by John Long, CEO of Avionte Staffing Software
As many of you already know, I’m not a frequent writer, and I’m not involved much in the social media world. I rarely blog; in fact I can’t even remember the last time I posted on Facebook, and although I could probably figure it out, I’m not even sure how to tweet. Some may argue this is not real impressive for the CEO of a growing staffing software company. While that may be true, I can assure you that I’m passionate about my business and the staffing industry as a whole. And I’ll never refuse a phone call from a client. With that said, when I do decide to write, it’s typically because I feel there is something worth sharing.
That’s why I’m writing today.
Recently, I have been witnessing a disturbing trend in the way some staffing software providers deal with their clients’ data–or more accurately, take unfair control over their clients’ information. What’s happening should not be happening, and I want to make it known to staffing firms throughout the industry that there are easy measures you can take up front to protect your data and ensure your company is not left in a hostage situation.
What are these staffing software firms doing?
Here are just a few examples of what we are seeing on an all too consistent basis:
- Providers refusing to release a customer their data.
- Providers intentionally delaying the release of data.
- Providers changing table names to make conversions more difficult.
- Providers releasing incomplete data.
And if you think that’s bad, it has recently come to my attention that one software vendor has actually been using client’s data for their own personal gain and advancement. This is simply NOT acceptable.
It’s been very difficult for me to see this type of activity happening and say nothing. By saying nothing, I feel I would be 1) letting bullies and those with poor ethics win, and 2) failing to educate the industry and staffing firms who could benefit from being prepared.
First and foremost: your data is YOUR data. Where the data resides, and in what system it resides in, has nothing to do with ownership. You should be contractually guaranteed the ability to receive a physical copy of your database back-up at any time, and in a timely manner.
Let me provide you with some scenarios to make you think about the way in which you’re partnering with your software provider.
Consider these situations. What would you do?
1) No Access to Your Data.
- Your staffing software provider goes out of business: Think about what would happen to your business if, one day, your software provider suddenly ceased to exist. Would they take the time to call you to give you a heads up? Would you have access to all of your company data? And if your provider suddenly disappeared–with your data, could your business survive?
- Your provider decides to cut off your service without notice: It happens! Maybe your software provider decides you aren’t paying enough, you’re not paying fast enough, or whatever the case may be. Then what? If you don’t have a recent backup of your data, your options are terrible. Would you get lawyers involved? With enough time and money invested, you’ll eventually get your data, but at what cost?
2) Not Given Timely Data. Your data and all the history are critical to effectively running your business. While it may seem like timing isn’t that important (as long as you get the data), this isn’t at all the case. Timing is ESSENTIAL.
Why? When a staffing company decides to change software providers, a data conversion will almost always need to be performed. Most of the time, there are three conversions that need to be completed. The first is the starting point to ensure all the mapping is done correctly from the old to the new system. The second happens before a parallel period and allows you to verify the numbers match up. The third and final, is done right before going live.
The third conversion is the most time sensitive. Once the staffing company is done for the week, a backup usually needs to be made and delivered within a two-day period, so the new software company can take the backup and perform the conversion. For instance, say the “work” is done for the week on Thursday night at five p.m. A delivery of the software on Friday or Saturday would be required in order for the conversion to be done on Sunday. That way, on Monday, the staffing company can be live on the new software.
But we are seeing staffing software vendors say they can only provide a backup of today’s data in seven days. That isn’t good enough. You can’t afford to lose a week of data, and you don’t need the expense and disruption to your business of duplicate entry.
3) Outrageous Fees to Get Your Data. You request a copy of your data, but your provider requires that you pay an outrageous fee to release a backup. Don’t get me wrong, there is work required, butnot $1,000s or even $500 worth of work. However, some firms believe that if they increase “switching costs” by making it painful for you to get your data, that may increase your chances of deciding to stay put.
4) Locked into a Long-term Contract. As a software vendor, I can assure you that any explanation you are given for the necessity of a long-term contract is complete crap. Certainly it helps the software vendor to cover upfront costs involved with bringing you on as a client, but in the end, that is their risk of doing business. Your software provider should EARN your business every single month.
What can you do to protect your business?
Sadly, the scenarios I’ve outlined have become the norm for a few of our industry’s software vendors. They are a huge deal, and an unnecessary expense and frustration for the staffing and recruiting industry. I could go on and on with more examples, but let’s get to some practical advice. Make sure your software contract includes clauses that clearly define:
- That you own your data.
- That you have the right to a backup of your data at any time.
- That the data will be provided within 72 hours of your request.
- That the data will be provided with a usable backup of all tables, including setup tables
- That the cost for a copy of your data will not exceed a fixed amount
And do not sign a contract that requires a long-term commitment. If your current vendor doesn’t believe they need to earn your business each and every month, then why should they earn your business at all?
Why blog about bad practices in staffing software?
At its core, the staffing industry is a people business. Helping people find jobs is one of the higher callings in society. Every day, YOU positively affect people’s lives. That’s why I enjoy this industry as much as I do. We don’t find people work, but we help you do it. And like you, we focus on ethics and integrity. Without these two values, what are we in the long run?
As you know, there are staffing companies who operate by unethical practices (for example, falsifying Workers’ Comp rates, improperly classifying 1099/W-2 employees, hiring illegal workers, or even failing to pay payroll taxes). Companies like these give the staffing industry a black eye and lead to more government regulations that hinder those that are playing by the rules.
Likewise, the staffing software companies that are holding data hosting and handcuffing clients with excessive fees, long-term contracts, and terms of service are giving my industry a bad name.
So I urge you: PLEASE take this seriously. Take the simple, yet necessary steps to protect your business. This is not about Avionté. This is simply about my personal commitment to raising the bar on business practices employed by all staffing software vendors.