Allison Nunn, IT manager at Leggat McCall Properties, has dozens of people who depend on her to ensure the company’s infrastructure can keep everyone productive, 24/7. Initially, only in need of IT services and support, Nunn began working with Quest to keep their systems and software running and up to date. Based on the success of that initial engagement, Nunn then turned to Quest’s Application Development team to develop an application to automate an increasing number of tasks within the company. Using agile methodology, Quest continues to add features and functionality to the application today.
For more than 50 years, Leggat McCall Properties (LMP) has been a leading provider of real estate development, project management, and advisory services in the Boston real estate market. The company has built its reputation on delivering best-in-class services to a diverse portfolio of private, public, and nonprofit clients on their most complex and challenging projects. In the last ten years alone, LMP has contributed to hundreds of projects totaling more than $10 billion in capital investment, including 15 projects over $200 million and 50 over $50 million. The company has also developed or acquired approximately $3 billion in assets as principals, including mixed-use, office, residential, and research and life science properties.
Flexibility is the key criteria
As the IT Manager at Leggat McCall Properties, Allison Nunn has dozens of people within the company that depend on her to ensure the company’s infrastructure can keep everyone productive, 24/7. Unhappy with her managed services provider (MSP) back in 2017, she set out to find a new partner for IT services and support. “One of the most important factors for us in choosing an MSP partner was flexibility,” said Nunn. “We didn’t want an MSP to come in and tell us what products and vendors to use. We wanted someone who could work with us to achieve our goals.”
The starting point: Umbrella IT Infrastructure Support services
“We buy a lot of our IT equipment from CDW, so we asked our partners there to recommend a flexible MSP,” said Nunn. “They introduced us to Quest, and after going through a series of interviews with the Quest team, we brought them on board.”
The initial engagement was only for Quest’s Umbrella IT Infrastructure Support, but over time, Quest was asked to work on an ever-growing range of IT projects, from fixing problems to patching and updating systems and software, all while providing broad support as needed.
Before working with Quest, Leggat McCall tried to develop an enterprise reporting analytics tool for project forecasting and tracking. Designed to replace the current complex spreadsheets that required data extracts, data cleanup, and manual data entry, the web-based solution needed to integrate with existing project-related accounting data and enable custom reports for project allocation and resource tracking. The solution also needed to produce graphical representations of data to provide a clearer picture of the company’s status. After considering off-the-shelf ERP solutions, the company realized that any available products would be far more costly to configure and customize than just building the solution it wanted.
So, Nunn began searching for a developer to get a custom application built. Based on her satisfaction with its IT services, she asked Quest if they could help. After seeing Quest’s capabilities, Nunn asked the company to help with migrating Leggat McCall’s data from spreadsheets into an automated database. Quest responded by bringing in one of its expert SQL developers to get the project rolling.
Quest employs agile methodology to accelerate application development
That initial application development, mostly an ad hoc effort, progressed slowly at first. Recognizing that Leggat McCall would benefit from a more efficient approach, Quest introduced Nunn to its master technical architect and expert in agile project management and application development. Quest explained that agile—an iterative and step-by-step development methodology—helps organize software design and planning, development, and testing throughout the software lifecycle.
With approval to move ahead, Quest brought in another developer and structured the project into three-week sprints, moving to the agile approach for the analytics project. Each sprint started by listening to and understanding end-user requirements, with the two companies working collaboratively. By producing the solution in small chunks, the Quest team delivered better results and made changes faster, speeding overall development.
Quest’s project scope included application and database security based on Active Directory and a permission design matrix. As the project progressed, Quest also brought in its quality assurance (QA) team to conduct user acceptance, system, and other tests at critical points in the development process to ensure the results met the objectives.
Application development increases efficiency and user satisfaction
Nearly a year into the project, the ongoing development is already making a difference for Leggat McCall. “We’re definitely seeing the advantages now that we can simply run consolidated reports directly from our systems, instead of having to manually reconcile accounting entries with the data maintained in our other management software tools,” said Nunn. “We are also using the application for resource allocation to more effectively assign people to projects—instead of independent spreadsheets like we used to. I’ve gotten really good feedback from the people using the application. In addition to eliminating redundant data entry, they say it’s much easier to use.” While still a work in progress, the application continues to evolve as new features and functions are identified and included in the development roadmap.
Results yield recommendations
“When telling others about Quest’s Application Development and Umbrella IT Infrastructure Support services, I always go back to flexibility. The Quest team is willing to work with me to adapt and get things done,” said Nunn. “If I’m not happy with something, they fix it right away. I’ve recommended Quest multiple times to colleagues.”
“There is just one thing I want to add to Allison’s comments regarding Quest,” said Donald Birch, executive vice president and COO at Leggat McCall. “As I’ve told the Quest team many times, they are a valuable partner, and we expect to continue to work them long into the future.”