A global tech skills staffing company, Tenth Revolution Group, says that moving away from nine separate CRM platforms that didn't talk to each other to one unified platform was the largest Salesforce implementation in Europe that year.
More importantly, so impactful was the project that six years later the result—a custom-built Salesforce platform tailored precisely to the group’s needs—is deemed to have delivered significant and on-going ROI.
Commenting on the ongoing benefit of the investment, the CIO who led ‘Project Phoenix,’ Mark Hill, says:
When I got here, we had nine different staffing brands, but now we're number one in cloud staffing in Salesforce, Microsoft and AWS and growing all the time.
Hill works for what was then called the Frank Recruitment Group, which has subsequently become better known as Tenth Revolution Group (as in, a leapfrog beyond today’s ‘4th Industrial Revolution’).
Frank is one of the two main brands of the group, along with Revolent Group. Overall, the company, which originally opened for business in 2006, concentrates on helping developers and cloud specialists find new roles, matching a million candidates and 30,000 B2B customers globally.
Hill explains the background to the project was that in 2016 the company had been acquired by a leading private equity company.
As often happens on the back of one of those things, our new owners looked around at the management team and saw a need for a chief information officer, which I became in January 2017.
I came in, did a review of all the systems, and it soon became pretty clear to me that we were going to struggle to scale the business efficiently and effectively without some significant investment.
His analysis was that having so many CRM systems that didn’t share information with each other meant there was no single view of a customer.
That meant candidates would get emailed multiple times, which can be very irritating for a professional, he points out.
There was very little back and front office interoperability, or straight-through processing. Indeed, he goes so far as to characterize everything from UI to CX to getting accurate enough operational data and stats to run and grow the business as “pretty much broken everywhere.”
Hill felt he needed to fix the situation, and so a quick decision needed to be made between buying a third party product or building a new in-house one, as remaining with the existing Frank Recruitment IT ‘zoo’ was not viable.
Buying off the shelf at that point in time would have got me there faster, it would have been more functional in the short term, and it would have been less cost and risk.
But in the longer term, you're not masters of your own destiny, and we wanted to be that, so we took the brave decision to build.
Another factor in that decision was Hill’s conviction that most of the recruitment, applicant tracking system and CRM suites he was seeing on the market were not as functional as he felt was needed for the company’s growth plans.
One vendor did stand out, he says: Salesforce. He explains:
Salesforce was just way ahead of anyone else in 2017. They came with a price tag, but they convinced us they would support us on our journey from a customer excellence perspective.
At that point in time, it was also very much trying to sell that kind of customer success mindset and business transformation—and as this was an absolute business transformation program that needed doing at pace, this was clearly the best option for us.
Working as one team
Hill stresses that what happened next was based not on the main Salesforce Sales Cloud but off its cloud platform alternative. He says:
Today we have a variety of its products--we've got some marketing cloud stuff, we've got Sales Cloud licences now, but back in 2017 the bulk of the new business was built using the platform. That's because Salesforce out of the box didn't do what we needed to do for recruitment, and we were having to customize it in certain areas.
In any case, Project Phoenix kicked off very soon after his onboarding, in April 2017, as systems integration help was chosen as rapidly as the new tech.
The name was deliberate, he says, as from the start he wanted to impress on all stakeholders and project participants the seriousness of what was at stake for the health of the then Frank Recruitment Group business.
Delivery was as quick as building the Phoenix business case, he adds:
Boots hit the ground in July, and we had our first brands migrate over in December.
That may have come as a bit of a surprise to some of his partners, who didn’t believe delivery could be accomplished that soon, he says:
All the SIs said it couldn't be done, but I made sure it was - and the way I did was to be very single-minded.
In practical terms, that meant setting up a full floor, dedicated War Room on-sitem staffed with developers and project managers and vendor representatives who worked “long hours, five, six days a week” to get the work done.
I got everyone in a room, from SIs to the Salesforce people, who were full time in the project, and I said: rip your badges off and put them in this box here - because now you work for Project Phoenix, and this is what's going to get us to our goal in the next few months. And if we have that mindset, we'll make it; if we don't, we won't.
All this development hot-housing was supported, he says, by a structured change management campaign.
That centred on regular company-wide communication about Phoenix via multiple channels and messages from the top-down, as well as regular branded emails around what was going to be delivered, what current expectations were, and when timelines would be met.
Training was then created for team members via paper-based instructional manuals, how-to videos, on-platform demos - all of which was in turn supported by walking Frank Recruitment people through journeys and other focused help.
“The beating heart of the business”
It’s now been a few years since those pressurized days: is Phoenix delivering?
Very much so, says Hill, stating,
The system we created really is the beating heart of the business now. We've hugely customized the platform to meet the needs of our business and we now run three divisions on a single Salesforce system with a single view of the customer.
Other Phoenix benefits, he says, were close integration between front and back office.
Easier access to data has also made several positive changes to the Tenth Revolution’s business.
Next steps include the firm’s first steps into use of AI and analytics, he adds.
Summing up his experience, for Hill, he says:
IT systems aren't there for the sake of being systems - they are there to provide information to help the business make decisions or take actions. We needed to go through this period of getting the functionality to enough of a base level so that we can really start adding the cool sexy stuff on top.