Case Study 1: Compass UK Leisure
Compass Group is the world’s leading food service organisation with over 170,000 staff and a client base that extends throughout Europe, Scandinavia, the United States, Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Each day, this multinational organisation meets the diverse eating needs of millions of people. Their mission is to be the best – for their clients, partners, employees and the customers they serve – and to achieve leadership in their chosen markets through the constant pursuit of excellence.
Their UK division, Compass UK Leisure, encompasses a number of leading names in the industry, including Letheby & Christopher, Payne & Gunter, National Leisure Catering and Leith’s. It is the foremost sporting and social caterer in the country, with a reputation for providing the finest service in food and drink. Events such as the Grand National at Aintree, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Henley Regatta and major golf tournaments, including the British Open, crowd the Compass calendar. In addition, they provide catering services at a large number of internationally recognised venues, among them London Zoo, Royal Albert Hall, Arsenal FC, Wembley Stadium, Arena and Conference Centre, and racecourses such as Cheltenham, Newmarket, Goodwood and Haydock Park.
With events of this calibre occurring week in, week out, at locations scattered across the country, managing the human resources needs of the company was a mammoth task. Each remote location planned and staffed its events manually, faxing the payment details to the central payroll and personnel operation at Compass’ Northolt offices. There they were keyed into a bespoke personnel and payment entry system running in SB+, collated, analysed and the gross pay uploaded to the payroll – TRIpay, from BCS Limited.
Since most events only run for a few days, and the casual workforce required to be paid weekly, the data entry each period typically involved thousands of transactions: Cheltenham Festival alone involved over 3,000 staff. These all had to be entered, checked, calculated, payslips printed, cheques produced or payments run to BACS, all in a very small operating window.
As the company’s success increased, so did the difficulties. More events meant more transactions to process, and more stress for the staff. Four main problem areas were identified:
The existing machine was a 486-based PC, with terminals and printers connected over serial lines, running R83 PC-Pick. The average payroll size was 3,000 employees a week, and typical gross-to-net calculation times ran to hours, leaving no room for reruns before the BACS transmission deadline.
With a weekly transaction count averaging 4,000+ to key from faxes, data entry was time-consuming and prone to errors. 12-hour days or longer were common.
None of the remote staffing locations was effectively computerised, resulting in double-booked casuals, since the same staff could be offered jobs at multiple locations, and the whole manual staffing process was cumbersome and inefficient.
Working Time Directive
The demands of the directive with regard to recording working hours and ensuring adequate breaks and rest periods, would place tremendous burdens on staff both at the remote locations and within the payroll/personnel departments.
In spite of the admirable efforts of the individuals concerned, it was obvious that the systems had to be streamlined to accommodate the increased workload, boost user confidence and provide the foundations to plan further expansion.
After consultation with a number of solution providers the decision was made to choose Beauchamp Computer Services Ltd (BCS) to provide an overhaul of all operations. This decision was taken based on the long-standing association between the two companies since the installation of the TRIpay payroll application in 1991, and the knowledge that BCS had a history of successful bespoke application development.
Analysis of Compass’ requirements produced an action plan:
- New server hardware and operating environment;
- Replacement of SB+ personnel and payment entry system;
- Provision of additional links and concurrent updates between personnel and payroll systems;
- Development and integration of event staffing system to manage, plan, administer and produce payments for staffing operations (later christened AESOP);
- Provision of a networked solution to allow the central AESOP database to be accessed from all linked and remote locations across the UK.
BCS, a General Automation reseller, put forward a solution based on mvBASE, which would provide a familiar MultiValue database environment with the capability to run on Windows NT and integrate smoothly with Compass’ existing network. The speed and reliability of mvBASE made it an ideal choice for such a time-critical environment, and BCS was confident that its resilience would allow it to handle the ever-increasing volume of transactions.
A twin Pentium II 400 MHz mvBASE server was installed at Compass UK Leisure’s Birmingham offices, with the payroll and personnel departments at Northolt connecting via AccuTerm telnet sessions over the existing network.
Initial benchmarks between the old system and mvBASE produced some breathtaking results. Weekly batch processes that would normally take around six hours could be completed in under ten minutes on the new system, a time saving that alone made the migration project look worthwhile.
Ann Beadon, payroll manager at Northolt, commented: “The benchmarks only highlighted a major bottleneck within weekly processing since we would have to allocate one day each week to perform the batch processes prior to BACS transmission. This demanded a lot of extra hours of goodwill from the staff to ensure the employees were paid on time.”
With the new hardware in place, attention could be turned to the software. Compass’ proprietary SB+-based personnel and payment entry routines were migrated to the BCS 4GL TransSys. This retained all the functionality and familiarity of the original applications, thus minimising the need for operator retraining, whilst adopting a user interface that was common to the rest of the BCS application suite. Enhancements were also made to the existing personnel-payroll interface routines to maximise the efficiency of the weekly processing cycle.
The bespoke AESOP staffing operations system was designed in consultation with the Compass staffing officers to provide a solution which perfectly matched their requirements. It allows staffing officers to set up the required staffing levels for different areas of an event, staff these jobs with employees from a database of over 15,000 casuals, produce offers of employment, record acceptance, attendance and performance, monitor compliance with the Working Time Directive, and generate payment information for the payroll. It also enabled them to perform analysis before, during, and after an event in ways that were impractical at best with the old manual system.
Initially trialed as a standalone system, AESOP was now brought onto the central server with a core employee database available to all locations across the UK. Centralisation meant an end to out-of-date employee information, record duplication and double-booking the same staff at different events. It also meant payment data could be downloaded direct to the payroll office at the close of an event, at a stroke cutting hours off the input side of the processing cycle and removing opportunities for delay and error.
A number of months after going live with the new systems the implementation of the fully networked AESOP, personnel and payroll systems has proved an unqualified success. 14 remote staffing locations are live, with another 19 expected to roll out in the near future. Productivity has increased in all areas of operations, with significant improvements in data accuracy, speed of processing, and previously undreamed-of opportunities for analysis. The company can now plan for the future, confident that its core IT system will provide it with a secure foundation on which to build.
The implementation of the AESOP system has already assisted Compass to expand its already impressive portfolio of customers with ease. A number of new catering contracts have recently been awarded to the company, most notably the Millennium Dome in London and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Gill Howarth of Compass UK Leisure commented:
“The system’s implementation has provided the company with a significant edge over its rivals in its ability to staff events. We can now provide our clients with an even better casual workforce, as our users have the ability to staff any given event with much greater precision. With continuously-updated data on staff availability and skills always to hand, we can field the best team for each event.”
Ann Beadon added:
“The new system has created a regime which greatly reduces the burden on the processing staff and generates a much more relaxed working atmosphere.”
Commenting on the success of the project, Tony Coutts, software manager for BCS Limited, said:
“We are delighted to have been able to provide a solution for Compass Group which has been so successful. Such a high-profile installation has given us the opportunity to demonstrate not only our expertise in the field of bespoke and packaged software, but also the performance and rock-solid reliability of mvBASE."