Ben Kelly, Director of IT Services at Agilisys, discusses how the challenges of current times are driving some amazing outcomes – and shares his thoughts on the driving forces behind these achievements.

While life is undoubtedly challenging thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, it’s worth taking a step back to consider how times like these can bring the best out of us. The work Agilisys has been doing with Tower Hamlets is a great example of this  as we’ve entered difficult times, we’ve been able to bring forward some of the amazing work Agilisys is doing with the Council. 

For example, we’ve accelerated the development of smarter working, based around Windows 10, Office 365 and Azure. This is great for the Council because it means new ways of working are being rolled out to more people faster than they would otherwise have been able to do.  

Right now, we’re working on something very special, that Agilisys hasnt done anywhere else, which is seeing if we can do remote upgrades. Providing devices and working out mechanisms to upgrade them from their old legacy environments to the brand-new environment, without necessarily coming in and doing a face to face session or touching a device is right at the bleeding edge of technology. We’re in the early stages of planning and developing this right now, and it’s all really rather exciting! 

The other thing that we’re doing, in the super short term to address the challenges of having many employees working from home, is increasing the resiliency of external facing systems to provide more sessions on VDI, the Council’s legacy remote desktop solution which is still widely used. What we’ve done is prepare 200 emergency contingency plan devices. These devices were not originally intended for this purpose, but in the space of just 36 hours we created a system that would allow us to gain some of the benefits of the new environment, with minimal disruption, while maintaining the best bits of the old environment, with no disruption at all. 

At a time when corporate devices are under massive amount of strain and demand, adding more devices into the pool has been very welcome. Best of all, we’ve been working with the Council’s emergency contingency group, which is coordinating the distribution and the prioritisation of devices to ensure they go to the officers that need them the most, ensuring frontline services are maintained.

Managing the challenge 

I’m delighted to share details of what we’ve been doing – and hugely proud of everybody who has played a part in this success – not least because it’s great to share some positive thoughts in a world dominated by negatives. Against this backdrop, how have we achieved what we have? Here are some of my thoughts: 

Clarity of thought is utterly essentialStripping away the unnecessary and looking at what you need, rather than what you want, clears space for successful outcomes. 

Discipline is essential too, ensuring that we are working on exactly what is needed at exactly the right time.  

A just in time approach helps too, freeing up resources from doing things that are perhaps long tail or long-term, so they can be applied to what we need to do right now in order to meet our goals.  

Thanking the team regularly makes a big difference. make a point of thanking my team very regularly. We should take time to celebrate success. Just the other day, I was delighted with the work that my systems team did, so funded an “Escape Room challenge. Thankfully, this was before the COVID-19 outbreak, so they were not crosscontaminating one another! More recently, the exceptional work building additional devices that our staff did overnight was rewarded with some Amazon vouchers and some elbow bumping! At the heart of it all is ensuring people recognise that the exceptional work they’re doing is celebrated and very gratefully appreciated. I’ve been delighted that some of our customers have seen that we’ve helped them out and have been very gracious in their thanks towards Agilisys. 

Empathy goes a long, long way. Ensuring my managers, the people I trust to lead my teams, recognise that their team members are working under exceptional circumstances, with a great deal of fear about their families, and their own personal ability to continue working, given the fact that we’re talking about a pandemic and a health crisis, rather than some existential threat, is really important. 

Looking forward, I think we can take positives out of the current situation. We’ve demonstrated that we can succeed in this environment, so people can understand that great things can be achieved, without necessarily being together. 

People who were less inclined to negotiate difficult positions also now recognise that you can’t work like that in the current environment. They are seeing the need for flexibility and the benefits of give and take.  

I’ve been delighted to do a huge amount of good for Tower Hamlets, from trivial and tiny things up to incredibly amazing things like being able to deliver 1,900 external VDI connections, which is, truly transformative. I look forward to delivering more too – alongside my wonderful teams.