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Posted: 12/19/2013
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Beca Group Easy-to-use networking tool powers instant, informal consultation for global engineers

Auckland-based engineering firm, Beca, wanted to help staff find answers to complex challenges quickly. In 2013, ICT staff suggested Yammer, the Microsoft enterprise networking tool. Yammer proved so easy to use that over half the firm’s 2,700 staff signed on within six weeks. Now Beca can leverage the expertise of 70 professional disciplines onto each customer project or site, and executives engage informally with the global workforce.

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* Yammer is a supremely efficient tool for finding the optimal solution, fast. We couldn’t replicate this with messaging, email or intranet. *

Vaughan Robertson
Group Manager
Technology Services, Beca

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Business Needs

With headquarters in Auckland, New Zealand, Beca is a mid-sized engineering consultancy with an international reputation. At any one time, the firm’s 2,700 professional and support staff are working on hundreds of projects across Asia-Pacific, delivering landmark projects that include the iconic Sky Tower in Auckland, the Macau Tower in China, and Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands.

According to Vaughan Robertson, Group Manager, Technology Services, Beca’s success is built on the ability to offer customers wide-ranging services. “Our strength rests on a huge diversity of professional disciplines,” he says. “We have experts in over 70 distinct fields of engineering, from architecture to city planning. Our ability to bring that expertise to bear on any project is what we are famous for.”

While Beca remained a primarily New Zealand firm, professional expertise was readily shared across disciplines. According to company tradition, no engineering solution was more than two phone calls away. As the firm expanded rapidly in Australia and Asia however, younger engineers often found themselves on remote sites without the network of contacts their predecessors relied on.

“Our corporate culture is inherently generous and our success depends on sharing knowledge,” says Robertson. “But the tools we had could not replicate our culture for easy, informal consultation. SharePoint is great for sharing knowledge—if your issue was general and predictable; and Lync instant messaging is a great communication tool—if you already know who to consult.

“What we needed was a way for engineers with immediate issues to tap into our collective professional knowledge. We had a hugely valuable resource at our disposal: hundreds of years of engineering experience on thousands of projects. To deliver an exceptional, multi-disciplined customer service we had to keep that resource open and accessible to everyone.”

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* The younger generation picked it up straight away, but many senior engineers also took an instant interest. *

Vaughan Robertson
Group Manager
Technology Services, Beca

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Solution

In 2013, Beca renewed its Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise Agreement which included access to Yammer, an enterprise social networking tool. Yammer is a private social network that helps employees to stay connected to the right people, share information across teams, and organize around projects.

“In May, we trialed Yammer within our IT group as a crowd-sourcing tool,” says Robertson. “It was easy to deploy: you just click on a link in an email and then sign yourself on. The features are intuitive to anyone familiar with social media. Staff posted questions and anyone could answer; it wasn’t intrusive or hard work. My IT colleagues loved it, so we sent out a Yammer invitation email out to the business.”

The results were extraordinary. Within three days, 400 Beca employees had signed up; within two weeks, the number grew to 800. After six weeks, half of all Beca employees had spontaneously started using Yammer in advance of it becoming a formal ICT deployment.

“The younger generation picked it up straight away, but many senior engineers also took an instant interest,” says Robertson. “Executives started writing blogs from conferences and employees formed their own special interest groups. Onsite engineers posted photos along with their questions, so colleagues could visually assess a situation and confidently offer advice.”

Robertson reports that his ICT group’s role was minimal: he subsequently integrated Yammer with Active Directory to improve identity management, and recommended that employees download the mobile app for Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices. “Uptake wasn’t driven by ICT—it was viral,” he says. “We introduced a new way of working, but our input was minimal.”

Benefits

With Yammer, Beca has brought the benefits of social media connectivity to a dispersed professional workforce. The “Water Cooler conversation” has been extended across geographical boundaries, and the inertia and friction in sharing information has been dramatically reduced.

A popular tool that is easy to use
According to Robertson, the reason why Yammer became instantly popular is that it is easy to use. “Discoverability is the key element in uptake,” he says. “Most of the features are easily figured out, so senior engineers with little or no social media experience intuitively grasp how to use it. The blogs and public groups were entirely user driven: Yammer is so instinctive that it fulfilled a need without ever becoming an ICT project.”

A catalyst for new ways of working
Engineers started using Yammer because it proved the perfect tool for getting answers to obscure questions quickly. One engineer working on a construction site in Asia needed help disposing of unexploded ordnance, and got an answer straight away. Another got immediate advice on how to create a temporary road across a peat bog strong enough for 25 trucks.

“Yammer is a supremely efficient tool for finding the optimal solution, fast,” says Robertson. “We couldn’t replicate this with messaging, email or intranet.”

An expert knowledge resource
Unlike messaging or email conversations, however, Yammer also provides a permanent record of expert knowledge that colleagues can consult in the future.

“The key benefit is that all Yammer conversations are stored and can be searched using key words,” says Robertson. “This means that advice can be re-used. As we build up a knowledge base of engineering issues in Yammer, it also becomes a quick reference guide.”

Closer executive engagement
Robertson also reports that Yammer has proved a natural medium for informal, democratic engagement. “Our New Zealand managing director started writing a blog. The style is just superb: informal, but direct. He’s engaging everyone, and the response he gets is fantastic. Yammer has become a tool for creating a more connected global workforce. Engineers are by nature cautious: but Yammer makes change easier because the payback is instantaneous.”

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 2700 employees

Organization Profile

Beca is a full-service engineering company that is owned by its employees. Based in New Zealand, the firm offers consultancy in over 70 different disciplines and has offices across the Asia-Pacific.


Software and Services
Yammer

Vertical Industries
Other Services

Country/Region
New Zealand

Business Need
  • Unified Communications
  • Business Intelligence and Reporting
  • Business Productivity
  • Business Agility
  • Employee Engagement
  • Social Intranet
  • Team Collaboration

IT Issue
  • Personal Productivity
  • Data Warehousing
  • Document and Records Management
  • High Availability

Languages
English

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