Not remotely expensive

11 Jul 2005

The internet and email have had a dramatic impact on most business sectors but none more so than recruitment. Where once fax machines and face-to-face interviews were headhunters’ stock-in-trade, now the process of filling job vacancies is largely driven by email and the web.

One recruiter that saw the potential of technology early on was Richmond Recruitment. Founded in 1990 and now the largest privately owned placement business in the country, Richmond has 50 staff split between its two Dublin offices and regional outposts in Cork, Galway and Limerick. It has upwards of 2,000 temporary staff on assignment in any given week and fills around 1,000 permanent positions annually.

While the internet and email have been an integral part of Richmond’s operations for several years now, until recently employees could only access them while in the office. This presented a serious obstacle to a number of managers who travelled extensively as part of their jobs. Once the company decided that it wanted to enable them to work from anywhere, the company’s MIS specialist, Jacqui Rochford, asked its longstanding technology supplier, MJ Flood Technology, to come up with a solution.

MJ Flood’s recommendation was simple: enable the built-in remote access feature within Microsoft Exchange Server 2003. This feature — connecting to an Exchange account by using what is known as Remote Procedure Call (RPC) over HTTP — gives Outlook users secure access to their Exchange Server accounts from the internet when they are travelling or working outside their organisation’s firewall. Users need no special connections or hardware, such as smart cards and security tokens, and they can still get to their Exchange accounts even if the Exchange server and client computer behind the firewall are on different networks.

Says Rochford: “There are loads of big packages out there that will do the same thing but when I sat down with MJ Flood and they put it to us, we took it straight away because we had most of what we needed in place. We had Exchange Server 2003, laptops and 3G cards, the only thing we needed to buy was an SSL certificate, which cost about €200.” All that was required then was some server configuration work, a task that took MJ Flood little more than a day. The system went live three months ago.

As someone who spends around three-quarters of his time on the road travelling between the firm’s offices, operations director and joint managing director Graham Burns is a big fan of the new remote access system. “I’m continually on the move. You’d be on a train, in a hotel, parked in the car – you could be anywhere. The fact you can switch on your laptop and clear off your emails before you start your day – it’s invaluable that you can do that.”

As well as enable remote email access, MJ Flood has also deployed Citrix within Richmond’s office network. A so-called thin client technology, Citrix concentrates the main computing and support functions on a central server, allowing an IT administrator to troubleshoot individual PCs from one location. In this system, the PCs are low-power and inexpensive ‘dumb’ terminals that pull applications down from the central Citrix server.

“Citrix allows Richmond to gain central control of branches and
reduce the cost of communicating between them and it does so very successfully,” says James Finglas, sales director at MJ Flood.

Technology may have revolutionised Richmond’s business but Burns is keen to emphasise that, rather than replace the role of people, technology has enhanced the agency-client relationship. “There is still a significant degree of personal touch involved and we’re very conscious we don’t want to lose that. We’re not just a machine turning around candidates but having said that we’d be lost without technology, it’s an invaluable aid.”

By Brian Skelly

Pictured demonstrating the joys of e-working are Richmond Recruitment’s MIS specialist Jacqui Rochford and joint managing directors Graham Burns (left) and Sean Finnegan