SaaS applications speed up CRM and make sense for Syntax

Person recruiting someone

The recruitment business is one dependent on accurate, up-to-date information delivered quickly. The advent of cloud-based software has helped this process considerably as Derby-based Syntax Consultancy found out.

The company is the largest independent recruitment consultancy in the Midlands and offers a global recruitment service for IT, engineering and manufacturing businesses and specialises in matching highly skilled candidates with organisations that have specific technical requirements.

But Syntax realised that that some of existing software was not as efficient as it could have been so, in 2012 it reviewed its customer relationship management (CRM) and business reporting applications.

It was soon decided they needed to be upgraded and Syntax engaged in a company-wide evaluation called ‘Jobs to Cash’ to work out where changes could be made. A dedicated project manager was hired to consult with every team member on how the business could be improved, and understand what was required from a new CRM and business intelligence service.

Syntax bases its business on key performance indicators (KPIs) but traditionally used data that was, in some cases, up to six weeks old, as its legacy CRM system was unable to extract data in real time. The Syntax IT team had built the system in 2004, but the agency had outgrown it and needed one with scalable reporting and analysis functionality.

“Our legacy CRM system made it difficult to analyse KPIs. Data entry was manual and reporting required the correlation of multiple spread sheets from each recruiter,” says Roger Frost, Syntax’s managing director. “Managers spent a significant proportion of their time collating this information into reports to present at board meetings. This vertical reporting structure left too much room for inaccuracy and human error, so it was clear that an overhaul was required."

The existing system was based around guesswork rather than empirical evidence. “Without a good data management and analysis system in place, we made crucial decisions based on assumptions about our business, rather than according to the numbers," says Frost. "We knew that this would ultimately negatively affect revenue, and therefore needed a business intelligence solution that could be rolled out across the agency that would provide automated real time KPI reporting.”

The new service also needed to be remotely accessible to enable recruiters to remain productive while on the move. This prohibited Syntax from commissioning another in-house system. There was a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) demand to consider as recruiters wanted to be able to use their own mobile devices within their jobs.

Using SaaS

The procurement team decided that cloud computing, specifically Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), was the way forward. Online CRM software, accessed from desktops and devices via a browser and an internet connection would allow Syntax to easily compile accurate data and work on the move. The Jobs to Cash team, including Frost, considered 12 different SaaS offerings before selecting Bullhorn’s CRM/ATS product.

Frost says that the deciding factor was the additional reporting functionality Bullhorn offered through the Bullhorn Marketplace.

The Bullhorn Marketplace comprises of more than 30 SaaS applications from a range of recruitment software developers. Syntax implemented two third-party software services through the Bullhorn Marketplace in order to evaluate KPIs: InsightSquared, a business intelligence service that gives organisations real-time information about their operation and Jobmate, a multi-posting vacancy tool.

“InsightSquared and the real-time business intelligence it offered was what swayed our decision,” says Frost. “Real-time intelligence that would inform our strategy was the solution to our core problem: inefficiency due to lack of KPI-led management,” he says.

The deal was signed in March 2012 and the agency’s historical data was merged and mapped in the new system.

Business benefits

The Syntax team is already on track to achieve its goal of return on investment within 12 months of implementation. Having spent the time identifying problems in the organisation, Frost and his team successfully called upon Bullhorn and its Marketplace partners to resolve each inefficiency and the result was instant access to information, increased process visibility, and huge time savings on daily activity and management.

Frost says: “The implementation was time-consuming due to the data mapping, but absolutely necessary. We introduced a completely different set of KPIs so we had an accurate starting point from which to measure our success over time. The new system enables constant tracking and amendment of inefficient processes. We’ve revised how candidates and consultants interact with one another and how candidates are measured in their placements.”

The agency immediately saw radical improvement in visibility across all aspects of the business. KPIs are now held in a central database, rather than in spreadsheets, and are easily accessible by managers at every level of the business. The same KPIs are used to measure success within the business; information on fill ratios, close rates, and staff hours can be viewed and evaluated instantly. As Syntax’s recruiters used Bullhorn, the new data-driven environment enabled managers to weed out problems and quickly identify and address data inaccuracies.

Communication within the company, which had been impeded by the disjointed legacy system, improved overnight as the new SaaS application enabled teams to easily share resources and expertise from wherever they were working. Within the first few days of implementation, a junior recruiter, charged with a very high-level job vacancy, was able to quickly dig down into the system to discover that the team knew another client that had required the same skill set. The contact at this client was able to provide invaluable information on the specifics of the job description that enabled the junior recruiter to find a perfect candidate. The £7,000 the recruiter brought in for this particular placement would not have happened without Bullhorn.

Automated business intelligence means managers at Syntax now spend less time poring over historic data and more time driving strategy and productivity within their teams. Time spent reporting to the board has been cut and Syntax expects this to be reduced further as quality, comprehensive KPIs and reports, which once took hours to compile, become easier to generate in just a few clicks.

Bullhorn has also positively impacted the IT services side of the business. The IT team, no longer tasked with maintaining the old system, can take on additional contracts with external clients, increasing overall agency revenue.

The Bullhorn implementation has also created healthy competition within the agency. Frost says: “The transparency of activity on an individual and team level has ignited a sense of competition within and between teams and our recruiters enjoy trying to outperform their colleagues. They are spurred on by the visibility of their real-time results.”

Future developments

Frost says that business intelligence is “crucial to the future of Syntax and we are installing screens on the walls that will be dedicated to InsightSquared real-time activity and results.”

“We’ll also be looking at ways to make the most of the mobility benefits of Bullhorn’s SaaS model. BYOD was a big talking point in 2012 and we will now ensure our recruiters can access as much functionality as possible while they are on the move or working remotely.”

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.