For every Search Firm, there comes a moment when it must change the present database. Nothing happens overnight, but one day you are there. Simply put, one day, your database is no longer up to its task. Wait too long, and you may be too late. The moment to decide when to get a new database may be as important as to decide what kind of database to buy.
In any Executive Search Firm (in most Firms I suppose) the database is the very engine that keeps the company’s heart = the business “pumping”. In a Search Firm, in my mind, the database may even be more important than a Search Consultant or Researcher. Seldom will just one person stop your business, while the wrong database might do just that! The worst scenario case may cost you millions or even be the beginning of the end of your Firm.
How a bad database looks like! I have heard many bad stories about recruiting-related databases. E.g., the database does not deliver, is unreliable, lacks capacity, and is awkward, slow and insecure. We cannot customise it. We can never find any data because the codes are wrong and the data we can find is no good anyway because the data is insufficient, or no one has updated it. We cannot print the reports we want, and we cannot get the business intelligence we want. The screens are full of small text no one can see. It is impossible to get a good candidate overview on one screen. Difficult to learn, difficult to use. Horrible user experience. The list of complaints longer than my arm.
So, my question is: Why was the “bad” database acquired in the first place? Why did you not do a proper Due Diligence of everything before you acquired the database? The focus here is on “the why”, not on “who did this”. We all make mistakes, me too. Focusing on finding a scapegoat does not solve the problem. Finding out what went wrong and why might. Besides, I think people usually tend to know “who did this” but not "the why". We should focus on “the why” so we do not repeat the same mistake all over again.
A metaphor to make a point: If you would like to become a Formula 1 world champion; a) choose Lewis Hamilton as the driver, b) choose the best Formula 1 car in the world and c) make certain all the settings in the car are right. That should, if not quite guarantee you to become a winner, take you a long way. However, if just one of these three factors is wrong, you will never have a winner. If e.g. the settings in a Formula 1 car are wrong, having factors a) and b) right will not help you.
It is the same thing with a database. If you have just one critical factor wrong, e.g.:
· If your best practise and knowledge management are not up for their task.
· If the database does not support your business needs.
· If your database codes are wrong.
If so, even the most advanced database in the universe won’t help.
My point: Focus on getting all the business-critical factors right when you are in the process of choosing a new database! Define the business-critical factors in your work. Whatever database = software you are getting, it should fully support these factors. Easy for me to say, I can imagine many persons thinking. How do we do that? For me, it helps to focus if I think of business-critical factors as delivery factors. Why?
Well, in my mind, the only customer promise a Search Firm can have is to deliver results, to deliver as promised and agreed to the clients' satisfaction - simultaneously delivering a high degree of customer satisfaction all through the search process for both the client and the candidates.
The Delivery Factors
I define a delivery factor is any factor that is critical for the successful execution of the search assignment, as stated in my customer promise above. In my experience, these delivery factors usually relate to the execution of the search process, the daily work and the needs arising from here. The database = the software must fully support the delivery factors. In a database, this puts the focus on factors like:
When in the process of changing your database - project points
To give some ideas for the road, below some points I feel are worthwhile to pay attention to. I am not going into details as to what the database should look like. How could I? I don’t know the specific details or the exact needs of your company. Nor does any other outsider. I look here at the big picture and address some very basic issues, which I feel are important.
THEN WHEN YOU FINALLY GET YOUR NEW DATABASE, TAKE CARE OF IT!
The quality of your database is defined by what data you “put in” the database. Pay attention to inputting quality instead of quantity. If you want useful business intelligence, also remember this requires the business intelligence data first to be put in. No input - no business intelligence. Pay attention to maintenance and regular updating. A database of which, e.g. 20% of the information becomes obsolete every year is of no use to anyone.
Importing huge amounts of candidates from external databases may sound like a good idea. However, in doing so, you also import the updating work of the data, so maybe, this is not such a good idea after all. You can always go screen any external database when needed.
Pay attention to continuous improvement, ensuring you stay on top of things all the time. For me, continuous improvement, more than anything, is a mindset, an attitude, an approach to the work. You continuously try to improve existing systems and ways of working, including your database. You also try to look into the future, estimate what’s coming and somehow prepare for this too - in advance.
There really is a lot you can do to make your expectations come true. Should your database then not live up to your expectations, chances are, you may have only yourself to blame. Your database is usually what YOU make it be.
For those who are interested in learning in more detail about this subject, I advise reading my book How to recognise excellence in Executive Search.
First, of course, check me out. Does the guy who wrote this article look like he knows what he is talking about? The best way to do this is to check out the content of my homepage, where you are right now.