IT departments boost morale with team-building events and training opportunities

It is a pleasure here at Computer Weekly to profile the IT departments that have made it on to our shortlist of the Best Places...

It is a pleasure here at Computer Weekly to profile the IT departments that have made it on to our shortlist of the Best Places to Work in IT 2003. Through feedback from IT managers and their staff, our aim is to celebrate the best employers of IT professionals and highlight best practice for other IT departments to follow. This week we profile high achievers in public relations, exhibition organisers and pub leasing

Firefly PR

Number of IT staff: 3

Annual staff turnover: 25%

IT training budget per head: £1,000

Amount of new development work: 30%

Annual holiday: 25 days

Over the past three years, the IT team at Firefly's offices in London has introduced a number of business-critical systems such as an intranet, an extranet for client use, an IP office telephony solution, a wireless Lan, a business management solution (Navision - tool for human resources, accounts and customer relationship management) and a Citrix solution (Remote Offices). It has also implemented Microsoft XP and installed a gigabit backbone for the networked servers for faster throughput of traffic.

One member of the team said, "Planning has always been a big part of how we manage our projects. We like to get as much input from our users as we can to ensure that any new IT aids do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.

"The board has always encouraged the IT department to be an integral part of the business rather than just being seen as a support function. Alongside maintaining the network, we have been given the freedom to explore and purchase technologies that are beneficial to the business."

He said the IT team has a 90% response time to all support calls. "Our fix rate is 65% within the hour and 90% are fixed within eight working hours."

The IT team also remotely manages users at the company's other offices using Citrix technology.

Another IT team member said although the annual training budget is usually allocated at £1,000 per head, in the past, IT training has risen as high as £5,000 per head annually. She said, "Each member of IT gain hands-on knowledge and training on at least two new technologies or applications each year. Also, Firefly encourages and pays for all exams related to their daily role, from Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer track to Cisco Certified Network Engineer.

"We also have a very good rapport with our users," she said.

Earls Court

Number of IT staff: 15

Annual staff turnover: 0%

IT training budget per head: £3,000

Amount of new development work: 50%

Annual holiday: 25 days

London's Earls Court and Olympia opened in 1886 and in its first year featured Roman chariot races and cowboy shows. Exhibitions and special occasions, from Royal tournaments to grand operas, have enthralled millions, and trade shows - including major IT ones - bring the world to the capital.

This winter the venue will host such events as the Ideal Home Show, Disney on Ice, the BBC Good Food Show, an international show jumping competition and a Justin Timberlake concert.

Head of IT Rohan Paulas said, "Earls Court Olympia Group is a privately owned company and is managed by a highly motivated management team who own a share of the business. The IT services division is considered to be one of the best environments to work in as the team is friendly, happy to help at any time and, importantly, have fun. Many staff pop into IT services for a chat and coffee and end up playing darts (usually after 5.30pm).

"The individuals in the team are encouraged to experiment and explore ways they can add value to the business and these efforts are rewarded via a company-wide bonus scheme."

Paulas said the team goes out for a drink almost every week and once a month gets together at a local pub, golf club or night club for "serious fun". They are also encouraged to participate in industry social events and group sporting activities. An annual team-building exercise is usually held overseas, the last one being held in Barcelona. The team has also organised special events to raise money for worthy causes and individuals in the team are sponsored by the company to help raise funds.

Paulas said, "The company also encourages the individuals in the department to come up with ideas to improve the working environment."


Number of IT staff: 20

Annual staff turnover: 0%

IT training budget per head: £1,500

Amount of new development work: 40%

Annual holiday: 27 days

The Unique Pub Company (UPC) is one of the UK's leading independent pub-leasing companies. It owns over 4,000 pubs across England, Scotland and Wales. The pubs vary from traditional inns to trendy bars and are leased to a mixture of individual licensees and well-known pub groups. Every licensee runs their pub as their own individual business - making their own business decisions on everything from purchasing equipment to marketing.

The company said this means that no two of the pubs are ever the same, and that is why the company calls itself the Unique Pub Company.

Members of the IT team at UPC do benefit from the odd perk. Head of IT Gareth Durban said, "We have quarterly meetings of the department, usually at an industry-related venue such as a brewery, to discuss general business progress and highlight IT's contribution to business strategy.

"We also have an annual company-wide conference, which this year will be in Spain, to talk about the achievements of the past year and targets for next year and also to have a good time together."

Durban said the company ensures that its IT staff obtain formal qualifications such as an MCSE or recognition from the Help Desk Institute, as well as giving them as much opportunity as possible to use new technology.

"We have made an important contribution, recognised by the business, to an organisation that has undergone rapid and fundamental change over the past four years," said Durban.

"Morale remains high, in spite of the fact that we have been acquired by an investment consortium, and our head office will close when the two businesses are merged. A measure of our success is that we have lost no staff since the acquisition was announced."


Harvey Nash is a global recruitment consultancy operating in more than 24 offices worldwide. It works with some of the world's leading companies to place IT staff at all levels on a permanent and contract basis.

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