Your Employees Use Seamless Communication Platforms at Home. Don’t Make Them Downgrade at the Office


Technology enables organizations to operate on a global scale. Two people who are thousands of miles apart can work on a project together with the same results they'd get if they were sitting in the same room, side by side. But these results can only be achieved with the right collaboration software at your core. Without it, your organization can never effectively operate worldwide.

Getting to that point has always been a major focus for us at Hirschmann Automotive. For already six decades, Hirschmann Automotive has been in the automotive industry and brings flexibility, reliability, and innovation to everything we do. Our specialty is in contacting and connector systems, high voltage applications, sensor systems, special cable assemblies, and overmolded technology. In other words, they're the parts of a vehicle that people don't think too much about if everything is going smoothly—which is exactly how we like it. 

Originally founded in Austria, Hirschmann now has 5,500 employees spread out all over the world. In addition to our headquarters, we have plants in the Czech Republic, Romania, Morocco, China, Mexico and Germany. We also have sales offices in Germany, Italy, China and in the United States.

In my role, I’m responsible for global communication technology, meaning it's my job to bring all of these disparate people together. My number one priority is to make it as easy as possible to communicate all over the world, at any time. If you're my end user, I spend my days trying to figure out new ways to make your job easier and more efficient.

Your employees use innovative communication apps at home. Why not at the office, too?

One of the things that makes my job more challenging, interestingly enough, is the breakneck pace at which consumer technology continues to advance. People are used to a certain degree and quality of communication when they're at home. Tools like WhatsApp have made it possible to easily and securely talk to anyone in an instant.

When that same person comes into your company in the morning, they shouldn't feel to deal with a technological downgrade.

Sounds easy, right?

Strengthen Communications to Strengthen Your Business

From when I first started at this company a year ago, it was clear that a solid unified communications (UC) infrastructure already existed. However, there were also limitations like minimal calling functions and no chat options for mobile devices.

As a truly global player, it is necessary to have an efficient way to connect people together. At Hirschmann Automotive in particular, we have all kind of different departments that need to be in constant contact with each other every day. We realized that bringing our unified communications infrastructure to the next level and would make it possible to work way more efficiently on projects in a shorter period, all while making customers—and employees—happier.

With people all across the world, working in their unique ways, we needed a telepresence solution that could work seamlessly on any device. At the time, we were using Jabber, which was an excellent option in many ways. But to enable people to share files and go beyond calling and voice chatting, we knew we had to do more.

Likewise, even though we have our UC technology, there a lot of room for further improvements. Like the apps our employees use in their personal time, any collaboration solution needed to be fun and easy to use. 

True mobility means employees can be as productive in a taxi cab as they are in the office.

Overall, my vision was to allow people to be just as productive in a taxi cab or airport lounge as they could be in the comfort of their own office. After careful deliberation, we identified what quickly proved to be the only solution that would allow us to accomplish this: Cisco's Webex platform.

We worked closely with both Cisco and partner Dimension Data to get this proverbial ball rolling. Dimension Data proved invaluable because they're a global company, just like we are. They have experts all over the world, so if I need help with an issue in China, I can get local support and expertise very quickly.

Communication Tools for the Modern Employee

Currently, we are in the process of moving all of our video conferencing systems from on-premise to the cloud. Once the transition is complete, we’ll also begin moving our users from Jabber to Webex Teams.

Getting ready to move our video endpoints to the cloud has taken about six months. It will take another six months to finish the implementation and have all of our offices using the Cisco Webex platform. But once it’s in place, it’ll be worth the hard work. 

Maybe the biggest new feature that we're all excited for is group chat within Webex Teams. Our users have been telling us for ages that they want to do more than just send messages back and forth. They want to meet with many people at once and share files. With Webex Teams, that’ll become a reality. 

But the Webex platform is more than just Webex Teams. With Webex Boards, our staff will be empowered with a more intuitive way to communicate. They'll be able to draw on plans and work together in real time with people all over the world. Everything created on the Webex Board is automatically stored in the cloud and associated with the virtual room. So if a team starts a project in one location, they can easily continue it in another—or even at home if necessary.

Smartboards allow teams to be creative with their communication. Let them think outside the box.

Right now, they're using email and some pictures to generate less effective results in a longer amount of time. But once Webex Boards and Teams are live, they can share files in seconds and maintain the high level of communication they need. Finally, geography will no longer be a hurdle to overcome for collaboration and productivity. If anything, it will become an afterthought.

If You Want to Improve the Work, Improve the Lives of Your People

For those looking to make a similar transition, you must realize one thing: Most of your staff are already familiar with the types of technologies we're now implementing. Your employees have probably been using them at home for years. If they want to share files or pictures with someone, they can do so from any device within the confines of a single app. Group chat has existed since the dawn of smartphones. Adoption won’t be your issue. 

Our project was about bringing a lot of these features into a professional environment. We needed a solution that took the processes people were used to and put them in their hands at the office. 

More Home Time

As we finish this transformation, one of the noticeable areas of improvement will be around travel. People won’t have to fly all over the world to get in the same physical space with one another to work on a project. They’ll be able to do it from anywhere. Not only will that help the company save tremendously in terms of travel expenses, but it means my colleagues don't have to travel that much anymore. I’m sure their families will appreciate that. 

But these gains won’t be confined to just our internal organization.


Webex Teams makes it easier for not only employees to collaborate and communicate with one another, but with their own customers and partners as well. To illustrate that throughout this project, I’ve used Webex to communicate with the team at Dimension Data. I saw the benefits of the platform firsthand, and I’m excited for everyone else to use it.

Creating Happy and Productive Employees

Your employees should never feel like stepping into the office is a downgrade. People shouldn't feel like the computer or systems they have at home are dramatically superior to the tools they use at work. That’s not the recipe for happy or productive employees.

People will start to feel like they're downgrading when they go home at night because of the sophisticated nature of the solutions they use all day at work. They will start to explore ways to bring work functionality home with them to use in their personal lives, which is exciting to see.

But in the end, the most important thing to understand is that we didn't want to embrace modern technology just for the sake of it. Every decision we made and every piece of tech we implemented was born out of the need to make the lives of our employees easier and more efficient. If you can do that, the quality of the work will naturally rise as well. It’s inspiring to see the great work people can do when you give them the right foundation.