January 31st, 2024 | Sterling

Professional Services and the Change Journey for Global Organizations (Part 1)

Embarking on the journey to implement a new system can be a major change for any organization. In this blog, we explore the systems, processes, and methodology our Professional Services team uses to deliver a seamless transition to Sterling. We speak to Sterling’s Jacqui Knight, Head of Professional Services, Technology and Business Services, about how we deploy these implementation strategies to ensure a successful transition. This will be the first part of our two-part blog series on the implementation journey.

You can view the entire interview below:

Q: How do you interact with new businesses compared to current clients as part of the professional services group? 

A: The main difference lies in our established partnership with existing clients. Sterling has a dedicated client success team who nurtures each relationship and monitors and analyzes client programs to identify opportunities which may improve workflow efficiencies, time-to-hire, compliance, or candidate/employee experience. In many cases, our involvement with existing clients is initiated based on our client success team’s recommendations to solve business problems or introduce new services such as identity verification, continuous monitoring, or even expanding globally. 

On the other hand, when it comes to new client engagements, our focus is on developing the relationship and understanding the organization’s business processes, technology, and strategic goals. We ask questions such as how their business operates, what’s important to them, what are the existing pain points, and what their current hiring strategy is. With this information, we align Sterling’s services with their organization’s overall goals.

Q: Is there a standard implementation approach for new businesses?

A: Yes, we do have a standard approach consisting of five stages. However, there are variations based on the specific needs of each client, the nature of their program, and the services they’re implementing. 

  1. Project Kick-off: Here we bring together both teams and merge them into one project team. Our common goal is to get their screening program up and running smoothly.
  2. Discovery Phase: During this phase, we dive into the details of how the program needs to work. We identify any pain points that we can address and resolve using our technology.
  3. Build and Test: Sterling’s system is highly configurable, and we also integrate with various applicant tracking systems (ATS). The building process involves configuring the client’s Sterling account and performing extensive testing. While our team takes care of most of the work, we also involve your team to ensure collaboration and to capture valuable feedback. 
  4. Training: We also provide our clients with comprehensive training to ensure that all stakeholders are well-equipped to use their new screening program effectively.
  5. Go-Live and Monitoring: This is the exciting part — the screening program is launched, and we progress into full operation. At this stage, we closely monitor the program’s performance to ensure it’s meeting the organization’s needs and goals. 

Thus, our standard implementation approach involves progressing through these five stages, tailored to meet the specific requirements of each client.

Q: How are we approaching large global programs in the implementation process?   

A: When it comes to implementing large global programs, Sterling’s advantage is that we have a consistent experience – our Client Hub – available across all regions. This allows businesses to implement standardized screening criteria using our global portfolio of services and other technology-enabled tools, regardless of where they are hiring. In large global companies, the implementation process is tailored around the client’s organizational structure to accommodate regional differences and nuances.

For global organizations with regional teams and distinct programs, we ensure that our project team includes subject matter experts (SMEs) who are familiar with those specific regions. This approach allows us to tailor our implementation process and address any regional variations or requirements.

Ultimately, our goal is to utilize our single global platform to implement a standardized screening program worldwide, while considering and incorporating the specific needs and structures of each region.

Q: Starting from the beginning, when exactly does your team come into play?

A: Our Professional Services team can come into play at different stages of a project. A common entry point is during the RFP process when the company is engaging with potential vendors. At this stage, our team may be involved in discussing the solution and requirements presented in the RFP. Our early engagement allows us to understand the project scope and offer our expertise in solutioning.

Most commonly our Professional Services team gets involved when a new client signs their contract is signed. After that, the project team, led by a professional services manager, will engage with the new client and start getting the program up and running.

Throughout the project journey, our Client Success team and sales manager remain actively involved. This collaborative approach ensures that we can provide support and assistance whenever needed.

Q: At the start of the implementation process with new clients, what specific questions do you pose to gain a better understanding of their requirements?

A: We first ask the client to outline their current end-to-end process so we have a baseline understanding and can assess change impact throughout the project. We use this information to gain a foundational understanding of their team dynamics, client-side interactions, and overall system engagement and process. From there, we identify pain points, exploring wish list items, and envisioning their ideal program. Our conversation then becomes more granular, addressing details like invoice presentation preferences, user groups, and necessary access limitations. We source these important details in guided workshops led by our Professional Services Manager.

Our goal isn’t merely replicating their existing setup. We go further and aim to leverage the transition as an opportunity for a fresh perspective, encouraging organizations to rethink their screening programs and embrace innovative solutions whilst leveraging best practice recommendations from our Client Success and Professional Services teams. While a direct “lift-and-shift” approach is possible, exploring these new possibilities often delivers enhanced outcomes for our clients.

Our discovery phase also gives us opportunities to streamline and optimize processes in order to create a more efficient and improved experience for both candidates and employees. Here we question existing practices and challenge assumptions, revealing areas for improvement.

The questioning process is often eye-opening for organizations, prompting them to reassess long-standing practices. Sometimes, we encounter resistance rooted in phrases like “That’s how we’ve always done it” or reveal instances where processes were shaped by system limitations. Our team isn’t afraid to pose challenging questions or discussions to ensure we arrive at the best solutions for our clients.

Q: Could you elaborate on the role of SMEs in your team, and what it entails?

A: Being a SME in our Professional Services team requires expertise in guiding clients through the entire process, from understanding their requirements to the build, test, training, and ultimately the go-live phase. It’s not just about implementing solutions; it’s about doing so successfully and overlaying a change management framework to support the end users through the journey. Throughout the project, we utilize specialized approaches such as effective timeline management and risk assessment to ensure a successful project.

Our Professional Services Managers have an average tenure of six years at Sterling. Over that time they gain an in-depth understanding of our system’s intricacies and functionalities aligning with a wide range of requirements. Their deep expertise allows them to recognize multiple solutions to a problem available through our system, drawing from their extensive history of working on many different projects across different industries. The knowledge and insights derived from these experiences enable us to continually improve and build more effective programs for future clients.

Clients benefit greatly from having a team of experts during the implementations process. Our team strives to deliver successful projects, steering clear of common pitfalls that can arise during complex implementations. They play a crucial role in asking the right questions, ensuring adherence to timelines, and avoiding budget overruns. 

Q: Can you provide a brief overview of our ATS capabilities?

A: Sterling’s Integration Hub includes 75+ standard integration options across 40 different partners. We have extensive experience working with top ATS providers, and we hold platinum partner status with 10 of these companies. Currently, we have approx. 5,000 clients who seamlessly submit orders  via our Integration Hub, with approximately 60% of our order volume coming from integrated clients.

Our team is well-acquainted with the intricacies of our ATS integration portfolio. While many integrations only require minor configurations, our integration support team understands that every company’s requirements are slightly different. Because the team is equipped with expertise across all partner platforms, we collaborate closely with our client’s technology team to ensure a seamless connection with Sterling’s Client Hub. 

In this first part of our series exploring the implementation process, we highlighted how our professional service team engages at the very start of the change journey, along with some of the questions they typically ask. But what happens after this initial engagement? In the second part of our series, we’ll cover our processes for testing, training, and beyond. To learn more about our implementation process, contact us here.

Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.