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Embedding a culture of quality


Michael Dean talks to Jason Reaney, IT Director at recruitment company Elan about how their accreditation to the National Computing Centre’s (NCC) Standard for IT departments helped them embed a culture of quality which will help them fulfil wider ambitions.

Elan is one of Europe’s leading IT recruitment companies, a wholly owned subsidiary of multi-billion dollar US company Manpower with a network of 53 offices spanning over 18 countries. In the UK there are currently 8,000 consultants on Elan assignments and around 2,000 IT professionals permanently placed in positions from helpdesk to programmers, telecoms to programme managers and even IT directors.

IT Director Reaney heads up a team of 19, who are split between infrastructure support, delivery and business application development. Data warehousing and data interrogation is particularly important at Elan; with so many consultants and clients to match-up, being able to mine data quickly and effectively is of utmost importance to the business. According to Reaney, “The IT recruitment market is forever evolving and we are now seeing a resurgence of interest from our clients in improving security and demonstrating capability and professionalism through compliance to ISO standards and other relevant certifications”.

The reasons for accreditation

The same could be applied to Elan itself. “More and more of the Invitations to Tender we receive are requesting that we demonstrate our own professionalism through certification, that was one of the reasons we applied for accreditation to the National Computing Centre’s Standard for IT Departments. We also have plans to support an extension of scope of Elan’s existing ISO9001 certification and potentially seek compliance to ISO 27001 and ISO 20000. We saw the NCC standard as the first step of the process, a framework that would facilitate continuous improvement and help embed a culture of quality in the organisation.” Reaney continued.

There were other reasons too. Reaney was also keen to find a mechanism to give the IT team formal recognition for a job well done. “Quite often, the contribution of the IT team is taken for granted, largely because things run smoothly, but I felt it was important to change that perception, raise the team’s profile and show the business the value IT adds. As an American owned company Elan must also comply with Sarbanes-Oxley regulations on governance and the NCC accreditation would help demonstrate good practice in this area”.

About the IT department accreditation

The National Computing Centre’s IT Department Accreditation Scheme (ITDA) is a unique business improvement programme with a certification scheme that recognises excellence and effectiveness. The assessment scheme which underpins the NCC ITDA examines an IT department’s performance against 110 common controls (Lines of Enquiry) enabling the department to compare and understand its own strengths and weaknesses and make improvements if necessary. The ITDA is also an accreditation scheme, so those IT departments who demonstrate excellence are awarded with a recognised accreditation to the NCC Standard. The Standard has already been awarded to over 30 organisations and a further 25 are currently going through accreditation.

The ITDA process

Initially Reaney was a bit apprehensive about the resources required to secure accreditation, “Although we felt we did most things well, and felt prepared, I didn’t know how much work was involved.” Reaney stated. However, when the assessor described the process at the pre-assessment briefing session (The Orientation Day), Reaney and his team felt much better. “The documentation was well written, the process logical and the assessor approachable and professional. In the end there was no disruption to our day-to-day operations, we were easily able to prepare without dropping other activities. In fact it was worthwhile to park the day-to-day activities for a short while to concentrate on developing our strategic objectives and consider how to achieve them.”

Elan is one of Europe’s leading IT recruitment companies

The benefits

The result of the final accreditation visit was accreditation to the NCC Standard. Reaney was happy with the result, “The assessor identified some areas which required further work, such as improving our training plans and updating our skills matrix, but overall we scored highly and reached the Standard. What’s more the process facilitated collaboration and knowledge sharing between team members, so now we all have a better understanding of each other’s contribution which will help us improve further.”

Reaney continued, “A key aspect of my role is to ensure that IT is closely aligned to the business and undertaking the ITDA has certainly helped towards this. Part of the accreditation process includes a customer perceptions survey which has provided us with an independent view of how our services are perceived by our customers. The results were good and we will use this as a performance benchmark going forward.”

“The board feel re-assured that independent validation has confirmed that we are doing a good job and have the appropriate controls in place and personally I am delighted we now have a robust framework for continuous improvement. Through the ITDA we have taken the first steps and embedded a quality culture in preparation for a longer journey to securing additional accreditations.” Reaney said, “Accreditation is a seamless process. It is well structured and tests you, and the preparation required didn’t get in the way of day-to-day business activities. We look forward to securing more business now we have been accredited by the NCC.”

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