From XU Magazine, 
Issue 24

Lessons from lockdown – how cloud-based systems are helping Survey Gisborne wake up in New Zealand’s new dawn

As businesses around the world start to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic we talk to one of Survey Gisborne’s directors, Diane Taylor, about the lessons and opportunities of these unprecedented times.

Survey Gisborne is located in the first city in the world to see the sunrise; North Eastern New Zealand. The company provides a wide range of surveying expertise and services throughout the Gisborne Tairawhiti and other parts of New Zealand. It’s a small business led by husband and wife team Kevin and Diane Taylor, employing two other full-time surveyors plus several other contractors and casual workers.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit New Zealand, Survey Gisborne thought they’d be able to work from their spacious offices, but as lockdown measures were introduced, it was clear that like everyone else, they would need to make some big changes to how they did business.

From being based in the office to working from home

In terms of the transition from office to home working, business manager Diane Taylor says: “For me, because we use cloud-based systems, I was able to pick up my computer and carry on. Being cloud based, all the information was there for me to be able to continue with the invoices, wages and the administration side of the business.”

Survey Gisborne’s core business revolves around subdividing and land development, resource consent applications, concept and plan proposals for subdivisions and providing professional planning advice under the Resource Management Act.

With most of this activity on hold due to lockdown, business for the rest of the team was very different, as Diane explains: “A big part of land surveying is about being out in the field. The field work feeds the office work and the office work feeds the field work, so it was very difficult. For the first week we were like stunned mullets. We just sat there and tried to work out what happened and how long it was going to go on for.”

Survey Gisborne uses TidyWork to help manage large and small scale survey projects that typically include undertaking subdivision and other cadastral surveys for clients and providing accurate fixes and topographic data for buildings and engineering projects. They provide boundary locations for fencing purposes and legal redefinition surveys to resolve or avoid boundary disputes.

Maintaining business during the pandemic

Diane says cloud-based software was a key factor in being able to maintain part of their business while surveyors could not get out into the field: “TidyWork was a godsend in this environment,” she says. “Being cloud-based, it enabled me to carry on with things like invoicing for jobs and seeing where we were with different projects.”

The ability to record and track time accurately was also an important part of monitoring productivity during lockdown as Diane explains: “The [New Zealand] government was giving out a wage subsidy so that needed to be measured. TidyWork was really awesome in that I set up fields for Covid training, Covid absence and staff were able to track their time against those measures. That’s worked really well as it showed how our productivity plummeted with no field work. As lockdown levels have lifted, we’re climbing out of that.”

Managing time and measuring productivity

Land surveying has been the lifetime profession of Survey Gisborne’s founder Kevin Taylor, and he’s worked throughout New Zealand as well as in Antarctica. While he focuses on managing the surveying side, Diane is responsible for driving other aspects of the business and keeping things on track and that involves managing staff and time carefully:

“Covid-19 has been a huge disruptor,” says Diane. “We lost a huge window of opportunity with a lot of good settled weather ideal for field surveying. We’ve had to postpone jobs until next summer now because it will be too wet to carry them out. TidyWork not only helps in terms of rescheduling but also in terms of tracking work that’s now beginning to pick up again.”

“I use it for tracking milestones on big projects,” Diane explains. “I go to the dashboard and can see what needs attention and how things are tracking. Customers don’t necessarily have to talk to surveyors. I can just go into TidyWork and can see what they’re working on at the moment. It’s all there at my fingertips. As work picks up, we have all that history. It’s really easy to search by job, street, etc., and pick things up from where you left off.”

New Zealand’s innovative spirit

Its beautiful beaches, surf and lifestyle are not the only attractive features of the region. Last year Gisborne was the highest performing economy in New Zealand, providing plenty of work ahead for companies with surveying expertise like Survey Gisborne.

The area is already popular with technology-based innovators. Xero has offices in nearby Hawkes Bay and Diane met Xero founder Rob Drury when he came to speak in Gisborne. She says: “I love Xero too – another good cloud system with great reports like cashflow and budgets and comparisons. It’s important stuff to know. Once upon a time you’d have to rely heavily on your accountant but with Xero you just know where you are.”

Tidy, which has grown internationally, remains headquartered in New Zealand. Being local was a key driver for Survey Gisborne selecting and trusting their software says Diane: “Us Kiwis are pretty innovative and always looking for ways to do things better. Because I had come from a process management background, I could see how TidyWork related to our business. Right from the start I knew I had support and had something that works for my business.”

Lessons from a global pandemic

As Survey Gisborne and the rest of New Zealand emerges from the worst restrictions of the pandemic, we asked Diane to reflect on what the business has learned from this experience: “It’s not cool anymore to come to work when you’re sick,” she says. “That’s a huge thing. Some businesses haven’t taken that as seriously as they could.”

“Being able to have that flexibility, to work from home, to work from anywhere, I see that as the new norm. We need to have those conversations about what we can do differently in the future. Right now, we’re in recovery.”

Why leave it there?

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