Collaboration Gets the Job Done at Staffing Firm

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2016-06-13 Email Print this article Print

On Assignment needed a better IT framework for users, so it turned to a cloud-based 'crowdsolving' platform that supports social interaction and collaboration.

One of the challenges for any IT organization is understanding the specific concerns, problems and challenges that people face in the daily quest to complete their work. For staffing firm On Assignment, which serves more than 6,600 clients and oversees more than 35,000 contract professionals in medicine, life sciences and other areas of business, the need to align disparate operations, engage with business units and improve IT operations for the company was critical.

"We were at a point where we recognized a need to refresh technology and provide a better IT framework for our internal customers," says Kevin Flavin, director of IT infrastructure, who managed a transformation project. "We have a lot of people working in remote offices across different divisions, and many of them were encountering difficulties with the existing IT framework."

As a result, the company embarked on an initiative to cultivate input and understand employees' needs in a deeper and broader way. It eventually turned to POPin, a cloud-based "crowdsolving" platform that supports social interaction and collaboration.

"We needed an efficient way to obtain valuable feedback without spending a lot of time meeting people face to face," Flavin explains. "We wanted to create the equivalent of an online town hall meeting."

Mobile Tools Deliver Real-Time Communications and Feedback

The company switched on the POPin platform in March of 2015. After a kick-off call with key members of the team overseeing the project, On Assignment sent out about 400 emails to key employees.

About 200 of them joined a group that would anonymously discuss IT issues and help frame decisions, through both Web and mobile tools. The use of mobile tools was important because they delivered real-time communication and feedback capabilities across 26 major locations scattered across the United States, Flavin says.

A core issue was how to undergo a much-needed desktop refresh, while also defining new rules and restrictions about using cloud applications, mobile tools and more. "In some cases, people were frustrated because they didn't have access to tools they thought they needed, and we were also losing business because people couldn't get tasks done in the way that's necessary," he reports.

For instance, in some cases, corporate rules forbade the use of services such as Dropbox. "We had people pointing out these issues and voting on them through comments and feedback," Flavin adds. "All of this helped illuminate problems and preferences. It was a very productive process."

The IT reorganization project lasted about two months. After concluding the process, the team pulled together all the information and used it to guide the technology rollout. Among other things, the project guided and aided the company in adopting a virtual desktop infrastructure that would support computing in the office and on the road.

"We were able to add features and capabilities that weren't in place before and refine them to better suit the needs of users," Flavin explains.

The collaboration processes went so smoothly that the company will likely roll out the collaboration platform for other departments and groups in the coming months.

"It creates an open feedback loop that delivers thoughtful and useful information," Flavin reports. "While face-to-face meetings and communication are useful, they're often not the most efficient way to manage a project of this magnitude."

Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).

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