How Google Apps is Empowering 19,000 Rentokil Employees

By Jennifer Lawinski  |  Posted 02-01-2011

How Google Apps is Empowering 19,000 Rentokil Employees

Rentokil Initial, a global enterprise with more than 76,000 employees, was an IT executive's nightmare. The company had grown organically and through the acquisition of several brands around the globe, but it had never been able to deploy a centralized technology platform. Billion-dollar divisions were operating on homegrown email systems that had no ties to the parent company's system. The company didn't even have a global address book. Now, the company's divisions, scattered around the globe, collaborate in the cloud.

When CIO Bryan Kinsella took the IT helm more than three years ago, the company was in the midst of attempting an ambitious ERP system deployment. "But the nature of the business was so diverse and difficult [that] they'd been trying that for two and a half years," he says. The project never came to fruition.

Kinsella had a global company with no central IT system and a clean slate -- Rentokil knew it needed to invest in systems. The IT team was tasked with figuring out how to make that happen across disparate business units that include indoor landscaping company Ambius, pest control organizations, flower delivery companies and more.

"How could we make the company operate much more as a global company operating in a much more productive and standardized way? That meant actually tackling all of the areas of technology -- from data centers and networks, desktop systems, mobile phones and applications," Kinsella says. General systems like mail could be standardized. Some business applications would need to be more unique.

When Kinsella's team began, the company had 40 different email systems and approximately 160 different domains. "Back in 2009, we looked at whether we could move our entire estate to, say, Microsoft, but that would be a very long and expensive process for us," says Kinsella. "The whole ability to take a server-based solution across our estate was very restrictive." In addition to operating in a number of major countries, including France, Germany, UK, USA, Australia, the company also operates in several other nations. In places such as Barbados, Brunei and Norway, the company has a smaller footprint than it does in the larger countries. This causes restrictions to the number of people who can be placed in those countries to support systems, notes Kinsella. "We just didn't see that would work for us." The company also decided against a hybrid Microsoft-open source system.

"We decided to look at a third option, which was providing this capability on a cloud-based solution," Kinsella says. In spring 2009, the company went to Google and negotiated a business application deal. Rentokil decided to have its Ambius division run a pilot program using Google Apps.

Google Apps Pilot Project

Based in Chicago, Ambius is Rentokil's smallest brand, a $150 million-a-year business that specializes in indoor landscaping for everything from medical offices to cruise ships. It has operations in Europe, Africa and Australia. A four- to five-month pilot was launched with 700 users.

"We began the trial across a whole range of different countries," Kinsella says. "We only turned on the Google mail, the calendar and the chat, and the use of minor video. We did not turn on the use of the Google docs at that point." The company also used Google's standard security system with a few tweaks. The company also wanted to give mobile employees the ability to work and sync from remote locations.

The pilot got favorable reviews.

"We came out of the pilot and then since then we went on a two-pronged approach. One was to continue with Ambius -- they had used the system for five months and we wanted to extend the use of the system for them, and then we would start to roll out through the rest of the group," says Kinsella. "We now have a connected organization, which we never had before."

Being able to collaborate digitally using Google docs has changed the way employees interact, Kinsella says. Training can be done using shared videos and teams can build project sites. "The old ways of doing things, such as sending emails to each other with attachments, is basically stopping," he says. Now, instead of emailing documents or spreadsheets, users just share access. "We originally went in there to put in a mail system, but the mail system is changing."

Google Apps Users Now Number 19,000

As of January 2011, Rentokil had 19,000 users on its Google Apps system.

Increased collaboration capabilities have allowed the company to begin to integrate its sales databases across divisions. Now, units can begin cross-selling and using geographical information to target different potential customers using Google maps. "We're rolling that out throughout the group," Kinsella says. "That's one example of where we've used mash-up technology to enable us to do things we couldn't do before." The company has also begun to create a global Intranet.

Kinsella estimates that Rentokil has saved about 70 percent of what it would have spent to go with a server-based internal e-mail system. "And it would have taken a lot longer to get there."

He advises other CIOs looking to revamp business application deployments to consider the cloud.

"There are certain things -- collaboration tools like mail, chat and calendar -- which are oblivious choices for cloud computing. It's a no-brainer," he says. "I think for forward-thinking companies ... this is clearly the right way to go."

For our SideXSide comparison of collaboration tools, read the article Which Office Suite is Right for Your Users?