Can you tell us about yourself, your background, and how you got involved with the Corporate IT Forum?
I’ve been in IT for over 30 years and at SThree for 18 years. I got involved with the Corporate IT Forum around 5-6 years ago. We were exploring third-party organisations that could help our IT function develop its skillset as, at the time time, SThree were going more global. We felt that joining the Corporate IT Forum would be a good fit as we could talk to likeminded organisations and find out how they have got on on that journey. I was given the responsibility of being the Principal Contact at the time and it has been a relationship that has matured from there. I eventually committed more as I’m passionate about how the Forum works.
Can you tell us about some of the exciting projects that SThree have recently undertaken or are about to embark on?
It’s always exciting at Sthree! We did a global refresh of our Windows and Office desktop last year and that was the foundation for implementing 3 SaaS projects this year.
By the end of the summer, Salesforce will have replaced our legacy CRM platform, We will have implemented a new commissions system called Xactly, as well as a new talent management product called Fairsail.
Beyond this, we are due to roll out another iteration of our desktop, which paves the way for exploiting all the capabilities of Office 365 on mobile, as well as desktop devices.
SThree has a notably successful internal mentoring scheme. What is the secret to its success? How has it delivered business benefit?
Our mentoring team has been in place for about two years now and I was one of the original mentors of the scheme. I ended up mentoring a young man who was in a sales role at one of our brands in London.
I believe the reason it has been successful is that there is a real personal touch around the organisation in the way people deal with each other – no airs or graces at any level. I think the mentoring scheme has worked successfully because everybody, from the CEO right down to the most junior person in the organisation, sees themselves as peers. There is a lot of trust that goes into the beginning of those relationships. We try to keep things very simple at SThree. The mentoring scheme went out with some guiding principles, but it wasn’t overly complicated. Maybe in some scenarios it’s not worked, but if it doesn’t work then the mentor/mentee would say “that’s not the end of the world” and we’ll see if we can make a better pairing. What I’ve seen so far, the pairings have worked very well and it’s been very successful.
Can you tell us a little more about your work in the Forum's Gender Balance Committee? As someone passionate about gender balance, how can men be more active in getting more women into the technology industry?
That's a really good question. I believe I am extremely fortunate to do what I do today; especially as I had no plans to enter Information Technology as a career 30 years ago.
Not only are we working in one of the most inthralling industries, but this is probably the most exciting era due to the rate of change occurring and the opportunities this is bringing.
I am astonished that we will face a significant skills shortage over the coming years; especially with so many talented youngsters and females taking a greater interest in STEM subjects, hence I am keen to do whatever is needed to convince young people that this should be their chosen career.
At Sthree, we were also looking at diversity as a key strategic theme and I got involved in the Gender Balance Group after attending a CITF event; I was only one of two males in the room and we were asked at the event if anyone wanted to play a larger part in the Gender Balance Group and I said “why not, but do the Gender Balance Committee want male representation?”, but they very kindly took me onboard as their one male in the group. I think it’s been really interesting; it’s been great for me – developing me personally. It has given me a greater insight into the challenges females have in trying to develop their roles within their organisations. I have been able to take that into our organisation and play that back into the development of my own people, and think about how we’re making sure that females are being given the opportunity to come into IT in our organisation. It’s like all things with the Corporate IT Forum, a great learning opportunity for me, and I have been able to take that back to my organisation and execute some of those ideas.
Men need to encourage and support their female staff much more than they do with their male counterparts due to their lack of confidence in their ability.
As the Membership Council's Vice-Chairman, what would you say are the benefits of being on the Council to someone interested in joining?
I think it’s a great opportunity. We talk about the Corporate IT Forum being for members, and I think it’s a great opportunity to steer the programme of events to make it relevant, not only to our organisation but also to the other members. It’s a real privilege to be involved in that. I’m really passionate about what the Corporate IT Forum do and I feel privileged to be able to steer where the Forum is going and represent the members with regard to that. If there are any potential members out there, they should think about the opportunity. If the Forum is not quite delivering what they want, come and join the Membership Council and steer it to do the right thing for the membership.
How has SThree been affected by the fluctuations in the job market? Has advancement in technology allowed you to anticipate these and plan for downturns in the economy?
It’s an interesting question because it’s certainly challenging times for staffing companies. There are a lot of disruptive technologies out there, LinkedIn being the primary one, that are evolving the way our industry works. I think there is opportunity there though to evolve what we do and deliver real value to our customers. It’s challenging; the world’s a very different place and every year it seems to move on another step – social plays such a big part now, in terms of recruitment and sourcing the right candidate and people for organisations. What we have to do as an organisation is be bold enough to be looking at what’s out there and what we can be doing to still keep a lead over our competitors. It’s a big market and we’re quite a big player, but we still have a very small subset of that market so there’s a big opportunity for big gains into other sectors, into other technologies, which is there for us to take if we can really look at the way our business runs and how we do permanent and contract recruitment.
How has the rise of social networks changed SThree's IT delivery - what trends / challenges do you face in this area?
Social networks are obviously a big part of what we do, in terms of talking to our clients and candidates and in terms of placing people, so we certainly have to embrace social. However, we have to be very careful in how we use it from a corporate perspective. Has it significantly changed our business over the last few years? I think it has. Just like any business today, we’re so visible in terms of social and we’ve got to be so careful around our reputation and what we do on social media and what we do in the public eye. There’s no doubt that it has had a big effect on what we do and what will continue to do over the next 2-3 years.
As a global recruitment company, how are you using Big Data? How do you utilise it to deliver maximum business benefit?
There are two elements where we’re using Big Data today. For starters we did some significant reengineering of our data internally so that we have a much better insight into how each business unit, how each business team, was doing everywhere on the planet to deliver services – how effective they were and how profitable they were as teams. We also started analysing the data that was coming out of our back office systems and aligned it with our sales data, so we now have good data on where we see particular trends in particular markets. The other area where we’re using that aspect of data is helping our sales consultants get through the tens of thousands of CVs that arrive on our doorstep every day, either through social media or through the more traditional way by email or by job applications. We did some really good stuff internally and we were recognised for that achievement at the Real IT Awards last year, where we developed a technology that provided our sales consultants with some great tools for getting to the best candidate with the particular set of skills that they have to fill for particular jobs.
What do you value most about the Forum - is there anything you've found particularly useful?
For me, it’s always been the networking – to have the opportunity to go to events or even outside of events to collaborate and discuss ideas with your peers. I couldn’t have done that six-seven years ago. To be able to go to an event and think that your challenge is the biggest problem in the world only to find that there are likeminded individuals, maybe from different sectors or different regions, that are trying to overcome the same types of issues albeit with different cultural limitations or restrictions within their organisations. It’s about being able to network and share ideas and for me that’s always the biggest thing you will get out of it.
Any final message to the membership?
What you get out of the Corporate IT Forum is what you put in. There are lots of people out there facing the same problems you face and if you’re prepared to contribute and get involved you’ll find a lot of answers to your problems. You don’t have to go off and spend tens of thousands of pounds with Gartner or look to spend money in other areas. You’ve got hundreds of members out there who have got the same problems as you, the same challenges as you, and it is an opportunity for you to contribute with them and share ideas with them on the issues within your organisation. Just get out there and put the effort in and collaborate with your peers, attend events, and share. It’s amazing how much return you get for that, for very little effort that you actually have to put in.