The cloud move: Innovation scales up while IT costs scale down for recruitment company

SB Recruitment is a SME that was being held back by their costly and slow server-based IT environment, especially in regard to workplace mobility. They needed a partner that could help them shift to the cloud and found a can-do attitude and supportive match in IT Smart Solutions.

Objective: Upgrade to the cloud and reign in IT costs

With a workforce that benefits from flexibility and mobility, SB Recruitment needed an IT upgrade to help them reach for increasingly innovative business goals.

Their existing server environment was sluggish and expensive. Managing Director Sarah Bolster could see that it was really slowing the team down and preventing the kind of growth the business was primed for.

“The cost was huge in our previous environment and the systems themselves were going backwards,” said Sarah Bolster, Managing Director SB Recruitment. “Also, being in the server environment meant we couldn’t innovate as easily with things like Skype for Business. This was crucial in order for my business to grow and scale.”

“We had been working with another IT company for many years, everything was server-based. It was constantly slow, and we were always having to call them for help. The cost got very high. When I asked about moving to the cloud and to Skype Business they said, ‘your staff won’t be able to handle it all, it’s too much change’.

-Sarah Bolster, Manager Director SB Recruitment

The right IT partner brings vision for innovation to life

With the business bursting with new potential, Sarah Bolster knew she needed an IT partner that would support her vision for innovation –  in how the staff worked and, importantly, in how the company was able to better service its clients.

“We met with a few different IT companies, but Steve from IT Smart Solutions really understood what we were looking for and he was happy to explore things with us,” explained Sarah Bolster. “Steve was also down to earth and easy to deal with. He had masses of experience with SMEs like my business, so his knowledge of what state we were in – versus where we wanted to get to –  didn’t seem to faze him at all.”

The company had staff members who needed to work from home for various reasons and Sarah wanted to be able to support this – including for herself. There was also an increasing need to be able to meet candidates via video rather than the time consuming and resource-heavy process of meeting face to face.

“The main thing we did after getting rid of the server and getting O365 was move our day to day files into the cloud,” said Sarah Bolster. “We had a few small teething issues but within a week everyone knew what they were doing. Being able to share files opened up a whole lot of flexibility with when and how we worked together.”

“I wanted to use Skype for Business as an interviewing platform, so we moved our phone systems across too. There are now no handsets on the desks, it’s all done from the computer. I can work from home and we can all have the same phone number.”

-Sarah Bolster, Manager Director SB Recruitment

The business can scale up while overheads and costs scale down

SB Recruitment has been able to streamline its operational needs while providing greater flexibility to how both staff and clients engage with the company. Sarah’s desired outcomes have all been met including:

Significant cost reductions: The company has seen a 60% drop in monthly IT costs. “This is huge for us. Being able to drop our spend by that much has been a massive benefit for the company. We can allocate that money towards other key innovations to help us grow.”

A workforce that is more mobile: Staff are no longer tied to desk phones and having to be in the same office. This improves efficiency and also helps Sarah create the kind of supportive work culture that is important to her. “I have a staff member who isn’t able to commute to Sydney anymore due to health issues. She now has no problem getting on with her job. She can work easily from home, she just logs on and gets on with it.”

Spreading wings to new geographical locations: Having a national reach will play a pivotal role in the kind of growth the company is striving for. “We are increasingly doing more work in Brisbane but we don’t actually have an office in Brisbane. We can have a national presence without having an office there, avoiding the expense this would bring.”

A more agile business model: Sarah Bolster has already found she can scale down both the physical and time resources the company needs. She and her accountant can work remotely, both looking at the one document. “Being able to do video interviews means we can move to a smaller office. This means my lease costs will come down. Our business can be much more mobile. This is a great benefit to us and increases our competitive advantage.”

“I can also now hire people on a national basis. My staff don’t have to sit in a physical office anymore, so it opens up who I can hire. I am not tied by their location anymore.” -Sarah Bolster, Managing Director SB Recruitment

Words of advice from SB Recruitment

Taking the time to find the right IT partner is the single most important thing to ensure a successful change like this, advises Sarah Bolster:

“Make sure you find an IT partner that will support you. They need to be very pro YOU as a customer, not pro the technology that THEY want to use. If your supplier is saying: ‘that’s going to be too hard, no don’t do that, no don’t do this’, then you know they are not right for the future of your business. You might need to meet with a few IT suppliers. As soon as we met Steve we knew we wanted to work with him – nothing was too hard for him.”

Future directions

Sarah is excited about the potential of O365 that is still untapped. She also has a vision for a future virtual help centre.

“It would be like a mini intranet, the SB Recruitment help centre, for all staff. Wherever you are you can go in there and it tells you what to do. We’re also looking to get rid of paper across the business, for environmental reasons and also as another cost we can cut out of the business.”

Any future changes will likely involve the positive partnership SB Recruitment has with IT Smart Solutions: “The staff are lovely people and easy to deal with. It has meant we’ve been able to move to a new platform in such an easy manner.”

 

 

 

 

Top 10 IT lessons from 13 years working with SMEs

One of the stand-out differences between SMEs that will thrive and those that will struggle from here on is how well they integrate technology into their business.

It used to be the case that sophisticated and powerful tech was only available to enterprises. New solutions and an evolving technology landscape have changed this. SMEs have always had the ability to be more agile and innovative than large organisations. But IT was often relegated to having a few systems in place to assist with processes. Today, however, technology is a crucial business tool – and one that is key for smaller organisations that want to punch above their weight.

Knowledge is everything. Without the infrastructure of an in-house IT team, SMEs must be smart about how they set up and implement technology and who they partner with. These 10 learnings come from our operating in the SME space, and seeing time and again what sets success apart from failure.

1. Budget properly for your IT spend

 Don’t skimp on this. Old, slow computers reduce productivity and waste time. They are also at greater risk of being compromised by malware. Your staff will work better and more efficiently with up-to-date computers and equipment. And remember, cheap computers are cheap for a reason. Value your business enough to invest in good quality equipment.

2. Control your IT environment

 Organisations that control their user environment get greater productivity from their systems. Set up with consistency. It is far easier to support an environment where everybody uses a similar setup.

You can’t think in terms of individual computers and work stations. If every user is allowed to install whatever software they want this will slow computers down. If every person has different software and operating systems this also makes it hard to troubleshoot problems as you have no quality control.

On top of this is the internet bandwidth that is chewed up if everybody is able to stream unlimited music or videos (or connect to their own drop box). Your options are to increase the bandwidth (which can be expensive) or to consider an office-wide sound system which may take some of the pressure off.

3. Use the cloud wisely

 Cloud solutions are an increasingly popular and effective option. This comes with a caveat, particularly for start-ups.

If you want to use cloud solutions don’t compromise with your internet connection or router. Home style routers do not have the capability of coping with the demands of the traffic caused by using cloud solutions and therefore give poor performance.

And if your users all have data in the cloud their productivity will be compromised by a slow internet connection.

4. Get a professional partner on board 

All the tips above are best achieved if you partner with an IT consultant experienced in the SME space. It will save you so much time and so many mistakes, particularly in setup and implementation.

Some SMEs think they will save money by getting a mate who knows a few things about computers to set them up. But establishing a business environment isn’t the same thing as setting up home computers. Avoid future problems by investing in getting the basics right up front.

5. Have support contingencies in place

 You can’t expect anyone in your core team to be your IT expert. Establish a support relationship with your IT partner so you and your staff always have someone to call on if things go wrong. This can also help as you grow and want to implement new systems and upgrades.

A simple but effective contingency for SMEs is to have a spare computer on site. This is a modest outlay that can have a huge impact. We have seen repeatedly how much productivity is lost when one work station is down, even for a few hours.

7. Plan for disaster

 This sounds dramatic but it’s how the big corporates approach risk management – and it makes absolute sense. Have a documented Disaster Recovery plan for what you are going to do if something happens to your office or IT infrastructure. Again, this is something your IT partner can help advise on so your plan is workable. Hopefully you will never need it but if you do, you’ll be glad you took this step.

8. Backup. Backup. Backup.

 Shall we say that one more time? Backup, but do so as part of your overall Disaster Recovery plan. We had to do a rescue operation for a client who had a little bit of IT knowledge – which can be a dangerous thing. He was backing up files regularly but all that was happening was that his files were being copied – but a server is so much more than just your work files. So when the network was infected with a virus, no-one could log-in and access the files in backup. It cost thousands of dollars and three days lost productivity to fix.

9 . Appoint an IT liason person in your team

 This might be you. It doesn’t have to be. But it is so much more time efficient to have one key person across all IT communications than either every staff member fending for themselves or nobody doing it at all. Build it into the job description of whatever position it makes most sense for in your team. This person should be the liaison point between your business needs and your service provider- helping to ensure both sides are speaking to each other consistently.

10. Invest early in scalable solutions

 If you store all your files on one PC or in your personal DropBox or OneDrive, you are asking for trouble. Choose a solution that is scalable. There are some fantastic solutions available that can scale easily from one person up to thousands of users, helping your tech environment to keep pace with your business growth.

11. Embed IT into business planning

Allow adequate time to properly plan and implement IT changes. It doesn’t work to simply decide one day to change to Office 365. Do your research, or better yet talk to a consultant. This will help you set an appropriate timeline. Every project timeframe is different and depends on varying factors including the volume of existing data. You could be looking at 4-6 weeks for a reasonable migration. Pushing things too quickly may seem tempting but could cause problems such as losing data.

At IT Smart Solutions we focus 100% on the SME space. In fact the very reason we set up was to provide SMEs with the same level of expertise and tailored service that is available to larger organisations. We know this space and keep up with changes – so you can focus on what you do best.