Jim Panos, Hutchinson’s director of informing and innovation for the Dannon Company, along with CTO of Danone North America Mike Close, conducted a UC2 pilot within IT. They didn’t encounter any interoperability issues, because Dannon had been diligent about adopting standards-based technology in the past. Concerns about network capacity were solved with some additional investment in the network backbone and traffic management. At a corporate leadership event, Dannon IT highlighted some UC2 capabilities: a wiki for financial results and a videoconference capability for monthly business unit updates that could replace costly executive travel. Top business executives were sold on the value of UC2 right away.
Dannon is halfway through a rollout that could take another six months to a year. Panos found that audio and videoconferencing usage spikes shortly after these tools are given to new users, but, as he points out: “There’s a difference between adopting capabilities and institutionalising them. The challenge is to take those tools and redefine business processes.”
One HR leader started interviewing candidates by teleconference instead of flying them to the firm’s New York HQ, and Finance figured out a way to use a collaborative website to eliminate the large email files sent around during a close.
“You can’t underestimate the value of putting these tools into people’s hands early,” says Close. “The business folks innovated with the tools. They’d say ‘I get it, but can I use it to do this?’ That’s where it takes off.” Then Hutchinson spreads the word. He uses a wiki to share progress with business units. He is working with his parent company, Groupe Danone, and a network of regional business and IT leaders who share their UC2 approaches and concepts.
Just as voicemail has not been eradicated by email, IT leaders don’t expect the UC2 tools to replace all existing communication technology. “Both methods have to be there for a while. We’re going to have wikis and blogs, but some people will still [feel] comfortable with more traditional methods of communication,” says Panos. “We say, ‘Here’s another possible way to do things’.”
ROI calculations can be tricky, though. Beyond reduced travel costs and some increased productivity calculations, the payoff of UC2 is a little amorphous – increased quality of communication and work-life benefits for employees, for example. So Hutchinson measures success for the project differently, by tracking usability, adoption rates and employee feedback. “Those are soft benefits, but ones that are on the minds of executives today,” Hutchinson says.
Next, Hutchinson’s team will explore how other emerging communication and collaboration tools – intelligent search, streaming video on mobile devices – can take UC2 even further.
“I fundamentally believe what JFK said: ‘Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future’,” Hutchinson says.
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