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Two years ago, I got a call from the Director of Talent Acquisition. “Jeremy”, he said, “we’ve got a problem… the applicant tracking system we are using has gone out of business.” This was a big deal. Over the previous few years, the company had grown its revenue by up to 40% each year. Revenue was then several hundred million dollars per year. Any interruption to the company’s ability to track thousands of candidates and hire hundreds of great people each year would significantly impact the company’s financial goals.

As VP of Software Engineering, I led several agile teams that were building a custom digital platform for the business. One of those teams was working with the Talent Acquisition group to integrate a third-party Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and planning to build a custom ATS on our digital platform in the future. Those plans were about to become the company’s highest priority.

Leveraging third parties is a great way for companies to move quickly and grow. However, as that growth continues, third-party platforms can quickly become a liability. There is always the risk that third parties will pivot and go in another direction, lack the resources to keep pace with your company’s growth, or go out of business. Simply put: third parties aren’t always aligned with your company’s best interests.

Today, software developers have an embarrassment of riches. There are great technologies available to build a digital platform more quickly and cheaply than ever before. When you add up the costs of monthly subscriptions per user, the costs of working with outsourced development teams, and the costs of integrating multiple systems, the total quickly exceeds the cost of operating a dedicated in-house technology team.

It’s not just about controlling risk and cost. It’s also about speed and out-innovating your competition. Companies that build and maintain their own custom digital platforms will be able to move faster and out-innovate companies that build on third-party platforms. It’s better to customize the digital platform to the business rather than adapt the business to the digital platform. As the pace of innovation continues to accelerate, having complete control over a custom digital platform and being able to turn on a dime is a huge advantage.

So what happened to the Talent Acquisition department? I’m happy to say that the new ATS, built on a custom digital platform, launched just in time and the company’s financial targets weren’t impacted. At first, the ATS was a bare-bones application that handled only the most critical tasks. Today, it’s in its second iteration and is feature-rich.

The new ATS tracks candidates, schedules interviews, collects notes, and sends confirmation emails. Candidate information is no longer stranded on a third-party island. The ATS is integrated with other parts of the business, like the Legal and Human Resources departments. The agile team of software developers in collaboration with business stakeholders has done an amazing job. New hires are joining the company in greater numbers and more smoothly than ever before.