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Having the best tools doesn't have to mean changing the system

Garfield Hunt is a recruitment agency with a difference. It places specialist workers all over the world in temporary contracts, sometimes for as little as a day at a time. One of only a handful of British companies in this field, it is also virtually the only one outside London.

Two things are critical to Garfield Hunt’s success: its relationships with its clients and temporary staff, and the database which it uses to manage those relationships. A single, company-wide database contains details of temps’ skills and expertise, as well as their availability, placement, travel and accommodation details. This information is cross-referenced to clients’ details and used for sales purposes. It is then used for managing each contract and for invoicing and accounting purposes. The situation is further complicated by the fact that temporary staff undertook different types of work and, in addition, employment and taxation law differ between countries. Consequently, Garfield Hunt’s invoicing procedures are far from straightforward.

There came a point when staff began to complain that the database was inadequate, with poor functionality and questionable data quality. They also complained that technical support for the database was poor. The situation came to a head when one department, which managed particularly complex contracts, began to receive angry calls from clients complaining about incorrect invoices. Then, in a Board meeting, it became apparent that the financial projections were completely wrong because critical information was missing.

There seemed to be only one solution: to replace the database with a new, purpose-designed piece of software. Bardwyck was called in to review the use of the existing system and identify the best course of action. The result was unexpected: rather than buy a new system, Bardwyck recommended retaining the existing system, but with some changes.

What had happened?

From its investigations, Barwyck concluded that there were some issues with the software and data. However, the main problems were that processes were not adequately defined and staff had not received enough formal training. Consequently, many had developed their own procedures based on their own knowledge, supplemented by experimentation with the system.

What Bardwyck recommended

Working with the team, Bardwyck came up with a roadmap for doing the following:

  • Cleansing the data to clear out outdated and duplicate information.
  • Establishing an audit trail and adequate security to maintain the integrity of the data in the database
  • Developing a process manual containing precise details of all the processes and procedures used within the company
  • Putting in place a training programme to ensure that all existing staff were fully trained and understood how to use the database, and that procedures were in place for training new staff members
  • Appointing an individual member of staff who would take responsibility for upkeep of the database

What Bardwyck supplied

The 30-day project was carried out over a period of a year to fit in with Garfield Hunt’s other commitments, and cost £29,500*. It included the following Bardwyck services:

  • Introductory workshop
  • IT audit
  • Operations audit
  • Round-up
  • Report and recommended future IT and operations strategy

Bardwyck’s approach?

One of Bardwyck’s consultants worked with Garfield Hunt for one day a week for just under a year, beginning and ending with a workshop involving the whole management team. In the interim, they carried out interviews and undertook a comprehensive review of the existing database management system. They also investigated the other systems on the market. As a result of this work, which was done in close collaboration with Garfield Hunt’s management team, they reached clear conclusions and recommendations. Shortly afterwards, Garfield Hunt appointed a member of staff to cleanse the database. Bardwyck was retained to help define the processes and develop the process manual. In the three years since then, Garfield Hunt has had no further accounting problems: staff are fully trained and everyone is happy with the new procedures.