Or, how a tech company finally grew up and discovered the World Wide Web.
You would expect a company like iSymmetry to use first-rate software and have a stellar website--after all, it's a recruiting firm that places IT contractors in large public companies. But the Atlanta-based company's own technology hadn't kept up with its growth. When Bruce Culbert took over as CEO last year, he found that employees were frustrated and the outdated technology was hurting sales. He and the company's senior executives decided it was time for a technological makeover. The first step: getting rid of the old server-based software systems and switching to on-demand software delivered over the Web, also known as software-as-a-service. We asked iSymmetry to open its books and show us how its budget changed as a result of the new investments in software, laptops, and Web design.
Before: When iSymmetry was founded in 1999, most of the recruiting and sales staff worked in the Atlanta office, so desktop computers were sufficient.
After: This year, the company will buy 15 to 20 Dell laptops to support its increasingly virtual staff. Salespeople spend about 25 percent of their time at the office and the rest at client sites, and recruiters often work from home.
Before: iSymmetry's applicant-tracking software was expensive, inflexible, and slow. The program was difficult to use, and twice-yearly upgrades required a temporary shutdown. Customizing it to reflect iSymmetry's needs was time consuming and often impossible. And after spending $50,000 for it in 2003, iSymmetry still had to pay maintenance fees, which sometimes reached $18,000 a year.
After: The new software-as-a-service application, run by software firm Maxhire, is easy to use and customize. Workers can access the program from any computer at any time, which makes them more productive and has boosted sales, Culbert says.
Before: The company's system for tallying pay was "a nightmare," Culbert says. Every month the controller spent three days calculating commissions for seven sales staff and 17 recruiters, taking error-riddled data from dozens of spreadsheets and putting it into a master file. Then pay information for all 195 employees had to be typed by hand into the software provided by iSymmetry's payroll processor, ADP.
After: Commissions are tallied automatically, thanks to an on-demand program run by Centive. Recruiters can view their forecasted commissions online and learn how they are performing compared with others. The company is working to integrate the new software with ADP's application to eliminate manual data entry.
Before: The old website was difficult to navigate, and information was often out-of-date.
After: iSymmetry is spending $30,000 this year to redesign its website. The new site is cleaner and clearer, and reflects the company's current offerings.
The bottom line
The new software-as-a-service programs won't save money, at least not in the short run. But iSymmetry will never again have to pay $50,000 to install a new software system. And the changes have boosted efficiency, which Culbert says will save hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next five years. "We were dying when we were maintaining the systems ourselves," says Culbert. "This software allows a company of our size to operate and look like a much bigger company than we are."