Making the Call: Unifying Communications for a Unified Company
International companies face distinct challenges that are prevalent across industries, countries, and size. Simply put, employees need to communicate and collaborate if we want our global offices to work together and form a cohesive organization. That’s exactly the situation we at ALA - Advanced Logistics for Aerospace found ourselves in just a few years ago.
ALA was established in 2010 as a result of a merger of two different companies that were both active in aerospace components distribution. The merger allowed us to focus our business on providing logistic services. We sell material, but we also offer additional services to our customers.
For instance, on behalf of our customers, we completely cover the planning, purchasing, stock management, quality, administration, and customized delivery.
After the merger, ALA started a challenging internationalization process, and in 2012 we bought two American aerospace companies that focused on personal commodities. These new companies allowed ALA to start multiple businesses in the North American market and also helped ALA to build a relationship with the North American producer vendors, which is a strong distinction between ALA and our competitors.
Many Offices, One Vision: Unification
In 2015 we completed yet another merger of a group of aerospace companies based in the United Kingdom and France. This allowed ALA to expand its offices across Europe, establishing ALA France and ALA UK. Our company now has 250 employees and is the fourth-largest aerospace player in this market sector, worldwide.
Despite the amazing benefits of merging and acquiring many high-quality companies, there are always challenges that need to be addressed. The fact that ALA came together as a result of so many different mergers and acquisitions presented a unique challenge: Each company had its own preferred system, tools, and technology for communication.
Our workforce quickly became disconnected. It’s a natural and inevitable disconnect that must be handled properly when there are major expansions and changes within the company lifecycle. So we decided last year to undertake a harmonization of these systems. We needed robust and reliable technology that would be able to handle such a complicated and interconnected system of offices and business across the world.
The move to a new communication platform was especially important because it just wasn’t feasible for many of us to spend so much time travelling. The loss of work hours and complicated travel plans were a huge challenge to overcome. We needed the right tools and systems to rise above these difficulties. We had one strong, overarching goal: to become one, unified company.
Streamlining Old—and New—Processes
While searching for different unification systems, we tried out a platform that just wasn’t the right fit. It couldn’t handle our robust needs. We quickly realized we’d need to turn to one of the biggest names in the space: Cisco. We knew innovation was the driving force behind the Cisco brand. We trusted in Cisco’s approach to connecting people and we were able to see that firsthand when, in Rome last summer, I met with Cisco representatives who provided an immersive experience that showcased what challenges the product was capable of solving. I was able to understand the potential this system has for an operation as large-scale as ours. After the demo, it was clear Cisco’s competitor was actually several steps behind.
We now use Webex Teams to connect all our devices: from laptops to mobile phones. We also use the Cisco TelePresence SX20, MX300, and MX800 products. We set up teleconferences between London, Mont De Marsan, New York, and our new Headquarters in Naples. We also have colleagues who work remotely or need to collaborate with teams in different offices, so this allows us to connect with them directly for meetings. We have Cisco IP phones set up in each country.
We’re very happy with these products right now, but we know we need to implement even more integration solutions between offices. We’re in the process of expanding our Cisco Unified Communications Manager system globally. We’ve found it to be useful in our Italy and US offices, so we’re also looking to implement the Cisco Call Manager in the UK and in France.
Sweet Success, Serious Progress
Implementing the systems went very smoothly—the Cisco support teams were readily available in each country, which was also another important factor in the selection process. We now have that global support from Cisco and Cisco partners. Deploying the actual devices was very easy because it was simple to connect everything to our infrastructure and set up our systems.
At ALA, we host a monthly meeting in each department. Our commercial committee, procurement committee, and operational committee now each conduct highly effective monthly meetings. Department or general managers from different countries are now able to regularly connect and discuss goals and challenges. We use these tools to create alignment within our sales funnel as well. We receive the same requests from customers across different countries, so it requires a lot of communication and many meetings to ensure we have a unified message, products, and services.
The key factor to successful implementation was to create one identity. Before we started using the Cisco Unified Communications Manager, we found each office, each country, and each business manager was isolated. The businesses were not connected. Every company had its own procedures and unique tools for managing their systems. It can become very complicated very quickly. With Cisco, we found a simple way to leverage technology to allow people to communicate and collaborate.
Investing in Communication to Reduce Travel Needs
From a business travel perspective, using the Cisco Unified Communications Manager and Teams has helped us drastically reduce the time and money spent on simply connecting with colleagues and teams. We are able to connect with our international offices every day. I set up a Teams meeting with a colleague each day to help fix problems or to share new developments and update them on new releases. In fact, all business segments are now better able to manage every new initiative. This kind of technology is truly supporting us as we manage our unique identity and share our vision for the business.
This has had an incredible impact on both our efficiency and our business costs. My role should require me to spend several days abroad at the UK site in order to better understand their business and to address any challenges using proper processes. But because of Cisco, I can manage operations easily from my office. We’ve improved our effectiveness while reducing our travel costs. For example, our new CEO started last month. Instead of travelling around the world to personally meet the key figures he needs to know, he set up meetings using Webex Teams. These travel expenses alone would have totaled about several hundred thousand euros. The return on investment has been incredible.
Small Changes, Major Impact
The fact I no longer have to travel for business several days per month has made a big difference in the quality of my personal life as well. I’m doing the same thing as I did before—talking and connecting with my colleagues—but I no longer have to be away from my family. But this isn’t just about me. The new system has allowed my colleagues across different departments to spend more time with their families as well. It’s hard to put a price on family time.
Our team has grown from four different companies with completely different systems and tools for communication into a truly unified international organization. With the lines of communication open and clear, we’ve created a company culture where everyone feels like they work in the same office despite the differences in time zones, cultures, and languages. It’s this commitment to communication that has helped create opportunities for growth we never thought possible.