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Enterprise 2.0 Case Study - Lean Company with Google Applications


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A number of researchers on the field of social media use in companies have put together as collection of case studies Prof.Dr. Andrea Back from University St.Gallen Switzerland as recently added the case study of a 350 employee international company that implemented Lean methods in managing and operating a company using Google application. This case is special in comparison to other case studies as the implementation was not only a project or a test in a special part of a company. A whole company worked with ist over years.

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Enterprise 2.0 Case Study - Lean Company with Google Applications

  1. 1. 12.07.14 1 Jürgen Lauber Haute des Vignes 32 | CH 1796 Courgevaux | Schweiz T +41 (0) 79 5099 427 || Information and knowledge work along with Lean Principles with Google Apps at Saia- Burgess Controls AG (Original Article in German at Prof.Dr.Back University St.Gallen Switzerland) After great experiences with Lean Principles in production, Saia-Burgess AG decided to transfer the Lean concept from factory floor to the office areas. Google Apps Business proved to be an appropriate tool for the appliance of Lean Principle in information and knowledge work. This article shows typical problems or inefficacies, which can be resolved with web-based, lean practices (in this case based on Google Sites1 ). 1.1.1 Appliance of Lean Principles for employees at Saia Saia-Burgess Controls AG, from now on called Saia, develops and produces Electronic devices for Measurement & Control. Field of application is the automation of machines, buildings and networks. In the beginning of 2013, Saia employed 340 persons, including 240 in the main factory in Murten. Local sales companies in Europe are in charge of support and distribution. In 2010, Saia employed 70 production workers and 260 knowledge and information workers. The latter are much more costly and have for the company a greater, differentiation & added value potential than production workers. Therefore goal was to make this field of knowledge and information worker more efficient and effective. The knowledge and information workers lacked a natural, physical embodiment of their working environment and their results. The main processes were mental or took place in an IT system. The “production output” was barely concrete. This made the implementation of Lean outside of the production difficult. The main principle of Lean consists in the elimination of unnecessary and non-value adding efforts. Sustainable effects were achieved by changing seemingly simple and trivial processes in particular. The production has been converted into Lean from 2008 to 2012. Therefore, a “do-it- yourself”-kit for Lean production, the Creform-System has been applied. It enables the production workers to define and create their own working environment. This system has been created by Toyota and forms the common structural base for all the Toyota production facilities. The objective is to eliminate systematic sources of errors and activities that don’t contribute to the added value. The Lean production cells are developed in pre-defined maturity steps under inclusion of every person (development, worker, logistics etc.) involved in the production. The result is a production system so simple and safe in use that even inexperienced persons can work with it2 . The implementation of Lean Principles in the production environment reduces the throughput times . It reduced the holding, the required space and the delivery times. Motivated by its success, concepts and basic ideas of the Japanese Lean production system like One-Piece Flow, Tact, standard work, Waterspider, Kaizen and Moonshine3 have been transferred to the whole company. 1.1.2 Web-software as enabler of Lean 1 A more specific description oft he four use cases (reference projects in sales, bigger projects with many participants, central sites of the business areas and public and intern events) can be found on
  2. 2. 12.07.14 2 Jürgen Lauber Haute des Vignes 32 | CH 1796 Courgevaux | Schweiz T +41 (0) 79 5099 427 || Since the first steps in 2010, the same enabling effect was found for “Google Apps (for Business)” as for Creform in production. However, these web-based applications only provide the structural and technical conditions for a development towards a Lean Enterprise. But the use of web-software alone doesn’t cause higher efficiency and effectiveness. Without appropriate rules and values, it could even have counterproductive effects. In detail, the following points were pursued: - Supported by the Google-Apps applications, every employee and every group can organise itself according to its assignments and with optimal outcome. An example for this would be the creation of a central site with Google-Apps, a use case further described below. - Feedback processes, e.g. feedbacks after events or feedback for products in field test with pilot customers are easy to perform and documented on a long term. - Decision-making is designed more open and transparent. - The participation of everyone, e.g. through feedback or sharing of documents, is visible for others. Who participated and where he did is documented automatically. This is given by the protocol and analysis function of Google Apps. - The employees’ fear of making mistakes is minimized through the possibility to restore old versions at any time. - Barriers between the company, the supplier and the clients are more permeable. Google Apps makes it easier to include other parties in the process. - Measurement numbers are not needed for the implementation of tools. The objective is to use Lean experience in the best possible way. The tools are just a means to an end. 1.1.3 Software implementation and establishment For the use of the web-software, Lean Principles have been transferred from production, starting with the Moonshine phase. The term “moonshine” is derived from the Lean philosophy and means that new procedures are developed through multiple stages. The key users are developers and test persons. Every employee has the possibility to actively participate in the creation of his workspace and working conditions. After several months of moonshine phase, the pilot phase follows with different employees. Clearance for every employee is only given after successful closing of this stage. This process has not been seen as an IT-project, but as a permanent process of change: Therefore, trial-and-error-approach is definitely wanted and not a sign of bad planning or incompetent employees, along with the phrase: Learning while doing! The whole process of innovation and development for the use of Google Apps and YouTube has been initiated and publicized by the former CEO. Due to the fact that Google Apps was new and most of the employees didn't have any experience with it, a leading example was needed. The CEO applied everything beforehand. In 2011, the transfer from individual account to Google Apps accounts took place. They all run under the domain “”. The key applications are Google Sites and Google (Web-)Drive. About 20% of the employees are authorised to create Lean Websites with Google Sites, 80% of the users are able to download, read and use the comment function. The utilisation of Google Drive on the local hard disk is optional. The amount of documents stored on external servers that can't be controlled by the enterprise should be as small as possible. Also, the local data on PCs should be minimised, but bans and obligatory guidelines no not exist.
  3. 3. 12.07.14 3 Jürgen Lauber Haute des Vignes 32 | CH 1796 Courgevaux | Schweiz T +41 (0) 79 5099 427 || A consulting company is in charge of the administration and acts as a backup support. In July 2013, Saia owned 275 Google-Apps licences, 260 of which have already been redeemed. The task of the administrators is, amongst other things, to register or delete users and provide support. In the beginning, a half-time employee is needed for this job. Later, one day per week will be enough. Until today, there is no known transformation of Lean Principles from production into the employee sector available. Therefore Saia concentrated on the main goals of Lean, namely the systematic elimination of dissipation and the avoidance of error sources and the lack of quality. The following paragraphs will discuss how Lean principles are implemented in the processes and fields of activity of the brainworkers. Different problems and inefficacies will be specified. In order to sustainably apply these new practices, the processes supported by Google Apps and YouTube have been defined in the ISO 9001 certified quality management system of Saia Burgess Controls, CNet. These are things like for example the initialisation of Google Analytic Tracking for each Site created with Lean Websites or the implementation and release of a written Request for Comment (Feedback) for every decision out of the existing committees, that concerns issues cross several departments. 1.1.4 Fields of application and effects of Google Apps for business Most of the times when Google Apps is mentioned, “Google Sites”, which is a tool for the creation of Websites, is meant. Google Sites offers the possibility to create workspaces simple and fitted, which can bee seen as analogy to the Creform system in the production. Employees can use models where they only have to adapt the content. There is also the possibility to create whole new websites and adjust them to individual needs from the very first. Google Sites acts as visualisation, storage and chronicle of important activities, as collection of comments and as a file-sharing platform. Possible use cases are for example public Google Sites for client events containing presentations, pictures and short images. The same can be done for company-intern for the annual sales meetings. The main effects on typical non-production processes will be given below, organised after the headwords problem, solution and effect. In a few examples, a use case will be presented. As for the screenshots, names or non-public contents are blanked out with grey bars. Partial replacement of e-mail Problem: No important person should be missing in the mailing list. Therefore, it is usually too large. People often receive e-mail that doesn’t concern them and unnecessarily interrupts their work because they need to be read and handled. In this way, a lot of important time is lost and the quality of brainwork is reduced. Solution: By using Google Sites for every division and project, mailing lists can be kept small without running the risk of leaving someone important out. All the information is documented, structured and easily traceable with Google Search. Whoever needs real-time information has the possibility of subscribing to the according site and thus receiving updates per e-mail. Exemplary use case for central sites: All the groups and divisions have their own central sites. These contain important information, dates and communications as well as documents,
  4. 4. 12.07.14 4 Jürgen Lauber Haute des Vignes 32 | CH 1796 Courgevaux | Schweiz T +41 (0) 79 5099 427 || e.g. protocols. The business unit “Controller and Interfaces” uses Google Sites as displayed in figure 1. The sales administration uses a site similar to this one. There is, for example, an attendance list available, a Google Drive chart linked to the corresponding central site. Figure 1: Home page of a central site Effect: Less e-mail from colleagues in the in-box. E-mail is less heavy in content and volume. The person who structures, publishes and archives information does this once and for everyone, which forces him to be more thoughtful about the content. This leads to improved quality and enables the receivers to process information in a more efficient way. In addition, it reduces miscommunication and the time needed to organise the inbox. Introduce new employees Problem: If new employees are included in a project, a division or the whole company, they normally start without any knowledge about its past. They have to install themselves first. E- mail is the classic tool for dissemination of knowledge, but their inbox is empty. Therefore, other employees have to accompany them for days and invest a lot of time and energy in their incorporation. It is nearly impossible for the new employees to remember everything they learn in the beginning because of the information overflow. Solution: The steady use of Google Sites improves this problem systematically. If an enterprise organises its topics in micro-websites, a basic structure is automatically given. All the relevant information is traceable at any time due to the search function. Decision-making processes are documented on RFC (Requests for Comment) Sites. Thanks to this, new
  5. 5. 12.07.14 5 Jürgen Lauber Haute des Vignes 32 | CH 1796 Courgevaux | Schweiz T +41 (0) 79 5099 427 || employees are able to comprehend situations and development without others having to explain everything. The time investment for the incorporation is reduced to a minimum; co- workers merely have to answer some questions. Effect: Less time pressure for the existing staff, less decision errors due to a lack of knowledge. A new employee is able to make his own decisions earlier. Using know-how and experiences Problem: If an enterprise doesn’t use its collective knowledge and experience the right way, the likelihood for incorrect or inferior decisions increases. Even today, in the age of IT, the most important knowledge is still located in people’s heads. Information can only become action through people. If committed employees are excluded from decision-making processes, they lose their motivation. Debarring people can turn them from an open supporter of a product or project to a hidden opponent. How can we make sure that every important information carrier is involved in the decision- making process? Solution: Everyone who makes important decisions should easily be able to involve information carriers and experienced persons in a comfortable way. In addition, these persons will be given a public feedback documenting their commitment or non-commitment. ISO 9001 certified C-Net provides a Request-for-Comment document for this purpose. RFC templates based on Google Sites simplify this process, transparent and documented on long term. Google Forms, a simple and effective survey tool for brainworkers, is provided via Google Drive. Results: Decisions where time is not critical will not be made without consulting the company’s collective knowledge and experience. Inclusion of external partners in the own added value Problem: The close inclusion of other value adding partner in own processes leads to better results and therefore increases the overall efficiency. This is especially important in construction and distribution. Even though processes run secure and well protected due to the in-house IT system, the inclusion in knowledge and information work is difficult. A lot of labour is needed to close the IT-gap between the own company and the periphery. An actual integration is not possible in such an efficient and effective way. Solution: Google Apps solves this problem in an extensive and easy way. Every external person can optionally be given access and the possibility to participate in a secure and controlled way. The level of activity and participation of external employees can even be supervised using Google Analytics. Exemplary use case system catalogue: The Saia system catalogue 2012/2013 comprises 252 pages. Amongst other things, systems and products are explained in this catalogue and customers receive support for the appliance of SBC products. In order to create this catalogue, input was collected from product management, development and technical documentation. The feedback of salesmen/ sales organisations and support was essential. Google Sites was used as a working platform for this major project, where not only the status of the chapters has been visualised, but also the decisions where published. Thanks to this, this information was accessible to everyone at any time. Whose job it was to read which chapter and how far they’ve come was written on another sub-site.
  6. 6. 12.07.14 6 Jürgen Lauber Haute des Vignes 32 | CH 1796 Courgevaux | Schweiz T +41 (0) 79 5099 427 || Every Saia Burgess Controls employee had the possibility to play a part and express his own opinion through the comment function. The most active and committed commentators have been honoured at the international sales meeting. After the internal origination process had come to an end, the single chapters have been published on the company’s website and customers were asked for their feedback. A Google Form was embedded in the website in order that customers could give a feedback without having to register themselves. Using what has been produced Problem: The biggest dissipations have stayed unknown so far, because there is no specific measurement system. Actions are started and their content is provided in-house, but their use is often purely subjective. Solution: Google Analytics is mandatory for most intern Google Sites at Saia. The platforms YouTube and Slideshare already provide a good analytics function. Thanks to this, it is possible to see where reaction and participation take place, who provides good content and who doesn’t. Result: Systematic feedback on the intensity of use (prompt, continuous, self-documenting) avoids knowledge and information work without subsequent implementation of the resulting added value. 1.1.5 Investments and benefits Capital investments (CAPEX) were not necessary. The running costs of 40 Euro per user p.a. are low. The external Google Apps support accounted for 20’000 CHF at most and is now under 10’000 p.a. In-house, a 20% job is used for Google Apps support. The improvements of key performance indicators specified in the company’s publications4 have been greatly supported by the use of Google Apps for Business. The implementation of these web-based technologies has triggered a “cultural” development impulse of the whole enterprise. Due to the company’s good reputation, finding qualified expert staff doesn’t pose a problem. The management has never questioned the profitability of this project because of the low costs and risks. 1.1.6 Factors of success and lessons learned No intern IT or other doubters existed who could have slowed down the use of Google Apps from the beginning. The CEO had received full freedom of action from the former owner Johnson Electric. He was consistently following his own example in the application of Google Apps. He was user al well as the implicit project leader. This constellation automatically reduced the innovation speed to a comfortable level for the employees. Positive effects had to be visible for everyone in a division before the implementation started in the next one. Google functions can be used by anyone without special education; this improves the individual learning curve. The fact that Google Apps can also be used by private individuals without having to pay is essential for the user acceptance. They profit a lot by learning how to use Google Apps because it isn’t limited to the job.
  7. 7. 12.07.14 7 Jürgen Lauber Haute des Vignes 32 | CH 1796 Courgevaux | Schweiz T +41 (0) 79 5099 427 || Because of the high innovation rate of Google Apps, it would be advisable to pay more attention to Google. Ideally, a team consisting of three persons should form a Google core team: A superuser, a person experienced in IT and a member of the management. The effective consolidation in the management praxis is secured through the documentation of Google Apps in the QM-System. Internal and external auditors do not only check the processes, but automatically also the methods linked to these. Due to the fact that at Saia, many of them are based on Google Apps for Business, the ISO audit is also an audit for web- applications in the company. Expansion plans and conclusion The implementation and use of Google Plus were planned for spring 2013. The appliance of Lean in the overhead sector would run even better this way. But as the acquisition of Saia Burgess Controls AG through Honeywell shifted the priorities and framework conditions, no progress was made with Google Software Services until the end of 2013. At the moment, no further progress is planned. At present, the application simply continues running. The use cases, where mainly Google Sites is used for the display of Saia working practices, show useful qualitative effects and especially how the productivity of brainworkers improves. This effect is due to the conversion of the Japanese Kaizen-management-principle with the objective to eliminate “Muda”, which refers to dissipation and unnecessary actions. The misuse of e-mail commonly accepted in many companies is full of “Muda”. The unnecessary work may only take a few minutes, but these small losses in productivity accumulate to relevant range. If, like specified in the use cases, necessary information and knowledge is documented on websites and continuously actualised, it is selectable and accessible for everyone. This is already an important step. The performance of this kind of work organisation has already been described at the beginning of web 2.0 by Frank Röbers, the CEO of Synaxon AG, who reorganised his company after these principles early. He said, “Our intranet is a wiki” and referred for example to the self-regulation mechanisms. If unnecessary things are left out and barriers for the employees are smoothed, improvement in productivity multiplies. Lean management along Kaizen mind-set is applicable outside the production if working processes of the “white collar workers” are formed with web-based applications of the 2.0 culture. The full potential isn’t tapped yet with the approaches presented in this article. In production, Kaizen is a running process of improvement, in which the employees themselves have an important part in the configuration. This is how it should be lived in the overhead sector.