CHRIS HOLLAND
TALKS MODERN WORKPLACE

Chris Holland talks about how a leading landscaping company adapted to Covid, lockdown & remote working

Chris Holland - TCL Group

Who’s Chris?

Chris Holland, previous IT Director at a leading UK landscaping company.

A highly motivated and focused IT professional with 30 years expertise in the IT industry in a variety of roles including Operations, Development and Management.

Despite, spending so long in the industry, I hopefully break the stereotype IT persona, can understand how to use IT to meet business requirements and discuss technical solutions in a language that business stakeholders understand.

Passionate about using technology as a catalyst for change to maximise effectiveness and assist businesses on the journey to a digital future.

I also have questionable taste in music and Football Teams!

When the country went into lockdown, how did your business react to being able to work from home?
What did you do well, and what could have been better?

As part of the IT strategy we had already had a program in place to replace desktops with laptops as they reached end of life to help with our business continuity plans. Staff were therefore able to work from home relatively easily, with only a few needing to take desktops from the office.

We also had a project in process to migrate data held on shared network drives in local offices to Sharepoint, which allows data to be accessed from anywhere, again making the initial exodus away from the office easier to manage.

However, prior to lockdown, business stakeholders needed encouragement to migrate this data as they did not see the value in doing this and were comfortable with the status quo of shared drives and data access via VPN.

I think everyone now sees the benefit of a truly mobile workforce.

What’s your personal opinion on productivity when working remotely?

Historically, IT Teams have usually had the advantage of being able to work remotely, and I am an advocate of this. Therefore, we tend to regard this as normal and have the experience and discipline to remain productive when not in the office. Although this is usually for short periods of time.

For those employees to whom remote working is a new experience, then ‘life admin’ can get in the way, especially if family members are also around. These colleagues therefore need some guidance on how to structure their day and build their working environment, in order to stay productive.

The flexibility that remote working offers, combined with the time saved on not commuting etc, means that productivity should not suffer and may even increase.

Management of remote workers can be difficult, but the use of a variety of collaboration tools ensures that we can still have regular contact to ensure deadlines/targets are met.

Has the pandemic altered your IT strategy in anyway?

If anything, I think that the pandemic has crystallised the thought processes around the business in relation to the IT strategy, and has prioritised certain aspects of it such as the requirements for SaaS as opposed to legacy applications, and the need for always available data from anywhere.

Do you think that your business will return to “normal” eventually or has it changed forever?

I think that eventually we will return to what we used to think as ‘normal’, but managers will have to accept that many employees will have discovered that it is possible to perform their duties away from the office and will therefore expect a greater degree of flexibility when it comes to working times and locations. 

As a leader in IT, what’s your advice to other companies if we have a 2nd wave of lockdowns?

Assume that a 2nd wave is going to happen and start to plan for it now.

Make sure that your business continuity plans are up to date/in place and learn lessons from what has been the largest business disruption event in a generation.

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