Background

I have now been in my current role for just over 2 years.  When I joined the company back in May 2012 we had a team of 20 permanent staff and 5 contractors.  If I fast forward to now we have 60 members of the permanent IT team, with dozens of internal promotions and an off-shore development team in Vietnam.  In product terms, we have a great HR software offering, apps in both native Android & iOS with over 10,000 downloads and a very successful CRM strategy which has now been embedded into our business.

Identify quick wins 

The first question I asked myself before joining Peninsula was – Can I add value to this organisation? And secondly, is this the right environment to get the best out of me?  The answer to both of those was absolutely yes and I had the support of the MD and my line Director.

Upon getting in I knew I needed to understand the business before I could make changes. We deeply care about servicing our clients well, so it was of critical importance not to destabilise this.  I deliberately took a passive role in the first 6-8 weeks allowing me to understand what happens throughout the organisation.  This involved listening in at the coal face and seeing our services in action on client visits.  This gave me time to build an action plan of how the team could add value quick.

Any leader coming into a new business, needs to prove themselves in a reasonably short time, this shows, to those that work for you, that you are someone worthy of following and you equally need to demonstrate to your peers, that you are here to help them move their functions forwards.

This is when the opportunity to take on the CRM project landed on my lap.  This was my catalyst to make change for the better, in an area that I knew well from previous experience.  We went through a thorough selection process and implemented Salesforce.com within 90 days.  And the rest as they say is history.

Getting the basics right

Any person building a team technical or not needs good people.  I made some key hires early on which included my Development Manager Damian Dommett.  There was also luckily a very good foundation in place, which Rob Bray who with 8 years of service had built the infrastructure and service part of the department.  The biggest area that had to grow was software development, because we had huge plans for hronline our client facing HR software.

Building a development team

Building 1 development team is incredibly difficult never mind trying to build four of them!  We had a number of online customer facing projects, mobile development, internal systems and Salesforce.com.  We ended up scaling with contractors, which was costing us a fortune and really destabilising our permanent team. I had to remove the contractors and get good permanent staff in a market where Developers are a scarcity.

It has taken us nearly 18 months to build a 30 man development team and implement a true AGILE culture.  This has taken the majority of Damian’s time since he has been here, but we really feel we now have a fantastic permanent staff base.

Promote from within 

If recruitment was our #1 blocker for growth our #2 problem was retaining the staff that we have got. The most important thing to do when retaining your staff is to invest in their development and promote them before they are ready.  Because when they are ready they could easily find higher paid work elsewhere.  We have offered literally dozens of new opportunities and promotions vertically and horizontally. The great thing about working here is nothing stays the same for long and with the right attitude you can make things happen.

Ensuring stability of services 

The key to me being able to focus on our software development was knowing that the services where being well managed.  We implemented KPI’s and dashboards so we could very quickly see if anything was going wrong and alongside recruitment in development, Rob expanded the infrastructure team with key new hires in Information Security and Infrastructure Management.  The team are constantly monitored for uptime and SLA adherence.

Keeping our systems safe, secure and online is of paramount importance to Peninsula.  We owe that to our clients.

And the future

My current focus is continuing to build technology related products and services which our clients find valuable within their business.  hronline is a huge and exciting part of this development.  We really see this as the future of Peninsula and what will put us apart from the competition.

My Personal Life 

In my free time I like to keep myself active.  It is very important to me that I keep healthy and have other goals which are not work related.  I have completed 3 Marathons, 1 Olympic Triathlon, the hardest 1 day cycling event in Europe – La Marmotte and Tough Mudder.  This year I have struggled a bit with injury, so for the first time in 10 years I have not competed.  When I am not training or working I spend time with my wife and 4 year old daughter who keeps us both on our toes.  Many people ask, how do I fit all this in?  My answer is always – I get out of bed early!

Jon Cleaver – Group Head of IT