Agile adaptations: How Strutt & Parker is leading the property pack
In the world of luxury property, customer expectations will undoubtedly be equally high-end. Strutt & Parker has put an IT strategy in place to ensure that the buying process is seamless from end-to-end.
The sale of a property is a major transaction, regardless of whether the commodity to be exchanged is a piece of commercial farmland or a new home. Many prospective buyers and tenants will be accustomed to the seamless integration of technology into their personal and professional lives. Photos and videos can be sent with a few swipes of a thumb, and business emails can be drafted on the commute to work. Strutt & Parker, one of the UK’s largest and most successful independent property partnerships, has recognised that clients will anticipate an equally seamless experience when it comes to their property transactions.. And they have designed and implemented an IT strategy to continue to exceed their expectations.
“Our clients justifiably expect the highest possible levels of service from us, across all areas of our business”, says Shaun Spalding, the Head of IT at Strutt & Parker”. When it came to building the business’s new IT strategy, Spalding and his team kept this in mind. “We started with the high end experience that we want to give to clients, and asked how does that translate to what we need to give to our consultants in the field and in the front offices in order to deliver that experience?”
Strutt & Parker is currently in the midst of a migration to the Microsoft Azure public cloud as it simultaneously seeks to incorporate the use of the Office 365 suite of applications. For the past five years, the firm has utilised an outsourced data centre solution with a traditional managed service ‘wrapper’. 3Gi Technology, a cloud specialist, has been recruited to execute the migration — a movement of data into the cloud — and provide a new managed service wrapper.
“When we initially engaged with Strutt & Parker, I think what they were looking for is fluidity and the ability to access data, information and documents ‘on-the-fly’, without being tied to a rigid legacy infrastructure,” says Jonathan Collins, Associate Director of 3Gi Technology. “What we were looking for, and what the business requested, was to have a much more fluid approach toward its technology environment, where it can change-manage very quickly.”
The process of data migration is one that is notoriously rife with stumbling blocks, and technology users can be left to feel the effects of a chaotic migration. Spalding credits 3Gi with cultivating a crucial combination of forethought and problem-solving.
“We couldn’t have done what we’re doing without 3Gi,” he explains. “We’ve been given warnings that there is going to be pain when you go through migrations. But so far, there has been minimal user pain, and that’s a testament to all of the rigorous testing and planning that 3Gi has been doing in the background, before we get anywhere near an end user.”
Gamma was also brought on board as a key partner in Strutt & Parker’s IT upgrade. The communications services provider has built a new wide area network (WAN) for the property adviser and supplied it with routing into Microsoft’s Azure Express system. Gamma has further provided ‘fixed’ and mobile telephony systems, with the latter aided by its new multi-network solution. ‘Gamma MultiNet®’ enabled mobile phones will utilise Three as their host network, but when the connection is lost or unavailable the Gamma product roams to find another provider’s signal. This allows Strutt & Parker’s consultants to maintain a voice and data signal where available when travelling or meeting with clients in rural locales.
Spalding says. “We’ve always been mobile, always out in front of our clients. It’s about having tools readily at your disposal when you are in front of those clients.”
Naturally, corporate data security is of paramount importance when constructing a new IT strategy. Between Gamma, 3Gi and Strutt & Parker, a robust solution was developed, that addressed what Spalding refers to as a “trilemma”: the balance between security, cost and usability.
Ultimately, a trifecta of solutions providers — 3Gi, Gamma and Microsoft — have supplied the technology that Strutt & Parker needs to stay ahead of its competitors.
“We are trying to be much more agile as an IT function,” Spalding says. “When the business says ‘right, here’s a client need that has emerged and developed’, we can meet that need without going through the whole change cycle.”
Uncertainty is part-and-parcel of today’s swiftly-evolving IT landscape. Customers’ needs are changing as rapidly as the methods and productivity tools which are used to manage them. The only way to ensure that a business is capably agile is by adopting a forward-looking strategy.
“You don’t have the luxury these days to say ‘we’re going to wait around a year for everyone else to do it’,” says Spalding, referring to adopting new technologies within Strutt & Parker. “You have to do it in a careful and controlled manner, but do adopt quite early so that you’re able to build your networks, build your algorithms and your data that results.”
“In technology, and in business, unless you keep up, you will get left behind,” says Collins. “That is what Strutt & Parker has done very strategically: taken advantage of the rest of the technologies that are available before the competition catches up.”