As a technologist I oftentimes find myself at the intersection between innovation and company culture. This was especially true starting my first day here at Rain CII as the IT Manager. I started off the morning reading all of the welcome e-mails and sifting through the rest of the messages until one in particular stood out to me. The message that caught my eye was addressed to all of the employees here at Rain CII. The message was innocent enough, announcing the birth of a healthy baby girl and of course including several attachments of the newborn bundle of joy.
While most people would simply delete this message and move on with their day, it managed to stump me. On one hand this message was extremely positive: what a great company to be a part of, we clearly value family and each other’s accomplishments outside of work. However, on the other hand, my e-mail server just expanded be a couple of gigabytes and seeing as how this was my first day, I wasn’t sure the system could handle the extra stress. So as the reply-alls began pouring in, I needed to find a way to ensure that business emails would still be delivered, but we could still communicate about things that weren’t directly attributed to work. It was time to innovate, time to empower our employees to communicate more effectively with each other through technology.
When I talk about the company culture here at Rain CII, I say we are a culture of we. People working together are extremely powerful. Individuals don’t make a company, but they can bring one down. My goal over the past year has been to make communicating with each other as easy as possible. Successful technology is transparent. It’s part of people’s everyday process, readily available, and simple to use. The way we talk to each other outside of work has changed greatly over the past five years. Even something as simple as e-mail has been replaced by something more simple — social media. Outside of the office we live in a 140-character-or-less world. The challenge is to bring the familiarity of the Facebook, Twitter, Vine, and iMessage-filled world into a business environment… and still be productive.
To address the matter of baby pictures (and their ilk) we implemented Yammer. Yammer is a great product and is the future of how groups will collaborate in an enterprise. We rolled out Yammer to 10 users and within two weeks they had organically grown the experience through invites to over 70% of the company. This was with zero direction or guidance from IT on how to use the platform — people just used it. Posting updates, creating groups, and sharing pictures was familiar to them. Not everything on this platform is baby pictures though. Our project management team started tracking the progress of one of our largest projects through a group that they created. Now the entire company could see the progress of this project and gain a better understanding of what different groups were doing. Yammer simplified the way we shared pictures and status updates. It was a fun way to learn more about our co-workers in locations people had never visited. The network started shrinking the geographic barriers that have always been a reality in our far-flung company facilities.
We didn’t want to stop at Yammer though, we also rolled out Skype for Business in order to bring video conferencing to the desktop experience. In our environment, video conferencing used to be something that happened over there or in that room. Being able to open the lines of communication with someone across the state — or even across the globe — with three clicks of a mouse has made working with our teams in India much more efficient. Now we are talking face-to-face regardless of geographic location.
Within the course of a year, we’ve managed to build the foundation for the future of communication here at Rain CII. Our users are starting to collaborate outside of their locations… across our seven plants and three offices. Teams of people are forming where organization structure hadn’t previously existed. When companies embrace innovation and empower their employees to openly communicate with each they can be extremely powerful. In my next post we will talk more about the role of IT here at Rain and how evolving the perception of Information Technology from simply a support function to that of a strategic partner can have a lasting impact on a company.