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Email to 'G'-mail at Rentokil

22 April 2010

Bryan Kinsella

Rentokil Initial is taking the lead by migrating its email system to Google Apps across its global workforce of 35,000 in 50 countries. PFM's April issue describes what the benefits are to the Group’s workforce and operations

IS CLOUD COMPUTING THE NEXT THING IN IT? Cloud computing is a web-based solution, where the software and hardware are pooled centrally and made available to the likes of you and me – and corporates - over the internet.
One of the first to see the possibilities is Rentokil Initial which has, as part of a massive five-year turnaround plan, signed a landmark agreement with Google to deploy Google Apps Premier Edition across its international workforce in more than 50 countries. The new platform will provide a single web-based communications and collaboration suite to replace the Groups existing 160 email domains and 40 mail systems in its six operating divisions.
The £2.4bn turnover Rentokil Initial group’s remit extends from washroom facilities to office art and plants via parcel delivery services. It has recognised in its turnaround plan the need to introduce operational excellence and consolidate the disparate information systems that have grown up within the many divisions, and bring smaller companies acquired by Rentokil Initial under the Group’s umbrella.
“Our primary focus in moving to a single global mail solution with Google is to deliver standard capability across our global organisation at pace. Whilst cost was part of our consideration, it was not our primary driver,” says Bryan Kinsella, chief information officer. “Future cost avoidance was important but the drive to reduce current costswas not – we calculated that if we got our strategy and planning correct we would see current costs fall naturally.”
“One of the intriguing aspects of Rentokil Initial is that it has grown up rather like a selection of villages, all loosely connected,” continued Kinsella. “What we sought was more standardisation of value propositions, processes and systems across the entire group. We are gradually working through our many challenges in infrastructure, groupware, and business applications. The email challenge is part of our groupware projects. We have been living with over 40 different mail systems with 160 domains. Each business had its own mail system, and acquired businesses added new ones. IT has been low on the list of priorities.”
Whilst some executives, senior managers, and businesses were part of a population using Microsoft Outlook, they represented less than 20 per cent of Rentokil Initial’s mail user population. Divisions such as City Link and Facility Services had their own core mail system. The Ambius division used different email systems in different countries. There was no integrated global address book and to find someone meant searching through the Group internal intranet.
“What we wanted to do was to create collaboration and have a mail system to connect everyone,” says Kinsella. “Our choices were down to either expanding our server-based Microsoft Outlook installation – requiring more servers and capabilities, operate a hybrid of Microsoft Outlook and Open Source mail systems, or move to a ‘cloud’-based solution. We chose the latter.”
In late 2008, Rentokil Initial started to talk with Google about a cloud computing-based solution at a time when Microsoft was still deliberating its cloud own plans. In April 2009, Rentokil Initial launched a major pilot within its Ambius division, suppliers of tropical plants and indoor environments with operations in Europe, the US and Australia.
Explained Kinsella, “It was a brave step in April 2009 when we put 750 Ambius personnel from multiple countries onto Google mail. When we came out of the pilot we completed an assessment to see whether the Ambius users thought Google mail was suitable and fit for purpose as an introduction to a group standard.”
By the end of 2009, the company had concluded that the system was fit for purpose and decided to roll-out Google Apps to some 34,000 users, in the largest paid-for implementation of Apps in Google’s history. Indeed it was worldwide news at the time. Completion of the roll-out is scheduled for the end of this year, and according to Kinsella, the implementations are going to plan.
“Our pilot taught us that we had to be more ambitious,” claimed Kinsella. “We had the opportunity to provide email addresses to our technicians and drivers; this would improve communication and collaboration including the ability to complete on-line training. The chat and calendar sharing functionalities are proving very popular and we are already making use of video to cascade messages. We are continually looking at ways to enrich user experiences.”
He continued, “Whilst our focus is on rollingout, we are also adding further capabilities. Over the past couple of years we have been rollingout standard Motorola PDAs. For example, a pest technician uses the same terminal as a washroom technician or a City Link driver. We now have the ability to view emails on the PDA and will be rolling out this functionality. We are also considering creating kiosks. However with Google mail, our users can access their email accounts anywhere in the world as long as they have a good network connection from any PC.”
Rentokil Initial is developing its use of the PDAs, turning them into intelligent tools. As well as scheduling and emails, they can be used for Google maps, SMS and other facilities including photographs and video. Therefore, typically if a City Link parcel cannot be delivered, the personnel can take a date-stamped photo showing they tried to make the delivery. Pest control can be improved with photos taken of infestations.
The possibilities are still developing rapidly at Rentokil Initial as it moves its experience from a hotchpotch of unconnected email systems to one now where it has the ability to employ technologies in ways that had not been envisaged.
“We have purchased GAPE – Google’s enterprise software and applications - and so far have been rolling out email, chat plus video,” says Kinsella. “The Ambius MD sends out a company video every month and now this one transmission reaches everyone in each country.”
As Rentokil Initial operates in 56 different countries, the Google cloud approach means everything and everyone can be covered, without the costly alternative of supporting and managing the restructure of a network running in a serverbased environment.
The deal with Google includes GAPE, full internet security, on-line and off-line mail, and the ability to audit historical information. Kinsella reports, “It's safer than we had before.”
Changing domain names was a challenge.  Although there was a need to minimise the 160 domain names, it was not appropriate to take it all the way as it could affect  customer relationships.  There are prestige names e.g. Rentokil-Initial,  Rentokil, Initial, and City Link – which have stayed. The 160 original domain names has been reducedto just nine.
The change has not come withouth some ‘grumbles’, but the advantages of the move to a single email system with a global address book with accessibility from multiple devices provides a major forward step change.Kinsella has promised that by the end of this year his CEO, Alan Brown, will be able to press just one button and immediately send one email to all email addresses held on the global address book.
Before the change, mail domains were always out of date as there was no active directory. The Google solution is being deployed with active directory and central administration. The software is constantly being upgraded, and improvements delivered to users regularly. Automatic language translation is also featured – that’s an e-mail produced in English and translated into, for example, French, German, Spanish, etc.
“The challenge coming up is where do we go with Office apps, Word, Excel, Power Point?” says Kinsella. “Google’s equivalent is in its Apps package that we have not yet made available to users. Are the Apps good enough for what we need? We are already starting to make use of Google sites; the functionality supports documentation management and collaboration. Another of our challenges is to move from 48 intranets running in the company today. We want just one Group intranet and we see Google sites playing a key role here.”
The thinking here is clear and the direction obvious. One thing’s for sure – cloudy thinking at Rentokil Initial is actually crystal clear.
Cloud computing – what is it?
Rather like FM, there is no agreed definition of cloud computing. The Cloud Computing Journal has carried a feature detailing 21 definitions of the phenomenon. However, there are 12 primary characteristics of a cloud computing solution:
 centralisation of applications, servers and storage
 much virtualisation of every IT component
 automation of as many tasks as possible
 dynamic movement of resources (virtual machines and storage)
 internet usage to reduce cost, time and effort
 self-service (users selecting usage of IT resources without having the IT department in the middle)
 pay-as-you-go approach
 simplification of the apps and services provided by IT
 standardisation of the IT infrastructure
 technology convergence
 standards development
 and interconnecting individual cloud computing infrastructures.
There are three classes of cloud computing services – private, public and hybrid. Within public cloud computing there are three categories of services
 SaaS software as a service
 IaaS infrastructure as a service
 and PaaS platform as a service.
IaaS first appeared in the 1960s when it was called ‘time-sharing’. IBM first shipped virtualised mainframes some 35 years ago. In the late ‘90s era, a class of provider known as application service providers (ASPs) surfaced, not dissimilar from today’s SaaS providers – the only difference is the way services are implemented.
A key advantage is that new virtual machines can be implemented in minutes if not seconds. Traditionally it can take weeks/months to provision a server anew. Google is a CCSP (cloud computing service provider) It enjoys a terrific economy of scale and may also be able to offer functionality not otherwise commercially available.
 Frank Booty is a freelance writer

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