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The transformation of Randstad’s IT infrastructure

Digitisation is one of the key themes in Randstad's latest financial report, with the transformation of its IT infrastructure a fundamental step in achieving this

Since the formation of Netherlands-headquartered human resources (HR) service provider Randstad Group in 1960, IT has been organised locally. Each of the 37 countries had their own IT infrastructure and signed their own IT contracts. IT was run by 29 departments, with some servicing more than one country.  

“Randstad operated according to a local-for-local model,” says Bernardo Payet, general manager of Randstad Global IT Solutions. “From an IT perspective, each worked as a standalone company.

“This model was successful. Every country had the freedom to develop its own processes and IT,” adds Payet. “It allowed the company to be tailored to local needs.”

But with Randstad’s ambition to become a digital company, the HR service provider needed more flexibility, risk reduction and better service from the IT infrastructure.

Supporting Randstad's digital vision

Randstad Global IT Solutions was created in 2015, after a business case was proven to achieve this.

“The cost savings generated in IT infrastructure will be reinvested in our digital strategy,” says Payet. “It is a crucial development for our long-term success.”

The company decided to consolidate, centralise and standardise its global IT infrastructure. Best practices from different countries were used to develop a vision. “For example, we utilised the findings from the Speedlinq project in the Netherlands,” says Payet. “We also looked at the way our French operation virtualised its datacentre.”

In November 2015, the company started conversations with 11 big IT service providers. The selection process was rigorous, according to interim CIO Jan Muchez. “We never focused on the financials,” says Muchez. “We had a lot of conversations about what our vision was and how the IT service provider would achieve it. In the end, the projected costs of the suppliers were close, but they had very different approaches.”

In February 2016, Randstad signed a contract with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), as a global partner for datacentre migrations to the public cloud.

Randstad chose a party with not only technical qualifications and experience, but with onshore capabilities. This was a key requirement due to the complexity and sensitivity of the project.

It also brings a positive balance of global and local delivery.

Randstad Global IT Solutions started with 50 people, a number that grew to almost 300 in its first five months. “In this first phase of the process, we calculated that we would need more people than we would later on,” says Muchez. “We needed a strong presence at local sites during transition and transformation.”

Taking control of existing IT infrastructure

“The first step in the process was to take control of the existing IT infrastructure, hosted in more than 50 locations across 29 IT departments spanning the globe,” says Payet. “It is groundbreaking to have completed this in four months. Every IT department was different, with some having large teams and mature processes, and others being much smaller operations.”

The global IT staff had to learn the local IT processes, applications and IT infrastructure. “This involved creating documentation about the ‘as is’ situation and transferring knowledge and training resources to reach operational readiness,” he says.

Once this was complete, the global IT team took over all IT operations. All Randstad global datacentres and networks are now managed centrally.

Standardising the network infrastructure

The next phase is to transform, migrate and standardise the IT infrastructure. The datacentres, of which there are more than 50, will be migrated to three regional estates hosted in the public cloud. This infrastructure will provide cloud connectivity to Randstad’s 3,500-plus sites across 37 countries in Europe, North and South America, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

Selecting a network partner took longer than planned, due to the complexity of the project and the number of sites, says Muchez.

“Service providers thought of us as a single, large global company,” he says. “They wanted to sell services that fit such a company. But, because of the local-to-local model, we had experience with the practices that best fit a small to medium-sized business. It took six months to clarify this with the parties involved.”

Read more about enterprise IT in the Netherlands

BT was selected as a network partner in August 2016. Randstad had originally wanted to start the networking and infrastructure transition processes in parallel, but the network partner selection had trailed the datacentre transition by six months. In the interim, TCS supported the datacentres and networks.

The existing Randstad network had a traditional hub-and-spoke design with multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) connections between sites and datacentres.

“Due to the thousands of locations we currently support, MPLS was an expensive legacy compared with what is available on the market today,” says Payet. “Going forward we are going to take advantage of affordable systems such as DSL where possible to increase performance and reduce cost. Using Cisco Meraki routers, BT will build the new Randstad network with virtual tunnels via the internet.”

The network infrastructure will use BT’s Cloud Connect service to deliver high-performance connectivity to the clouds Randstad will utilise. From locations in Europe, North America and Asia, BT will also deliver cloud-based voice services for the company’s 33,000 employees.

Ramping up regional migration teams

Randstad has started the second phase of the project. “We are now ramping up the regional migration teams,” says Payet. “We chose to have regional migration teams to enable the region to manage parallel transformations.”

At this stage, BT and TCS will have to work together. “BT is setting up the new virtual access points, while TCS is setting up the new datacentre and hosting the existing network infrastructure,” he says. “Both sites have to be tested and start working at the same time.”

The datacentre migration pilots Randstad undertook in India and Poland are almost finished. “With these pilots, we are finalising the preparations required to ramp multiple parallel teams set to perform the global scale migrations,” says Payet.

By early 2017, Randstad will also start transforming its networks on a global scale. The plan is to be finished in early 2018.

“For a company with this legacy, it is extremely innovative to start a project like this,” says Payet. “It embodies the spirit of becoming a truly digital company.”

Read more on IT supplier relationship management

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