CIO interview: Adecco UK sets global model

The UK operation of global recruitment company Adecco has created an IT infrastructure to make bit more agile in the face of increasing competition from small firms

The UK operation of global recruitment company Adecco has created an IT infrastructure to make it more agile in the face of increasing competition from small firms.

The UK rollout, which has seen IT move to the cloud with pay as you use functionality, is being copied globally at the company.

The recruitment industry is made up of many firms. Although Adecco is one of the biggest in the world it only has a single digit market share. Adecco has 6,500 offices in 65 countries and has 32,000 IT users.

The company’s IT was growing out of date and, after mergers and acquisitions, it was becoming unwieldy. The company needed to adopt new technologies such as the cloud to retain market share in a market becoming more competitive as a result of technology adoption.

Brad Dowden, global head of branch office at Adecco, ran an online recruitment company and was approached by Adecco to transform the company’s UK IT. He is responsible for any IT related services to branches.

He quickly realised that the IT infrastructure at the company needed to be shaken up. “When I joined IT was failing. There had been a lack of investment over the years.”

He said services desk volumes were very high and there was low availability of critical systems such as recruitment databases, ERP and systems that paid the workers it placed at client businesses.

There was also a mish-mash of systems as the result of Adecco acquiring Spring Group in 2009 and MPS Group in 2010.

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He originally joined as UK branch head but was soon elevated to global head after his plan for creating a private cloud based IT services platform with pay as you use computing was accepted by the management. The board decided to repeat what was done in the UK globally.

His methods were influenced by his background setting up a small online recruitment company which developed software as a service.

Dowden said before anything else the company had to get its IT infrastructure right. He said it needed an agile infrastructure that could enable it to react to changes in the market and compete with smaller players. “Today technology has made lots of small companies appear big. Big companies have to transform to compete because traditional IT departments cannot react to change quickly.”

He decided to move to private cloud-based IT services with pay as you go pricing.

First and foremost Adecco had to find IT services partners as it did not have the in-house resources. Dowden said the company in the UK did not outsource IT although it had been on the agenda for years.

After going out to 12 suppliers Adecco signed a five-year outsourcing agreement with BT Business, in May last year. The £20m deal includes a new voice and data network, the replacement of 3,000 PCs, IT support, as well as a private cloud based on a Citrix platform.

“We set a very wide brief, but the BT Business team developed a programme that will allow us to change the way we work, making teams more flexible and effective, whilst helping us to drive down costs by only paying for what we use,” he added.

“We are moving everything to a cloud service with all applications and desktop services moving to the private cloud.” The cloud is hosted in HP datacenters.

The cloud platform provides desktop as a service and an example of the agility this brings is how this has created a platform for the company to introduce a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programme in the future. BT Business supports the platform.

The infrastructure will be complete by the end of March next year when all UK IT will be transferred to it.  “The idea is to have IT as a service with the users able to do more for themselves through consumerisation,” said Dowden.

Once the IT infrastructure in place the company will be able simplify IT, increase self-services while cutting costs.

For example as well as BYOD the company is planning a corporate appstore, where staff will be able to use the software they want to use and pay for it as they go.

The work done in the UK will now be emulated globally. Dowden said it was easy to sell the project to tech board because the benefits could be demonstrated very quickly.

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