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Send in the clouds

Send in the clouds

Global Career Link CEO Simon Swallow has moved his company’s ICT operations into the cloud computing environment. He says the decentralised system suits the company’s offshore expansion.

Global Career Link CEO Simon Swallow is intent on moving his company’s ICT operations “into the cloud” as quickly as practical. “I’m an entire convert to doing business in the cloud,” he says. “All I want is an internet connection and a computer to run my business.”

The recruitment consultancy’s head office is in Wellington, with branches in Auckland, Wellington, Sydney, Melbourne and London, and it is also active in the Middle East. The company helps people who are seeking new opportunities get jobs in Australia, New Zealand and the UK, through its relationship with recruitment agencies.

Its areas of recruitment range from finance and IT through to marketing and human resources.

Global Career Link’s original CRM system was built on Access 2000 and SQL Server 2000. The infrastructure had severe shortcomings, says Swallow. Applications did not smoothly interoperate, meaning the company and its clients could not take full advantage of the information the system provided. There were severe bandwidth constraints too.

The various offices typically had different versions of the same software and did not have access to identical databases, which made it difficult for staff to move between offices.

The Access/SQL system couldn’t record most of the data needed to manage the business and drive referral growth he claims.

The company ran both an in-house CRM system and an IT recruitment system, which were essentially separate with no consolidated tools or processes. It required database engineers to create new reports and the system was too complex for management to use.

“It was getting creakier and creakier,” says Swallow. “We were in a real hole. I looked around at [conventional] recruitment solutions and there was nothing really suitable.”

Swallow decided that taking the operation “in the cloud” was the logical solution. He says Salesforce.com was able to provide a single, consistent database and applications suite, which would be available to everyone.

“If we want an update it’s done once, in one place. Salesforce is able to deliver new services to us quickly. It all makes sense and we don’t feel like we’re encumbered by the technology.”

Now staff can work anywhere, even on the road or from home, he says.

For Swallow, the distributed technology of the company’s ICT is in sympathy with the decentralised nature of ICT in an organisational sense. There is no CIO or IT manager at Global Career Link; anyone is entitled to come up with an idea and attempt to implement it.

“We have a saying: ‘I’ve just had a Salesforce moment’,” he says. That means someone has had an idea for a new way to use the Salesforce.com applications’ capabilities.

Staff make use of the Salesforce Ideas electronic forum to share, comment on and even vote on new ideas.

The intention from the beginning of the re-think was “to build something bespoke”, suited closely to the company’s particular way of operating, says Swallow.

The process of tailoring the Salesforce.com applications took about two months, he says, but it needed no coding skills; “it was all a matter of drag and drop”.

The company’s hardware is also outsourced, so the responsibility for maintaining the ICT infrastructure and applications is taken off the shoulders of in-house staff and the company does not have to maintain an ICT team.

Feelings of resentment against the new technology have largely disappeared.

“We have turned from a technology-dragged company to a technology-led company,” Swallow says.

By using Salesforce.com’s dashboard capability referrals have been driven up significantly.

Global Career Link now has a consolidated view of all activity across the whole company.

A big advantage was the large number of workflow tools and processes included with the platform, which could be customised to the needs of the company

Scarcity of bandwidth still presents a problem for software-as-a-service users in New Zealand, he acknowledges. “In the UK, 10 Mbit/s is pretty much standard on DSL; here 7Mbit/s is about the best you’ll get.”

At present, data the company maintains on Salesforce.com has click-through links to documents on a dedicated server and that’s awkward, he says. “We have a plan to migrate all of that to Google Docs, then we’ll be close to truly doing business in the cloud.”

More and more applications are becoming available in cloud mode. Swallow’s company already uses Skype in close association with Salesforce.com. “A Skype message can be integrated with the CRM record,” he says.

Global Career Link currently has independent financials, based on Mind Your Own Business (MYOB), and a major task for the near future is to transfer these to something that can be more closely integrated with Salesforce.com.

Swallow says Xero founder Rod Drury, whose accounting applications already run in SaaS mode, proposes to integrate these with the Salesforce suite. Xero may therefore be particularly appropriate as the future basis of Global Career Link’s financial applications, he says.

Another promising link is with the FaceBook social network, through a utility inelegantly known as FaceForce. FaceForce is produced by a company of the same name, based in San Francisco.

There are obvious privacy considerations associated with using such an interface, but it’s the client’s decision whether to allow the company to access their FaceBook profile, says Swallow.

Salesforce.com runs its own “AppExchange” where users can promote and distribute other associated and linking applications and he keeps an eye on this.

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Tags Utility Computingsalesforcecloud computingSoftware as a service

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