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Howard Kennedy's IT Director discusses the role of technology in staying agile

The Business Development Team sit down with IT Director, Tony McKenna to discuss how we have been agile as a firm.

"Desk set up with laptop notepad and coffee

One of the key takeaways from our recent research exploring the role of agility in securing future success for business is the importance and potential for technology to both maximise efficiency and avoid dependence on legacy systems and processes. We asked Howard Kennedy's IT Director, Tony McKenna, to discuss how we as a firm had to embrace agility and the lessons learnt.

Working from home has its challenges, especially when it comes to IT. In the past year Howard Kennedy, like millions of businesses across the globe, has had to adapt to remote working. The almost overnight change resulted in Howard Kennedy moving from one central office at London Bridge, to over 400 separate offices across the country.

Tony describes the task of controlling 400+ "individual offices" as one of the biggest challenges the IT team has ever faced. Often external influences play a part in the running of IT equipment at home, whether that be poor internet connection or something as simple as an individual not rebooting their laptop for a prolonged period. Discovering whether a problem was external or internal proved difficult and ensured the team were at their busiest when we first moved into the world of remote working.

Despite this difficulty, the team quickly responded to overcome the issues they were facing. Remote working has resulted in many more changes to the firm's IT infrastructure with the need to be agile and adaptable at the forefront. In pre-pandemic times these changes may have taken years to implement, and some may not have happened at all. 

So, how has Howard Kennedy been agile?

  • Remote onboarding – It is now possible to onboard a new member of staff completely remotely. We have successfully onboarded 60+ new employees in the last year alone. The team also implemented a home office ordering system. This has created an easy way for employees to request the bespoke equipment they need for their home office, ensuring they have the right working environment and can work comfortably, , whilst also allowing IT staff to keep track of their stock and upgrade when needed.

  • Internal instant messaging – A complete cultural shift for the firm was the installation of an instant messaging platform. Before the implementation, the main method to contact colleagues around the firm was via email. This was often a long-winded process and seemed unnecessary for the across the desk chat or small questions you may have asked colleagues in a normal office environment. This function was quickly adopted by the support teams and was then rolled out to the whole firm after observing the benefits. It has helped everyone feel more connected in a remote working environment too.

  • The implementation of softphones - Each employee's individual phone number was cleverly embedded into their desktop and mobile allowing individuals to be accessible, even from their home office. The removal of desk phones has obvious hygiene benefits and has been a huge cost saving step taken by the firm. This process was completed within two months but would have taken over two years to complete in normal circumstances. 

  • IT Support – The IT Support team had to move to move to remote working whilst assisting the entire firm with their move to home working too. Pre-pandemic IT support had been requested through a phone call, which would usually result in a member of the team physically coming to help. This was no longer possible, and the team quickly implemented a hybrid system of emails and calls to be more agile.

It is fair to say that when normal life resumes and we return to the office, whether this be full or part time, further changes will need to be made, but it's difficult to predict right now what they might be. The need for agility when this happens will be more important than ever as we try to establish the running of hybrid meetings with some colleagues choosing to continue to work from home, with others opting to return to the office. Plans to invest in high-quality video conferencing software will hopefully be a step in the right direction to overcome this hurdle.

Tony hopes that the resilience and curiosity shown over the last year to IT needs continues as we embark on the next part of our journey into a post-COVID return to work.

 

This article was drafted by Niamh Donnachie and Liam Trueman (members of the BD team at Howard Kennedy) following a conversation with IT director, Tony McKenna on the role of agility in making our business a success now and in the future.

Keep Agile with Howard Kennedy

Keep Agile with Howard Kennedy

We surveyed senior decision makers in November 2019 and September 2020 with the help of YouGov and Censuswide. We wanted to find out what role agility plays in securing future success for businesses. The two surveys combined give us a unique perspective on approaches to business agility before and during COVID-19. Read our reports to find out more.

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