your existing tech? How good it was to pay attention to that and not make an obvious mistake? Bad news: you still made an obvious mistake. Here’s why: the odds that those three technologies you just bought as a package actually talk to one another, let alone provide seamless data transfers, is pretty slim. Not only that, if you’re at all worried about data compliance, did you check to make sure the new acquisitions are up to speed? Just because the CRM you bought is, doesn’t mean… well, you get the picture. Beyond that, consider the culture you’re buying is one of M&A. They’re not just trying to create a merged code-base (if they are not, that’s… worse), they’re trying to merge corporate cultures. Service levels are going to get wonky, people are going to get let go - some of whom you might have been partnering with, and it’s gonna get real hard to have a good time. At least until they sort things out - which… well, these things don’t tend to turn on a dime.
Like the sign says: buyer beware. It’s very, very tempting to buy an all-in-one (or, a bunch-in-one, nobody’s claiming they have it all - yet) solution, vs bolting together best-of-breeds. Because it’s easier, the reporting tends to be cleaner, and you have fewer vendors to juggle. That said, be aware of their history. Find out a few things: is all their technology home-grown, or is some of it from acquisitions? If the latter, how much of it was built by others? What’s the history - when did this all happen, and when did they get to a unified code base? Are they planning on doing more acquisitions, and/ or are they looking to get bought? Granted I don’t know how often you’ll get this information directly from the horse’s mouth, per se, but with a bit of digging and asking you can generally get a sense of it. And that’s worth doing.