This story is part of an ongoing series exploring how organizations are supporting remote work during the Covid-19 crisis. We hope these stories provide actionable tips and inspiration that organizations can use to make this transition a little bit smoother.
The London-listed global investment firm Man Group is by no means new to the world of finance: It served its first clients in 1783. Even though it’s a centuries-old business, however, it can still quickly adapt to change.
That’s why the 1,400-member workforce across 19 offices around the world was able to move swiftly to going remote in response to the Covid-19 pandemic with the help of Slack Enterprise Grid, which sets up large organizations to securely manage collaboration. Slack played a significant part in enabling Man Group to make the transition to all-remote in less than two weeks.
We were eager to hear how the company onboarded its entire organization, from Beijing to Boston, onto Slack so quickly. So we sat down with Tom Price, Man Group’s chief technology officer responsible for core technology, to learn how Slack helped the firm’s teams break out of departmental silos and power productivity.
“So many of our processes are end-to-end. They start with our clients in the front office, but they go all the way through to the back office. Slack is now our central mechanism for coordinating a lot of the interactions that used to be email-driven.”
Rolling out Slack companywide in less than two weeks
For years, Man Group’s developers had been using HipChat, a messaging tool that integrated with software development tool Atlassian, until HipChat was discontinued in February 2019. While the technology teams switched to Slack, the majority of Man Group’s workforce continued to use Lync and Skype for Business.
Price said Lync wasn’t the best tool to use on mobile, though. What’s more, the company needed a platform that could support all collaborative aspects of daily teamwork, including quick and effective decision-making.
As Covid-19 cases spread throughout the globe and some teams could no longer go into the office, it became apparent that Man Group needed to transition to an all-remote status—and fast. So it went all in on Slack. In less than two weeks, Price’s team coordinated eight Slack training sessions over four days for all its employees, only a third of whom were developers and engineers already using Slack.
While the training sessions were originally meant to take place in person, the rest of Man Group’s offices closed for safety purposes before they could happen. So the firm scheduled Webex video conferences and held the sessions online.
The training sessions served as a crash course on working in Slack channels, digital spaces for multiple people to share messages and files. Session leaders explained which channels teams could use to speak with traders, business operations departments and finance specialists.
Meeting Man Group’s security needs with Slack Enterprise Grid
Slack acts as a layer of technology that connects team communication with Man Group’s technology stack. For example, Slack seamlessly integrates with Webex and other third-party apps that Man Group uses daily. Slack also makes it easy to build custom apps to help with simple tasks.
“So many of our processes are end-to-end,” Price says. “They start with our clients in the front office, but they go all the way through to the back office. Slack is now our central mechanism for coordinating a lot of the interactions that used to be email-driven.”
For Man Group, as a financial services provider, company and client data security are top priorities. Slack Enterprise Grid meets the firm’s security and compliance needs with Slack’s Enterprise Mobility Management, also known as Mobile Device Management. It gives organizations control over how their company data is used and accessed on mobile devices
“We’re very keen on Man Group data only being accessed from approved devices, which is why Slack Enterprise Mobility Management played a key role in our decision to roll out Slack throughout the company,” Price says. “It acts as a security perimeter, preventing any kind of loss in customer data or personal data internally.”
Breaking free from departmental silos with Slack
“Because Slack is a more informal way to communicate than email, I think the platform is a great way to break down the kinds of barriers that typically form between teams,” Price says.
#general channel has been an effective way to facilitate conversations across departments and provide teams with direct access to leadership. For example, in that channel, employees asked if they could take time off to volunteer with the U.K.’s National Health Service. The CEO saw the conversation and chimed in with an enthusiastic yes.
Man Group’s senior management team also began posting updates about the firm’s performance in the
#announcements channel. Likewise, some teams have been producing and sharing updates about the challenges of working from home in various Slack channels. These updates tend to be lighthearted, meant to inspire and support coworkers through this uncertain time.
Once Man Group employees had Slack up and running, they were able to help their colleagues and answer questions in public channels. For example, if someone needed help with their remote access, they could query the
#user-support channel. A colleague from another team might chime in with, “Oh, I had the same problem yesterday. Here’s how I fixed it.”
Slack also offers the firm’s technology team visibility into the kinds of questions people have about using the platform, and how Man Group is doing overall as it fully embraces remote work.
“As more and more people work from home, Slack helps me see whether there are recurring issues,” Price says. “It’s a good barometer of the health of remote access.”
Recently, the company started investigating the use of Workflow Builder to automate routine processes in Slack, such as fielding IT requests and onboarding new users. Workflows for remote work have also come in handy for daily stand-up meetings and reminders.
Supporting productivity in the remote workplace with Slack integrations
Slack integrates with a wide range of best-in-class tools like Webex, which teams at Man Group use for meetings. Teammates can start and join Webex meetings directly from Slack, and access those meetings from desktops, laptops and mobile devices. This frees up more time for actual discussion and decision-making between colleagues, rather than bouncing between apps or hunting for meeting invites in emails.
“The majority of our stand-ups were always held in conference rooms,” Price explains. “But because it’s easy to use Webex within Slack, we quickly transitioned to on-time remote meetings with headsets and webcams all set up.”
Although special circumstances led to Man Group’s rapid shift to working from home, the investment firm believes the way it works has been forever changed.
“Although we initially thought people would be quite a lot less productive at home, Webex and Slack have both played a major role in reducing the impact from our offices being closed,” Price says. “Without Slack and the preparations we made before going remote, there would have potentially been a significant decline in productivity.”
Tools like Slack’s channel-based messaging platform will continue to shape the way teammates at Man Group collaborate and contribute to their workplace culture, long after the pandemic ends.