Founded in 1965, Ray & Berndtson has grown to become the world's sixth largest executive search firm, with offices in over 32 countries on five continents. Having built their business helping clients create high impact management teams, they take the notion of leadership seriously. The company has recently completed a multi-year research project working with the Harvard Business School identifying key leadership practices that correlate to organizational success and a high Return on Leadership®.
It's no surprise that Ray & Berndtson has emerged a clear leader in its field through dedication to four key operating principles: Integrity, Client Focus, Innovation, and Teamwork. In the pursuit of innovation, Ray & Berndtson has increasingly turned to technology to ensure timely, successful search solutions for their clients.
Ray & Berndtson specializes in filling senior-level management positions for clients ranging from the Global 2000 to promising emerging companies. Their premier team of representatives travels extensively working to match clients with high impact executives. Email has grown to be an absolutely vital tool for communicating with clients and candidates. The reps also rely heavily on SearchNet, a proprietary contact management application that tracks over 300,000 executives.
The company traditionally issued laptops to its professionals to provide mobile access to these resources. The availability for their very-mobile reps was somewhat inhibited by both the size and boot-up times of these machines. When it came time for a scheduled replacement for the laptops, the IS team at Ray & Berndtson decided to search for a better candidate.
"We determined that it would cost us about $4,500 per unit to purchase, equip and support each new business-grade laptop. That makes for a very expensive Email machine. We looked at PDAs, and saw the opportunity to both increase the level of information access and keep our capital budgets down. Our only concern was making sure that we had the right tools to manage the PDAs and provide a high level of security when accessing the corporate network," explains Rick Rawlins, IS Director for Ray & Berndtson.
The IS department started off relatively agnostic about the selection of a standard PDA model. A variety of factors led the IS team to select Pocket PC devices. These included familiar application development tools, easy integration with Outlook and Exchange, support for Email attachments, and economical wireless capabilities. In addition to the handheld devices for mobile access, representatives were also provided with network-ready PCs for their homes or offices.
"We deployed the handhelds with wireless Compact Flash modems to provide the ultimate in convenience for our highly mobile reps," comments Rawlins. "But you've got to keep in mind that wireless is still evolving and somewhat immature. Because of this we felt it was important to support both wireless and wire line connectivity, and we leaned towards a synchronization architecture so that regardless of the availability of a connection, reps would still be able to use the tools running locally."
The challenge was to ensure that representatives have access to the information they need under any circumstances - in a regional office, a cab, or walking into an interview with a candidate. Synchrologic was selected to provide the synchronization and management tools that Rawlins identified as critical to success.
Synchrologic provides a secure, centrally managed, server-based capability for synchronizing Email and PIM data as well as relational databases. Ray & Berndtson also rely on Synchrologic systems management tools for device configuration, software distribution, reporting, and logging of client events. Together, these capabilities provide a high level of administrative control and a powerful resource for troubleshooting problems.
The Synchrologic solution also incorporates technology to optimize for the wireless environment that Ray & Berndtson favors. Users download information to their devices quickly, and are able to work with the data offline. This approach minimizes the impact of unreliable mobile connectivity and reduces the connection charges significantly. Other optimizations include checkpoint restart; attachment filtering, message truncation, and extremely granular change capture to further minimize bandwidth.
Ray &; Berndtson's corporate Email system is Microsoft Exchange, using the full Outlook client. Synchrologic offered the broadest infrastructure solution, but also received the highest marks for email synchronization quality. Full support for meeting requests, proper handling of recurring events, and accurate bi-directional synchronization of read and unread marks were important differentiators that set the Email solution apart. Ease of integration with the Exchange environment was also a critical requirement.
"Synchrologic makes a complete, well-developed product that snapped right into our infrastructure, and provided for our synchronization needs," comments Rawlins. "They make it easy to use for employees who may not have a lot of technical know-how. We can extend our applications to them over the Internet, and I can manage that device remotely."
The Bottom Line
Ray & Berndtson was able to save a lot of money with their bold move into handheld computing. But more importantly, they have enabled company reps to provide a heightened level of service. The company is also positioned to take advantage of fast-evolving wireless networks, and to continue growing an innovative tool set that enhances their competitive position in a fast-paced industry. They've proved that the choice of mobile platform can translate into both short-term bottom line impact and long-term strategic advantage.
"Faced with an expensive laptop upgrade, we turned to Pocket PCs and Synchrologic to help us cut 50% out of our capital acquisition budget, contributing almost a half million dollars to the bottom line…and giving our users a better tool to do their job," Rawlins sums up enthusiastically.