Turning IT into a 'business enabler': How service delivery is driving innovation at real estate firm JLL

The role of service delivery seems to be somewhat overlooked in the digital transformation of many businesses.

But for real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), the ability of the IT department to provide a strong foundation for the business has been vital to enabling wider innovation.

“We are moving from being a traditional internal service provider to a 'business enabler',” says Darren Munsey, JLL’s EMEA service delivery director.

"The business will approach IT saying they need technology to differentiate us from our competitors. Our focus is not only to deliver innovative cutting-edge tools and applications but to proactively research the latest technologies we believe will benefit the business strategy.”

Munsey joined JLL in June 2014, following the arrival of CIO, Chris Zissis, and EMEA head of infrastructure and operations director Lee Wood from real estate firm, DTZ.

Since arriving, he says he has helped change the perception of IT within the business.

“Over the past year we have conducted various education sessions to the business to deliver an understanding of what the IT department has to offer and the services we provide,” he says.

“This, along with a proven track record of delivery has shown the business we have far more to offer than being a tradition reactive break/fix service.”

He adds: “The business doesn’t just come to us and say my laptop doesn’t boot, they approach us and say ‘technology will enable us to go and make waves in industry’. And that is what we deliver.”

'We want to be a tech services firm specialising in real estate’

For JLL - which has around 55,000 staff across the world, with approximately 13,000 in the EMEA region - there are big ambitions for the role technology can play in modernising the firm.

As the real estate market, like most industries, becomes increasingly digitised, JLL is aware that it needs to invest in its in-house technology to stay one step ahead of its competitors.

“Where the business wants to be is a technology services firm specialising in real estate, rather than a real estate firm with good technology,” says Munsey.

“This is a very competitive industry and JLL want to be the leaders in the real estate technology race. From property valuations to dispatching mobile engineers, every second counts and technology plays a major part in everything we do.”

Achieving this has meant investing in creating its own intellectual property. For example, JLL has developed an iPad-based property visualisation tool for asset management staff, and a unique GPS-linked engineer tracking system.

“Our facilities engineer despatch system locates an engineer based on GPS and automatically sends work orders delivered via a tablet,” says Munsey, “this negates the need for a call despatch team and all the management and overheads that goes with it.”

“There is no other real estate firm I am aware of that does this.”

Transforming service delivery

However, being able to support the wider business in its innovation aims has not always been simple.

JLL employs approximately 200 internal IT staff across its EMEA operations, supporting (13,000) users across 32 countries. In addition to this there are a significant number of outsourced workers employed by IBM, following a multi-million contract renewal with the service provider in 2014.

While JLL’s IT focus has always been to provide a stable and robust service, the firm experienced some challenges in the past, resulting in investment for the infrastructure.

For instance, network-related outages impaired the ability of staff to carry out their business, often leaving them with no email, internet and shared documents. This resulted in an inferior business perception. “You could potentially lose a lot of money without the use of key technology services,” Munsey explained.

In order to remedy this, JLL’s CIO was given a budget to invest in IT as part of a move away from the focusing of fixing faults after they occurred, while head of infrastructure, Lee Wood, was also tasked with delivering a stable IT infrastructure environment to the business including a data centre migration programme.

“[The CIO said that] things need to stop breaking. We need to be able to focus more on innovation, and look at how IT can bring revenue into JLL, rather than the historical ‘break-fix’ service organisation that IT has always seemed to be.”

He added: “The business was growing extremely fast, making constant profit quarter on quarter. The business was going at 100 miles per hour and [the IT department was going at] 50 miles per hour - it wasn’t keeping up with the business demand.”

Managing outsourcing relationship

Addressing the firm’s outsourcing relationship with IBM – which includes a big off-shore element - was Munsey’s first task.

By managing the relationship and working more closely with IBM to implement robust ITIL processes, Munsey was able to develop an improved level of service. This meant ensuring incident management, change management and problem management were not only ITIL aligned but actually delivered a real value to the business.

“If you outsource services to a partner it is imperative you provide guidance, ensure your expectations are clearly understood and make your partner feel a part of your organisational ethos. Without this they are going to just do the basics to meet their contractual obligations,” he says.

“When I joined JLL I set my expectations with IBM from the start, IBM embraced this not only because they understood the value but my expectations were based on industry standards to deliver an all-round better service.

“More importantly I had to invest my time to guide IBM to deliver to my expectations.”

The closer partnership with IBM has been successful, Munsey says.

“There is no longer a divide between IBM and JLL IT, we are all one team. The IBM customer facing teams are no longer branded with IBM email addresses and signatures. They are now branded JLL and they genuinely feel like a part of the JLL family.”

Service delivery benefits

By also investing in up-to-date hardware, improvements were quickly realised.

“Our ‘severity one’ incidents decreased by 60 percent,” says Munsey. “This was achieved by a combination of investment in the infrastructure by implementing network resiliency, upgrading servers and moving to a brand new data centre.

“It was also due to process improvements such a thorough root cause analysis for every major incident and a rigorous change management process.

“With more technical resiliency and robust ITIL processes, the environment is now stable. If you speak to the business they are very happy.”

The investments and process improvements have had an impact on JLL’s ability to focus on delivering new services and enhanced business productivity.

“We are still implementing initiatives to improve our infrastructure, but we have moved away from a fire-fighting and break/fix mentality, and into the innovation space.”

Munsey says that another vital part of building a strong service delivery function was to forge strong relationships with the business partners within JLL.

“Shortly after joining JLL I began conducting service reviews with the internal business partners. That really helped develop the relationship with IT to understand business requirements and in turn provide the business with an understanding of IT processes and initiatives.

“We gain a better understanding of the business strategy and future requirements and in turn we explain how IT will deliver to those requirements, the reviews are very much a two-way conversation.”


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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