Interview: Martin Russell, head of IT services, Just Eat
Just Eat's head of IT services, Martin Russell speaks to Computer Weekly about his experiences of switching to Google
Martin Russell, head of IT services at Just Eat, is test driving a £1,000 Google ChromeBook Pixel and tells Computer Weekly about his experiences of going Google.
Just Eat launched in 2001 and now operates in 13 countries around the globe with nearly 1,000 employees.
After experiencing internal email issues and difficulties migrating systems following acquisitions, the company moved to Google Apps for Business in February 2012.
Martin Russell joined Just Eat two and a half years ago. At the time the online takeaway food service had a Microsoft Exchange on-premise server and faced the problems of a business running its own on-premise Exchange Server normally experience. He says: "We had a massive failure and I spent seven days recovering data."
So why not use a co-location service to run the Just Eat Exchange server in a hosted data centre? "A co-lo facility only solves power and cooling. We would still have to manage the server ourselves." The clincher for Russell was that Just Eat is in the business of takeaway food. “Running on-premise was taking up a lot of man hours to maintain the email service.”
So he decided to look at the cloud. The choices were Google Apps and Office 365. He admits his only experience of Gmail was as a consumer. "I used Gmail at home, but I hadn't considered Google in the corporate world." Nevertheless he decided to work with Google consultant AppsCare to see ho wGmail could be used in the enterprise. "At only £33 per user per year, we were very impressed with Gmail, compared to Microsoft," he adds.
Switching to the cloud is the easy part – getting people to change the software they are accustomed to can be a bigger challenge.
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Russell did not give the staff any choice over whether to opt out of Google. "We didn’t tell people we were moving off Microsoft Office and we tend to challenge any requirement for Microsoft Office." When people ask for Microsoft Word he explains to them how Google Docs can resave Word files. "If you have complex spreadsheets then you can have Microsoft Excel. But for general use, we tend to challenge any requirement for Office."
Training involved showing staff Google Apps, Google Drive and the collaboration tools. This is backed up with a weekly “Google Tip of the Week” newsletter. Rather than spending a lot of time writing up a text-based guide, Russell’s team sends out a quick video tip instead which, he says, has been a big success. "We sometimes get email from people saying I didn’t get my Google tip email."
I like the idea of users being the first line of support
Martin Russell, Just Eat
Everyone in the support team has a chance to shoot a video tip, he says.
Russell also believes in self-help. "I like the idea of users being the first line of support." For instance, in a home environment, the iPad is intuitive, so people are able to figure out how to use it themselves. "You don’t call first line support to ask what to do. Why can’t we make our corporate tools as intuitive as Apple’s, so you can use them without tech support?"
Cloud for business
For Russell, cloud computing and pay-per-use services are the way forward. He says: "Whenever we look at a solution we and have to worry about disaster recovery and power issues. But all the business wants is the ability to take customer calls."
Just Eat operates on a postcode-by-postcode basis and is available in 13 countries with local contacts for the callcentre who have knowledge of the local takeaways. Just Eat runs its callcentres using an on-premise telephony system. But as the business grows, the system needs to be upgraded. "When I started here we had 200 people. This has now expanded to 1,000."
Russell would like to see a callcentre telephony service priced on a per-user, per-month basis. This would be easier to scale compared to its existing on-premise system.
Russell believes companies offering telephony software should be looking to develop cloud-based services.
All Just Eat most applications are built internally. The biggest barrier to moving everything to the cloud for Russell is telephony, since it requires a desktop installation for the call manager. "We use Cisco for IP telephony," he adds, "but browser-based cloud based telephony would offer considerable savings."
Russell’s vision for a next-generation callcentre would be based on Chromebooks. A thin-client architecture makes sense in the callcentre, due to the focused nature of call handling. "We used to run thin clients using a massive server farm."
The ChromeBox, a Google desktop ChromeOS device, does away with the server farm as it connects directly to web applications. "The ChromeBox gives thin client without the server farm. I can deploy a callcentre application on the ChromeBox which boots up in 15 seconds."
In his ideal callcentre, staff would run ChromeBoxes as access devices that could almost be considered throw-away. "I can see a vending machine in the callcentre where you swipe a card to get a new ChromeBox."
Just Eat uses Google+ as an internal social network and has been used to organise social events. It is being used to improve collaboration and communication amongst a geographically dispersed workforce, which has led to faster responses to questions and problems Russell says: “Everyone has mobile device, can all upload over Google +.”