A Cisco Video Transformation: Boosting Employee Satisfaction and Lowering Costs by 37 Percent
Long-term thinking is usually advantageous in business, but sometimes what you’re left with is old luggage from the ghosts of past projects. This is especially true in ICT. At Danieli, being founded in 1914, if there’s anything we know it’s long-term thinking. Building steel plants with life cycles of 45 years or more will force you into that mentality.
Two years ago, I was hired to help us break out of the IT centric approach and drive a new user (customer) centric approach. We had obsolete systems that needed updating and had to find better ways to connect our global workforce. We leveraged the company-wide transformation project 'Metamorphosis 2' to drive change. The most important transformation has been in our corporate culture, moving from collecting requirements and implementing applications/infrastructure to an open mindset of finding the best solutions to our customers challenges and managing services. Our aim is to be a value-add for our company and not a cost!
Building a Global Perspective
We are a global entity now—with over 9,000 employees spread out over 22 countries. Danieli spent the last ten years acquiring market share around the world. We invested in new technologies and increased our market share. As a result, our values can no longer be imposed by the head office here in Italy. We must create new values by consulting our various international subsidiaries and offices. Doing business in China is not the same as doing business in Europe or South America.
However, some decisions need to be centralized, especially when it comes to technology. As a global organization, communication and collaboration are crucial to our success, and improving that offering is where I come in. As VP of Information and Communication Technology, we're helping build an international mindset by working on the IT portion of our transformation strategy.
We work closely with our Board of Directors to help define a transformation strategy. We have identified a series of special projects which will help drive and support these change management initiatives. We identified video conferencing as one of our mandatory needs—without effective communication and collaboration, an organisation cannot thrive or innovate.
From Problem to Solution
An international enterprise like ours needs a robust video conferencing solution. Remote meetings are a way of life here. Unfortunately the performance indicators for video conferencing showed that it was one of the most critical services of the ICT department. User satisfaction was shockingly low. Our old platform inhibited our workers from effectively performing their jobs.
We’d spent a lot of money buying what we considered to be the best tool in the world. This in-house solution of high-tech rooms with interactive displays had turned into a monster. It was complicated, with audio and video quality that was poor at best. Nobody wanted to use it.
We quickly realized we needed to simplify our approach. What’s the point of expensive hardware if it’s a nightmare to set up and use? We started exploring our options and the one name that came to the forefront—time and time again—was Cisco.
One of the aspects that immediately caught attention was that Cisco didn’t just provide equipment lists and sales brochures. We were also presented with tactical advice like various room configurations that covered everything from one-on-one calls to large-scale events. Cisco even told us what size rooms we needed based on the number of participants.
Video Conferencing Made Easy
Cisco’s MX series of TelePresence hardware and software offers a much better user experience than our previous solution. It is simple to set up and it self-configures. To complete the setup, users can easily authenticate their endpoint to the network.
In the past, users had to call IT to initiate even the simplest meeting. Now, they can log into a meeting with one click using a touch-controlled tablet. They can then share their screens wirelessly. Cisco’s cameras automatically track who is speaking, and the sound and video quality are superb.
On paper, it looked perfect, but our employees were accustomed to having a bad experience. Inertia is always a factor in a company this big, and we weren’t sure whether they’d embrace a new technology right away.
We rolled Cisco out on a limited basis in February of 2017. There were six or seven rooms to begin with. We had three here in Udine and another one in Thailand. Thankfully, the feedback was very enthusiastic and the solution worked well across cultural boundaries.
We added more rooms during a second phase, and are near the completion of phase three. Right now we have 62 conference rooms set up around the world, down from 100. This represents significant savings in space and equipment costs. Although it is much easier to use, and offers many more functions than our previous solution, Cisco costs less per room.