CIO interview: Brad Dowden, Adecco

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

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

The transformation, which will be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2015, has seen IT move to the cloud with pay-as-you-use functionality and will be repeated globally by the company.

There are many firms in the recruitment industry, and although Adecco is one of the biggest in the world, its market share is only single-digit. It has 6,500 offices in 65 countries and has 32,000 IT users.

The company’s IT was becoming out of date and, after mergers and acquisitions, was becoming unwieldy in comparison to some small newcomers to the sector. Adecco needed to adopt new technologies, such as the cloud, to retain share in a market that was becoming more competitive as technology adoption expanded.

Brad Dowden, global head of branch office at Adecco, previously ran an online recruitment company and was approached by Adecco to transform its UK operations. He is now globally responsible for any IT-related services to branches.

The company's UK structure when he joined had a CIO, with an executive looking after developers and another heading up operations. But when the CIO left, these two roles were made global.

Dowden’s plan to create a private cloud-based IT services platform with pay-as-you-use computing was accepted by the management. The board then decided to repeat what was being in the UK globally.

When Dowden joined Adecco, he quickly realised that its IT infrastructure needed a shake-up. “When I joined, IT was failing,” he says. “There had been a lack of investment over the years.”

When I joined, IT was failing. There had been a lack of investment over the years

When Dowden arrived, 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 resulting from Adecco's acquisition of Spring Group in 2009 and MPS Group in 2010.

Dowden’s methods were influenced by his background of setting up a small online recruitment company that developed software as a service.

Before anything else happened, Adecco had to get its IT infrastructure right, says Dowden. 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,” he says. “Big companies have to transform to compete because traditional IT departments cannot react to change quickly.”

When Dowden decided to move to private cloud-based IT services with pay-as-you-go pricing, Adecco first had to find IT services partners because it did not have the resources in-house. The company did not outsource IT in the UK, although it had been on the agenda for years, says Dowden.

After approaching 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, and a private cloud based on a Citrix platform.

The idea is to have IT as a service, with the users able to do more for themselves through consumerisation

“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, while helping us to drive down costs by only paying for what we use,” Dowden says.

“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 datacentres.

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

Adecco’s UK 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,” says Dowden.

Once the infrastructure is in place, the company will be able to simplify IT, increase self-service and cut costs.

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

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

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