Customer relationship management (CRM) software is generally hard to get excited about, but Jeff Strachan a founder of Footprints Recruiting, an English as a second language (ESL) placement agency, verges on evangelical. And little wonder: Being burdened with a legacy system built using forms in Microsoft Outlook and being burnt by the lock-in of proprietary software would be enough to make an open source evangelist out of most people.
In Strachan's case, he has become a fan of one CRM system in particular: SugarCRM's open source Sugar software.
Footprints Recruiting recruits teachers from around the world to teach English in public and private schools. Footprints primarily targets Asia for placements, although the Middle East is an expansion market. It has offices in Canada, South Korea, Australia and the United Arab Emirates.
The nature of the business means that it is both cyclical — ramping up towards the start of school semesters — and competitive, with a number of placement agencies often competing to make sure their candidates are best positioned for a limited number of openings offered by schools.
In addition, recruiters like Footprints need to convince teachers that they should choose them instead of a rival firm. "Teachers have to trust us that we can get them a good job at fair market value and that we're reliable," says Strachan.
Before Sugar, the limitations of Footprints' internal systems were beginning to grate, Strachan says.
"Ten years ago when we first started the company we didn't have any money to invest in anything. It was two guys with laptops who emailed notes back and forth,"
Managing teacher files was done through forms in Microsoft Outlook. For a placement, teacher resumes must be compiled along with visa information, criminal background checks and photos in order for presentation to a school, which will then accept or reject a candidate. When, like Footprints, you're receiving some 50 to 150 applications per day, the limitations of this approach can quickly become clear.
"We have about 90,000 teachers in our database right now," Strachan says. "We have 14,000 advertising contacts. We've got another 12,000 or so school contacts that we're trying to manage. Each one of those has to be internally maintained.
"At this point in time we have 992 teachers who are now slated to go or have expressed interest in going to a program called EPIK — English Program in Korea — which is designed bring native English speakers into the public schools around South Korea. This year they're going to be hiring around 1000 teachers.
"Each one of these teachers when they first apply to teach abroad with Footprints Recruiting they submit their resume, submit their picture, they give us the basic overview of what their experiences are and so on. As they go through the process more information needs to entered into their profile; as an example, criminal background check. They have to get the check then they have to scan and provide us with that scan, as well as university transcripts, etc. [In total there are] 16 documents.
"There are six recruiters working on this project, and it's first come, first served. We want to get all of our 992 teachers across."