Gary McLelland has travelled the world rolling out and implementing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms. Currently Head of Solutions at Morrison Utility Services, he manages a team of Business Analysts, Support Analysts and Change Managers.
In the first of our two-part interview, Gary spoke to us about the company’s technology challenges brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic and offered his thoughts about the new normal.
“MUS [Morrison Utility Services] prides itself on being a tech savvy business; that’s why the Intelligent Solutions function exists,” he explains. “We work with our contracts stakeholders to identify emerging and innovative technologies, and we try to leverage them effectively. It has been difficult due to the pandemic, as social distancing has obviously changed how we’re able to engage with people around the business.”
The challenges though haven’t stopped MUS and the wider M Group Services from successfully delivering on their key strategic projects. “We’ve been able to continue releasing elements of our Oracle Fusion ERP platform which is a group wide project – a massive undertaking that involves transferring financial and HR systems and processes onto the Oracle platform," says Gary. "We’ve also turned challenges into opportunities, for example expanding our use of tools like MS Teams to communicate and collaborate effectively during the lockdown.”
How has remote working affected the work they do? “Sometimes it’s good to get your head down and lock yourself in a room away from any distractions, but for your mental health I wouldn’t advocate it long term,” advises Gary. “It’s always good to get out there. I’ve been at home for almost five months, having made only a handful of site visits, which has been hard for someone like me who is used to being on the road. Being able to switch off has also been difficult. I always tell my team that it’s important to maintain a healthy work-life balance, but I’m probably not the best example of that as I’m attached to my laptop all day!”
Gary feels that a mixed working model will be the way forward. “I think there will always be some need for face to face interaction, due to the positive relationships it facilitates, but this will potentially be on a smaller scale than we’ve been used to in the past. Offices could become like satellite stations almost for collaboration purposes only, rather than the staple working environment we’ve been used in the past, where you’d be in the office 90% of your time and floating between sites, or working from home for the remainder. There’s likely going to be a swing.
“The split between office and remote working really does depend on the work itself, some jobs or functions work better collaboratively in an office where you sit across from people, whereas other roles don’t necessarily require for you to be in the office to deliver a service. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it’s better face to face with a client to understand the how, what and why, but then you can go away and build something, a mock-up perhaps, before going back and continuing the engagement. The technology that’s around today supports that.
“Everyone I work with has done a fantastic job, in some cases delivering better than they would have done if they had to travel more often. Personally, I feel I’ve often been more productive as I haven’t had to jump in the car or get on a plane,” he stresses.
And what of the difficulties managing remote teams? “It’s been really good actually, one of the very early messages instilled upon us as Senior Managers was to look after our people and make sure everyone is doing OK by checking in regularly. Some of our people have been talking more than they have in the past, and I think we’re making more of a conscious effort to stay in touch with people because we don’t see them every day ‘at the water cooler’. I speak to my manager almost every day whereas previously I might go a week and not hear from him – the same with my team. The key is to have regular calls, in our case a weekly catchup where we discuss our work and what we’ve got coming up as well as a monthly call during which the wider team share their experiences – not to count the ‘ad hoc’ conversations where people just pick up the phone! Keeping people engaged and looking after them has been one of our priorities,” Gary notes.
With all the talk of mixed approaches and a return to normality, he reiterates an important point. “For me it all comes down to the actual role and function you’re delivering, so for the IT roles in my area we have to always think about our frontline people, those out there doing the work in the field. We dig holes, we lay pipe, fit Smart Meters etc. which is the core of our business. All the back office functions and support services, the tech and equipment, everything has to either make things safer, more effective or more efficient for our operatives as they continue to support the UK’s essential infrastructure and guarantee people have water, gas and electricity – all day, every day.”
If you’d like to know how Fyte can help you hire the best Tech talent, email Tim Kent at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07866 538242.