An interview with Mark Nolan, Managing Director, where we ask how Mark1 have adapted during the Covid19, Global Pandemic.
What services have you been offering on a remote basis?
“Since mid-March we have continued to offer all our Consultancy services for ISO9001, ISO14001, ISO45001 and ISO27001 and have undertaken numerous virtual audits as well helping companies remotely during virtual Assessments. Titan, our cloud-based management system, continues to be a great asset for many of our clients and we have received great feedback recently whilst we have been working in an entirely virtual capacity.”
What has changed in the way you work on a day to day basis?
“As we were already able to work remotely, there has been very few changes overall, other than seeing a significant reduction in travel. We have found that we are far more prepared in respect to any remote audits, but especially prior to Virtual Assessments. Communications within the Mark1 team have become less informal and ‘ad-hoc’ as we haven’t been ‘seeing’ each over face to face. We now hold a formalised operational team meeting once a week.”
When are you planning to return?
“Whilst continually monitoring the situation, we are starting to return to our head office in Manchester city centre, but on reduced hours and on a rotational basis. For site-based Consultancy work for our customers, this will also be dependent on their policies as well as their intended ways of working moving forward.”
“We envisage continuing to offer remote Consultancy into the future, until the work situation starts to return to something resembling normal. As it stands we are actually hoping that moving forwards we will be able to offer remote Consultancy for clients in the right circumstances, as an option (rather than as a necessity) for a good while to come, embracing the ‘new normal’.”
Have you enjoyed working from Home? Has a routine been difficult to maintain? (Are you interrupted by daily life?)
“The reason we have an office is simply to separate home and work lifestyles. My routine has not really been affected, just the hours I work, as such this has been a very easy transition. My wife is a key worker, so it’s been handy being at home for childcare purposes.”
What have been the main business challenges?
“WIFI has been the biggest issue as it was intermittent for the first few weeks, but apart from that the team and I have been able to tackle any new challenges that may have come our way.”
What technologies do you use that have assisted in being able to work remotely?
“We had adopted a paperless approach to working several years ago and all the platforms we use daily are cloud-based. We generally use Office 365, SharePoint and MS Teams for virtual Conferencing. The Titan System, our bespoke cloud-based ISO management software, has been of significant value and benefit during this time enabling efficiencies that paper-based systems just can’t.”
How has Titan increased productivity in the current scenario? (What functionality and features are the best from a Consultants perspective?)
“It is a great platform for collating all of the relevant data and information for our clients, with all information needed being systematically laid out. The Auto-emailing reminder function has been useful for both us and our clients, but there has also been a variety of areas that have been very useful which differ from client to client.
From our point of view, as a Consultancy, the ability to conduct internal audits has probably been the best function to date. The ability to also let Assessors connect to The Titan System via a guest account during external audits has also been invaluable.”
How have you found that your clients have responded and adapted to remote interaction?
“Yes, in many situations we have had to initially ‘ hand hold’ to get our clients up to speed, but as we had the ability to work remotely all have come on board now. This has been extremely useful during the many Certification Body Assessments. Only 1 client to date, during assessment, has had poor internet connection but we simply arranged for a traditional conference call which combined with email meant the assessment ran smoothly and to plan.”
Has your client base fluctuated at all?
“Overall, our client base has remained largely the same. We are still waiting for a couple of our clients to come back from lockdown, but the majority are back to normal. This is a good example of companies buying into the philosophy of the ISO standards and not just using them as a certificate on the wall. In addition to this we have also been taking new clients on board for both Consultancy and for The Titan System.
Some of our clients adapted very swiftly. For example, one of our UK based clients is now producing face masks. We also have several companies on our books who supply cleaning chemicals and equipment whose businesses have been absolutely thriving.”
How have you found virtual audits?
“In some cases, virtual audits have been more than adequate, and we hope to be able to continue to offer them in appropriate situations moving forwards. However, for certain areas virtual audits are just not thorough enough (Health & Safety, Environmental, Production etc.). Audits should drive improvements, and sometimes when undertaken virtually they don’t quite look at the full and detailed picture as effectively as you might be able to if you were actually on site.”
How have you found virtual assessments?
“Some certification bodies have made this process simple, whereas others have made it slightly complicated, generally speaking though, this has been an interesting process and we have not had any issues.”
Have there been any improvements in the way Mark1 Systems works since the Pandemic?
“Although the Team were used to working on cloud-based technologies, it has really pushed them to use the technologies available to their full advantage. Travel costs are down, time has been saved and inherent risks associated with any travel for the staff have been mitigated. This has also simultaneously had a positive effect on our carbon footprint. We are also currently working on some updates to our Titan System.”
Overall Negatives? In terms of Company and yourself.
“Having initially looked at the situation, in largely negative terms for first week or so; overall we have actually seen so many positives throughout the business. We did have an initial reduction in our regular consultancy, but the furlough scheme relieved any pressures we might have otherwise felt. The biggest negative has got to be not making use of the office, it is never quite the same speaking to staff virtually and the innovation and creativity has sometimes lacked. We are looking forward to bringing this back on a rota basis in order to work together closer as a team.”