See also: Rentokil Initial profile in CIO 100
Rentokil Initial's move to Google

Rentokil Initial, one of the largest business services companies in the world with yearly revenues of £2.5bn, is taking further steps into the cloud, but they are steps that will leave a big footprint.

The firm is four years into a massive turnabout in its technology practices, an upheaval that started when incoming CIO Bryan Kinsella realised the company had no real IT infrastructure.

Bespoke technology spread throughout Rentokil’s global subsidiaries as a result of major M&A activity.

Following a strategic curve that has seen Rentokil move email to Google, it is now switching to running its HR operations through software-as-a-service.

Fergal Harkin, Group HR Operations Director at Rentokil Initial, says that every step the firm takes in the direction of the cloud brings better systems and processes that are shared across the business.

“We may have under-invested in our infrastructure in the past, until our CEO initiated a change programme,” he admits. “Then we really started looking for answers to the problems in our business processes.”

Cloud comfort
Rentokil was already using Google Apps across the business for email, intranet and collaboration, something that Harkin says was a way of becoming more comfortable with the cloud.

“It gives you a degree of confidence, as an email client it’s as good as anything else,” he says. “Google has really blazed the trail [for the cloud]”.

Rentokil has now chosen to use software from Workday for its global human resources system, which supports 66,000 employees working in 1000 branches in 58 countries.

The company already uses other cloud solutions including Ariba for procurement and Cornerstone OnDemand for online learning and training.

The move to a cloud-based system for HR functions has had immediate positives. “Payroll was a big element in our operating expenditure, and we had ineffective controls over it,” says Harkin.

Workday was not the only supplier in the frame, and Rentokil was not specifically seeking a cloud solution, but Harkin says that through the use of software-as-a-service, the firm was able to standardise its application set.

“We weren’t dogmatic,” he says. “We were looking at a large range of suppliers, and we were looking at what market was right for us, and if the supplier was right.

“Other suppliers would lock down the design process,” he adds of one major factor in the final procurement decision.

Workday took what Harkin called a cautious approach, with a small footprint in the UK before rolling out to the wider connected Rentokil Initial workforce of 20,000 global workers.

Soon Workday will be the core of the company’s human resources functionality, replacing the legacy HR system that serves 2000 workers.

“We are taking a huge leap from where we are,” says Harkin, explaining that the firm struggled to produce reports about workers and work issues.

“We don’t have to run reports now, you just look at the dashboard and the information is there.”

Previously HR systems were different in every Rentokil office, and had very little central control or data sharing facilities. In contrast it now has one system that supports the whole company.

“In real-time we have information about vacancies, our employees and where people are working, and we can benchmark against it,” says Harkin.

“This is really important information to have on your manager’s dashboard. It lets us manage our people and our organisational data with a really high degree of flexibility.”

Going social
The Workday HR system has a look and feel similar to social networking applications, a factor which should contribute to a successful rollout.

“It’s not as intuitive as social networking,” says Harkin, “but I am comfortable that managers will take to it well.”
Reactions to the decision to move to cloud services were not universally positive, with some parts of the company more worried about this than others.

“Germany was very concerned about where the data was, but we had a consultation with Workday and are very happy about where it is, that it is under control and that it is compliant. Workday’s database is in Europe, and that is all very reassuring,” he says.

“We’ve broken through that barrier of worrying about whether our data is on someone else’s hardware. Our data is out there in the cloud.”