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No IT? Distributed workers? No problem for this virtual firm

Gurnet Consulting runs on Salesforce, Jobscience, Yammer and Google Apps, with some help from Twitter and LinkedIn

By , Network World
July 15, 2011 06:09 AM ET
Martin King

Network World - With a widely distributed workforce and no IT staff, the 30 full-time Gurnet Consulting consultants have become some of the industry's ultimate power cloud and social networking users.

Consultants within the firm, which specializes in IT project management, depend almost exclusively on cloud applications such as Google Apps and Salesforce and social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter to collaborate with each other and build key professional networks.

Founder and CEO of the firm, Martin King, says the company's virtual infrastructure lets the company run lean and quickly adapt new tools as they become available in the cloud. It also gives the consultants the social glue they need to operate effectively as a team. "We don't have offices where we can talk around water coolers," King says.

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The company starts by using Yammer to draw its consultants together on projects and in personal relationships that help build a corporate culture in the absence of a face-to-face business environment. And it uses cloud applications Salesforce and Jobscience to track customer engagements and keep an eye on a pipeline of prospective new consultants the firm might need to hire for specific projects.

In combination with Google Apps for business applications, the company has all the platforms it needs to do business, eliminating the need for IT infrastructure except for laptops and smartphones, King says.

For its core business Gurnet uses Google Apps for calendaring, contacts, instant messaging and video calls, word processing, spreadsheets, slideshows and knowledge management. Salesforce.com provides collaboration on documents such as proposals, statements of work development and organization of document collateral for proposals. Job proposals developed in Google Docs are linked to job opportunities in Salesforce. Jobscience facilitates recruiting and workflow.

Gurnet is an IT consulting company that helps its clients develop and manage IT infrastructure projects. That requires a lot of attention to details such as whether the client businesses have the personnel, infrastructure and systems to go ahead with projects, and if not, how to get them.

Gurnet also helps write RFPs, choose vendors and formally assure that projects will be completed successfully, then helps the client bring the newly completed projects into routine use.

That range of work requires a lot of collaboration and a pragmatic way to achieve it and keep it organized. That pragmatic approach embraced cloud services, and will likely result in expanded cloud services, he says.

For example, currently the firm uses spreadsheets to correlate data about skills needed by clients that is housed in Salesforce.com with data about job candidates that resides in Jobscience. The spreadsheets work, but creating them is a time-consuming manual process.

As the firm grows, that process will become too big a burden. The solution will likely be upgrading Salesforce and Jobscience licenses so the two services can be integrated. "That will mean exponentially higher license fees, but it's better than buying server and having to maintain them," he says.

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