Lars Geiger purchased Skype for Business from Swisscom for the Baumer Group. He explains in an interview why he initially did that only for the management.
You introduced Skype for Business from the Swisscom Cloud initially only for the management. Why for just one department?
We introduced the solution for managers first because we needed their support. If the management demonstrates that it uses a new application, the broader rollout is easier. The other departments are next, where we see clear added value in the use of the tool.
Other companies go all in straight away when it comes to making “Work Smart” changes. Why this rather cautious approach?
Work Smart – that is, working independently of time and place – is not the way we approach things. We at Baumer IT must always offer solutions to requirements from the business. A major requirement at the moment is that we need to bring together departments that are not in the same location, perhaps not even in the same country. We also need to collaborate with customers, suppliers and service providers. The old solution was no longer able to cover these needs.
Why Skype for Business?
A Microsoft solution was best suited to our IT landscape. We have Office, Microsoft Outlook, Exchange and SharePoint in use. Skype for Business, formerly known as Lync, can be fully integrated with these tools.
What have the initial experiences been like?
In the area of IT, it has greatly simplified cooperation with overseas locations. We have more direct contact, which is also more personal thanks to the video images. It is also being increasingly used in purchasing as well as in marketing and development.
What has impressed you most: video telephony or the numerous opportunities for collaboration?
For me personally, the biggest advantage lies in collaboration. You can work at several different locations on one screen, look at the content together and know what is being talked about. Video conferencing has been used at Baumer for a long time; it is very common here. At present, we are still using outdated systems that we will be replacing. Skype for Business gives me the advantage that I can also initiate a video chat from my client.
Why did you purchase Skype for Business from Swisscom?
Swisscom made us the most attractive offer. The contractual terms suited us best, since they allowed us to remain flexible.
That it was a Swiss provider was another consideration?
Yes. In addition to the financial aspects, it is important to us to have a local contact person.
Can you use the solution for research and development, where a lot of delicate and sensitive data is handled?
That department still communicates a great deal by e-mail. But that was actually the second major test balloon we launched to see what the new solution can do.
Is there a difference in how departments such as marketing and R&D use the tool?
The requirements are quite different. Marketing is mainly interested in a simple, functional solution that allows you to work together on a document. For R&D, the application needs to work with special tools. These employees are thinking about what it means to work in the cloud or with a Microsoft tool. The Mac and Linux developers in particular have reservations in this regard. These questions are a challenge for us.
How do you deal with that?
We are having an open discussion with those involved and trying to overcome the doubts.
Discussing what is and what is not exchanged via the cloud seems to me quite reasonable for a high-tech company like Baumer. Do you have specific guidelines of what can be exchanged and what may not?
Absolutely. We discuss this all the time. We do not allow any data exchange about the Collab solution at the moment. We currently do that via our FTP server and our own e-mail server.
Purchasing such a solution is one thing, implementing it is another. How much effort did you have to invest in training employees?
Our employees in Switzerland were trained by our trainees in using the new tool. That was very well received internally and kept our expenses in check.
And the older employees were happy to have things explained to them by very young trainees?
Yes, it was really great; no one had any trouble with it. The young people did it with great charm and expertise.
When systems like this are purchased, the users usually spend most time discussing one thing: the headsets.
Exactly. We therefore tested different manufacturers in advance and have a range of models from the one we liked best. Employees can use a form to order the headset that suits them best. That way everyone is happy.
How much effort did it take until the project was finally up and running?
More than expected. Due to our many locations, we had quite a lot of discussions. Today, a project manager has taken over, and I'm still involved in this project for two or three hours a week.
You’re actually the CIO, and are responsible for IT. But the introduction of this solution really shows that you need to be able to convince management and employees. Does that bother you, or do you enjoy that?
These are exactly the things that are the most fun for me. I am an IT business engineer and have worked for many years in business process management. Change management, optimizing processes together with people, finding viable solutions – I find that very exciting.
The Baumer Group is a leading international manufacturer of sensors, rotary encoders, measuring instruments and components for automated image processing. Baumer combines innovative technology and customer-oriented service into intelligent solutions for factory and process automation and offers a unique breadth of products and technology for them. The family-owned company has around 2300 employees and has manufacturing facilities, sales offices and representatives in 38 branches and 19 countries, always close to the customer. With quality standards that are consistently high throughout the world and great innovative strength, Baumer provides its customers from numerous industrial sectors with decisive advantages and measurable added value. More information is available on the Internet at www.baumer.com
Lars Geiger studied IT business engineering and worked at ThyssenKrupp Presta and other companies in various positions in IT management and business process management. Today he is CIO of the Baumer Group.