When IT is recognised as vital for delivery, only the best professionals will do in the provision of strategic insights, support, and maintenance services. That’s why Airedale Property Trust has looked to Lancom Technology for the past two years, operating a hybrid model where its small internal IT team is complemented by the on-demand, flexible, and considerably more extensive skills, and insights of their trusted managed services provider. As a result, IT delivery across Airedale and its associated trusts is reliable, dependable, and secure, allowing the property investor to focus on its core business with ‘no worries’ from the technology estate.
Airedale Property Trust (APT) is one of three trusts resulting from the split of Methodist Mission Northern (MMN); the others are Lifewise and MMN itself. Established in 2009, APT is the commercial arm which takes the lead on MMN’s income-generating activities, with Lifewise the social service delivery arm and MMN retaining chaplaincy and the connection to the Methodist Church. APT focuses on creating an institutional grade property investment portfolio through repositioning existing assets through development and ongoing investment. APT is a registered charitable trust with approximately $400m of property under management comprising over 500 tenants with a future development pipeline of $350m.
The technology estate is considerable across the three trusts explains Group IT Manager Neil Gong, as there are more than 450 people equipped with computers across the trusts. “Technology has a vital role to play in delivering our services to clients, but we have an IT team of just four,” he notes. “We wanted a hybrid model where we could predominantly handle the strategic aspects from a project management perspective, while benefiting from a managed services provider to help keep the lights on…but also provide strategic guidance on developments in the technology space.”
Gong says it was through a recommendation from an associated company that a conversation was entered into with Lancom. “This was around the time of the first Covid lockdown, and as you can imagine, the pressing need for a company with predominantly on premises software and equipment, the pressing need was a move into the cloud.”
The company’s management was impressed with Lancom’s credentials and soon a services contract was entered into; Gong says at this point, APT also sought a capability uplift for its internal team through the engagement with a Managed Services Team. “Tapping into the wider and more in-depth skills and experience would obviously benefit our individuals, and the team itself,” he notes.
The weight of the pandemic proved without question the necessity for a rapid yet effective move into the cloud. The initial phase designed and executed with Lancom Technology was the introduction of Microsoft 365, enabling remote work and a digital workplace. This included the configuration and deployment of services including SharePoint, OneDrive, Office productivity applications, and Microsoft Identity and Access Management. a further. “That really was the big shift and it had to happen quickly,” says Gong.
This rollout took place smoothly and set the scene for the organisation’s ‘Phase 2’. “What we found with Lancom is that dedicated account management and close attention to our organisation and its strategic requirements took care of the technical and practical aspects of the rollout. What we also found is a close cultural alignment where there is an alignment of values and mission; they very quickly came to know our organisation very well, what we do and why we do it. This contributes to the strategic aspect of our relationship, where we feel we have a partner working together towards a common goal.”
He adds that a delivery partner which ‘only knows technology well’ is likely to miss the nuances and the purpose of strategic technology direction. “With Lancom, we’ve moved on trim a transactional engagement. This allows real and mutual value creation.”
The successful delivery of what Gong describes as several projects relating to the rollout of Microsoft 365 and the establishment of a managed services engagement for IT support has proven a runaway success for APT. He explains that the difference between the limitations of on premises software and cloud ‘anywhere access’ is mostly felt by users who are empowered to work from anywhere, rather than being tethered to their desks.
There’s more to it than that. “We’ve seen tasks like onboarding or offboarding staff become fast, simple, and efficient. Device management is consistent, with a standard baseline for every device across the organisation. And we have a dashboard providing insight into IT services delivery and the status of our complete environment. That makes for visibility of the IT estate and its performance, and it makes reporting to management easy and efficient.”
Perhaps most importantly, as an organisation dipping its toes into the cloud for the first time, the initial phase has impressed management and soundly demonstrated the advantages of ‘as a service’ and the cloud, confirms Gong. “Our Phase 2 will see current computing loads moving fully into the cloud within the next 12 months. We’re looking for a change in our IT operating model from capital expense, to operational; that requires cross-department collaboration including with the finance department and of course executive management, but with Lancom delivering the first part so well, management is on board. They’ve seen the value and considered it a move in the right direction.”
Things have changed thanks to the engagement with Lancom. “Our strategic priority is now ‘cloud first’. Microsoft 365 has established a digital platform and workspace for productivity and collaboration and moved us to a mobile centric organisation. Now we’re looking to become data driven and make further sense of the information we collect; by moving further into the cloud with Lancom’s guidance and support, we’ll be looking to eliminate on premises servers and other hardware, and then use Power BI and other Microsoft tools to leverage and explore our online data set. That’s an advantage we didn’t have with on premise.”
Finally, Gong says the key advantage of working with Lancom comes down to trust. “We know who to call, we know we’ll get help when we need it. We’ve set expectations, and we’ve never been disappointed.”
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