Using technology to improve how we work

Over the last few years our workplace technology at Iress has changed dramatically. Our CTO, Andrew Todd, talks us through his process for finding and implementing new technology across Iress, and shares his top five tips for businesses looking to do the same.

What did you make of our workplace technology when you joined Iress three years ago?

When I joined Iress, it had been through a huge period of growth - doubling in size, moving into new countries around the world. There was a need to communicate and collaborate in a simpler, more agile and effective way. It was obvious to me that solving this problem would not only improve the engagement and retention of our people, but also help deliver to clients and users with speed and quality at scale. That meant updating our tools, as those in use were not modern or cloud-native SaaS.

How did you decide what new technology to adopt?

Even though my focus is technology, I try to avoid starting with a technology solution and focus on the strategy, problem or opportunity. So in this case, I took a step back and identified what the key objectives I wanted to solve were - namely how we could create a feeling of belonging, connection and productivity in a growing, global tech company.

Only then did I look at the potential solutions. At the time, Slack had recently been implemented and was working well as a communication tool, with a host of great integrations. Improving our conferencing capacity came next, and Zoom was a fairly easy choice - simple, scalable, with many integration capabilities.

Why should someone expend effort to operate differently when what they already use might be ‘fine’ for them at that point in time?

Moving from MS Office to GSuite was more challenging. I was confident of this solution and it met my ambitions of utilising a cloud-native tool to improve collaboration and reduce overheads, but it had to pass the test in a working environment. To validate the decision, we organised a pilot group of 50 people which quickly expanded to 500. People just wanted to use it, and the pilot grew bigger and bigger as the benefits of collaboration and integration became apparent.

What challenges did you face when implementing new technology?

The most consistent hurdle was trying to demonstrate why change is necessary. Why should someone expend effort to think or operate differently when what they already use might be ‘fine’ for them at that point in time? Further to that, changing multiple tools at the same time produced a case of ‘change fatigue’ for some. However, for the majority of people the pain of the existing tools was so great that the adoption and acceptance of change was not an issue, or worth the effort.

Our many locations around the globe presented another challenge. Difficulties in executing change are amplified when you’re working with multiple different time zones and locations.

What did you put in place to support people through change?

Communication and education were key. We gained buy-in with clear communication throughout the process. Education was important too, and we took a pragmatic approach to that, focusing on the different skills that exist in different teams, and creating a team of internal ‘champions’ who became local experts to support people quickly and efficiently.

How has the technology changed the way Iress works?

We have saved a significant amount of wasted time. No more fiddling about with clunky conferencing tools 10 minutes into a meeting. Collaboration on documents has transformed, email noise has reduced and the quality of content has increased.

We are now able to more effectively work whether that’s between two people in different locations in the same city or across countries.

Andrew’s five questions businesses should consider when choosing new technology:

  1. Is the software really solving the problem for today and tomorrow? Looking extensively at what you need it do now and in the future will prevent costly mistakes.
  2. How is the technology deployed, operated and priced? The devil is in the details.
  3. How open is the technology? Integration to other software using APIs in this day and age is essential.
  4. If an install is required, does it work across different platforms? You may need the software to work across OSX, Windows, and Linux. Consider whether there are web-based or mobile access options available.
  5. Does it work independently but also when integrated?