Switching to a cloud-based IT set up doesn’t just mean changing your technology, but also changing established ways of working. And this can be the biggest challenge for many organisations.
When your staff are used to working mainly with paper records and communicating by phone or in person, a shift towards increased online working and collaborating can seem both unappealing and daunting.
Kelliher Insurance Group tackled this challenge when they moved their IT set up to the Azure cloud during 2020-2021. Ideal supported them with the transition and are now their Cloud Service Provider (CSP).
Here, Kelliher Insurance Group’s Chief Information Officer, Alex Clixby, discusses navigating the challenges of modernising their systems and ways of working, especially during a pandemic, and how the success of the changes has brought about newfound excitement and confidence within the company.
What particular IT challenges were Kelliher Insurance Group facing when you contacted Ideal?
“I joined Kelliher Insurance Group in 2020 with a remit to review the IT service and ways of working, and make sure it was all as effective and efficient as needed.
The main challenge was nearly all of our IT was on premise, which is best avoided from a risk, security and mobility perspective. And it wasn’t particularly modern – in terms of both the technology and our ways of working.
In the insurance broker industry, there can be some lag in moving to the latest technologies. It’s an industry where traditionally, paper documents and picking up the phone have historically been core to business as usual. And coming in with a fresh pair of eyes, I said, look, if we want to stay competitive and be a really effective company, we need to invest in our IT. As part of that, Microsoft 365 (M365) was a complete no brainer.
Going into the COVID-19 lockdown, it became obvious that we needed much better technologies to be able to work remotely. We needed much more flexibility and mobility, to improve our ways of working remotely and also for when we got back to the office.”
How did you decide who to work with to help you transition to a cloud-based set up?
“We had several conversations with different Microsoft partners. What you realise is some of them are very good at some things, but not necessarily good at implementing the kind of live operation we needed. And through those conversations, it became pretty clear that Ideal were the ones for us.
We've got a fairly small IT team at Kelliher, and having done a few Microsoft 365 migrations before, I know they’re really resource intensive. So if we didn't go with a partner who could offer a really close service, a lot of hand holding, then we would have come unstuck.
We chose Ideal because they've got a lot of good technical people. And they were happy to roll their sleeves up and really get stuck in with providing us with advice and direction.”
Considering it was such a big change to established ways of working, was it hard to get senior leaders’ buy-in for the migration to Microsoft 365?
“Obviously it’s quite an investment, and so I needed to make sure the executive board appreciated the importance of what I was proposing. I gave them a demo of what M365 could do and they could see the potential of how we could use different products for specific use cases - like sending questionnaires with MS Forms, or collaborating on documents in Sharepoint, for example.
And one thing that really helped was getting some of Ideal’s senior leaders on a call with our executive team to talk through why we needed to do this. There's not many organisations that would be happy to put their senior people on a call like that. It really helped, because it built confidence from our senior leadership team that this was the right thing to do.”
Although it’s early days since the new system went live, what’s the response been so far from staff?
“There's a general buzz about it. While some people are scared off by new technology, a lot of people are quite excited by it.
And that includes a few surprises as well, among a few more senior people in the company who generally aren’t that excited by technology. The switch to M365 is bringing a feeling that we can really change our ways of working and our operating model.”
How do you measure the success of the transformation that's happened?
“That's a very good question! We had a number of success criteria for the project. Many were based around the technology – so, deploying things on time and deploying things so they worked – which were met.
Because we’ve only just gone live it’s too early to have solid data on usage yet. But I hope in the next few months we'll get a good view of the benefits it’s given, not only to us but also to our clients.
As well as reviewing Microsoft data on application usage, we’ve got a group of super users who can share feedback from their business areas on how well it's been adopted and how people are using it.”
Was there a specific situation when you realised things have changed for the better?
“One of our managing directors was, as he will admit himself, a little wary of all this. Because from a technology perspective it's been a huge amount of change, and quite a few people were understandably a bit worried about that.
So this particular MD, he and his department have been sending out questionnaires to clients for years, as PDF documents. Each client fills it in and sends it back, and it takes a lot of time for someone to interrogate that information, to consolidate it and make it usable.
Now, we've started using Microsoft Forms to replace these PDF questionnaires. And that's gone down really well, because it saves that department a lot of time and effort.
When you see somebody who was a little reluctant to accept the change – because they were alright as things were - it’s great to see their excitement now in terms of getting this modern way of working which we can use with our clients.
And hopefully it builds the confidence of our clients that we are a more of a high-tech business.”
Has the success of the switch to M365 led to any broader changes in how technology and modernisation is viewed in the company?
“Moving forward with the Microsoft 365 project has also led to getting sign off for a number of technology projects. Because it's given us a belief from the exec board downwards that we can do large scale change. We can improve and modernise our technology.
Before, because we hadn't really done any big projects, some were worried that large technology projects were perhaps something we would struggle to successfully achieve. And now we’ve done this, it's given everyone the confidence that we can do it and we need to do it.
Now we've got projects going on this year and next to replace our broker management system, the way we do disaster recovery and backups, and our contact centre.
There's a lot to be done, but now we've done the M365 project and we've really got the backing of the business and the senior leadership, it's an exciting time for the business.”
Finally, what do you value most about working with Ideal?
“The honesty and openness is always good. I guess I'm quite old school in that respect – I like an honest conversation, I like people to be open and transparent with me. And the one thing I really don't like is working with someone where you get the feeling they’re maybe being disingenuous. And all the time we've worked with Ideal, I’ve never once felt like that, so that's been really good.
The engagement at every level has been excellent. Ideal’s Account Director Steve is always very engaged. Ideal’s technical teams who have managed this on a day-to-day basis have been massively engaged.
My engineers have loved it, because it’s so different to previous projects like this when we’ve partnered with someone else. Then, if they had a problem that needed resolving, they've had to go to the partner and almost get put in a ticket queue. And the partner would come back to them with some wishy-washy answer after a few days.
Whereas with Ideal it's been great because there's literally been daily calls. My engineers can just pick up the phone or go on instant messenger with the engineers at Ideal, and get things resolved in literally minutes sometimes. So that engagement’s been brilliant. “
Read the full story of how Kelliher Insurance Group successfully switched to Microsoft 365 in our case study.
Header image ©Kelliher Insurance Group