Cargill believes that innovation and collaboration are vital to helping its customers and employees succeed—to thrive. To connect employees in 67 countries, it created a cost-efficient unified communications
strategy that gives teams the ability to communicate from anywhere. Cargill achieved its vision by deploying Microsoft Lync Server 2013, which boosts collaboration, returns a net value of US$1 million annually, and increases the company’s competitive edge.
Privately owned Cargill has operations in 67 countries at 1,500 locations around the world, offering its customers food, financial, agricultural, and industrial products and services. Since its founding in 1865, the company has grown to 65 business units.
Because its operations are global, teamwork across time zones is considered a key avenue to success at Cargill. The company strives to increase employee cooperation and engagement in delivering customer solutions.
Several years ago, Cargill had about 55 vendors that provided a wide variety of collaboration tools, including several web conferencing services, different video conferencing solutions, and multiple clients for presence and instant messaging. To bring its
diverse communications structure into alignment and provide a forum for innovation and collaboration, the company decided to create a unified communications strategy.
IT leaders at Cargill began working on an efficient way to deliver software tools that would provide more complete solutions while also enabling flexibility for employees working across the globe. Cargill began to implement its unified communications strategy
Progress on the early phases of the project was slow because of budgetary constraints, but by 2012, the Cargill IT group completed one of its first steps: delivering instant messaging and presence with Microsoft Lync Server 2010. The deployment was successful.
“The solution was very robust. Since deploying Lync Server, we haven’t experienced a major critical incident with it anywhere within Cargill,” says Steve Hanson, Global IT Manager at Cargill.
The implementation of instant messaging was so successful that the team received approval to move to the next stage of its unified communications strategy: using web conferencing along with the other Lync capabilities. “In addition to Lync Server 2010, we were
already using Microsoft software like Microsoft SharePoint Server, Microsoft Office, and Outlook and Exchange, so we ultimately decided that Lync would be our strategic path,” says Hanson. “We already have some Cisco technology, so we’re going to use a hybrid
solution while we continue to leverage those investments.”
||We are well on the way to displacing unnecessary costs in conferencing. This project pays for itself—all we had to do was put it in place and let people use it.
| Steve Hanson
Global IT Manager, Cargill
To take advantage of the features in the latest release of Lync, Cargill decided to deploy Lync Server 2013 to more than 65,000 employees for instant messaging, presence, audio and videoconferencing, and Microsoft Lync Mobile. The company also enabled Lync
Federation, which provides communications across organizations, including partners, customers, and vendors. The project started in September of 2012, and the IT group set a goal to deploy in July of 2013.
Additionally, says Hanson, “We created a dial-in experience and put voice gateways in different data centers globally. This enables us to use Lync for meetings for those who can’t log on to a PC.”
The small IT group created momentum by training three core staff who created presentation meetings to tell the story of how people could start benefitting from using new and other key features available in the solution. “Lync itself did exactly what it was
supposed to do. Coordinating internal logistics and finding the right consulting advice were our biggest hurdles,” Hanson says.
Cargill also encouraged employees to use the Lync Web App, Lync Mobile, and Lync Edge services to connect to Cargill for communication tasks such as meetings and quick conferences with colleagues—from the field or from home. “Employees have said, ‘Are you
kidding me? I have access now?’ We went from limited global video and mobile functionality to providing pretty substantial capabilities overnight,” says Hanson.
Cargill is now evaluating voice deployment in the United States as the next step in its unified communications strategy. Hanson says a dozen sites are ready to use the full enterprise voice capabilities of Lync Server 2013. “We’re going to start at small
sites, where we can quickly show results, and grow from there. We converted our first site in one week and saved about [US]$10,000 on a standard Internet Protocol Telephony installation because Lync is so easy to deploy. Demand for Lync is picking up.”
Increased Collaboration and Teamwork Across Time Zones
By deploying Lync Server 2013, Cargill has increased employee collaboration, decreased spending, and gained a competitive advantage.
Employees can use Lync to overcome geographic barriers that impede effective communication. That means, for example, that employees in a business unit in Africa who are located in multiple countries could previously connect only by email or through rare in-person
visits and costly calls. Because of its limited communications capabilities, the business unit struggled to work cohesively across locations.
Now, the unit uses Lync to communicate and work as a single business unit. “We are actually operating like a business—like an international, continent-wide business—and we can take advantage of the synergy that daily collaboration capabilities provides us,”
says an employee familiar with the business unit in Africa.
By retiring older communication solutions, providing a travel offset, adding new tiers of service for video, and simplifying IT management through consolidation, Cargill is returning value to the business. Hanson estimates that conferencing costs alone will
be reduced by nearly 50 percent.
Savings like these also translate into a rapid return on investment (ROI). As just one example, fully adopting the multiparty audio/video experiences that are built into Lync costs about $1.5 million, including IT personnel, consulting, and infrastructure
investments, but all these costs will be recovered quickly. Says Hanson, “We're on track to achieve ROI in less than 12 months. After that, we expect to return a net value of $1 million annually to Cargill business units through this cost offset.”
Better Competitive Edge
Cargill is using Lync Federation to better connect its customers with its employees. A customer can now reach out to a Cargill employee through Lync as easily as Cargill employees can use Lync to communicate with each other.
“We want to be the Partner of Choice. That means knowing what our customers need to be successful, being able to listen to them and meet their needs. To do that, you have to be online, ready to connect in whatever way that people want to communicate,” says
He concludes, “In our functions that do global commodity and weather risk assessments for trading business units, I’ve been told that using Lync to engage immediately has made a difference. Seconds and minutes make big money happen within those businesses.”
For more information about Microsoft Lync Server 2013, go to: