The XML integration features of the 2003 release of Microsoft Office were a determining factor in our decision to proceed with the project. We had problem trying to find software that would integrate with our back-end systems and it caused us to consider putting the BSC project on hold. The Microsoft software, in tandem with the knowledge and expertise of CRN has delivered the ideal solution.”Mr. Tiong, Managing Director, Omron Electronics Malaysia
Omron Electronics Malaysia, one of subsidiaries of a global control and electronic components manufacturer Omron Corporation has implemented a new management system to align corporate strategy with the activities of individual employees. The new solution, based on the Microsoft Office System and Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services, helps managers assess business achievements in terms of financial progress, project completion, customer satisfaction, and a host of other critical factors. As a result, management is more transparent and individuals can be rewarded according to their individual contributions. Improved collaboration also enables managers to set the agenda for future initiatives more effectively.
For every sales-orientated organization, achieving the highest possible levels of customer satisfaction is a key priority. But this must be achieved without compromising the core business of selling products and generating new business. This was the situation for Omron Electronics Malaysia, one of subsidiaries to a global control and electronic components manufacturer Omron Corporation.
Omron Corporation provides products and services to customers in a variety of fields including industrial automation, electronic components, social systems, and healthcare. The organization employs over 25,000 people in 35 countries. The company is divided into five major regions, including the Asia Pacific region.
Omron founded its Asia Pacific operations over a quarter of a century ago to meet the needs of the region's rapidly expanding industrial markets. Its Asia Pacific network now consists of more than 2,500 strategically located employees involved in sales, manufacturing, technical support as well as research and development activities.
Omron Electronics Malaysia traditionally worked with a management by objective (MBO) system based on the overall financial performance of the company. But financial measures are lag indicators; they report on results, the consequences of past activities. There was a need to look beyond financial indicators which promotes short-term behavior that often compromise long-term value creation such as excellent levels of service and industry-leading customer satisfaction. The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) retained measures of financial performance (lag indicators), but supplemented them with measures on the drivers (lead indicators) of future financial performance.
The new challenge was to look for the right measures that will prompt the employees to do the right thing. This process involves getting all the top executives to take a deep look at their contributions to their own business in alignment with the organization’s vision and strategy.
Thus there was need for a new communication and collaboration system that worked beyond their old point-to-point communication system. The new system must permit the managers to publish information, get feedback, and conduct surveys in a system that is both easy and familiar to them. Omron wanted a new system that would integrate data relating to all areas of strategic planning and business performance. This information would be centered on four key areas, including:
Customer service and satisfaction
Efficiency of internal processes
Overall performance of individual employees
To increase visibility of customer satisfaction as well as financial progress, Omron Electronics Malaysia worked with leading solution provider and Microsoft® Certified Partner, CRN Solutions, to implement a centralized customer database with CRM applications for data analysis. The next step was to build a portal that would make customer information accessible to salespeople, enabling them to tailor their services to specific accounts and view sales histories.
The system also enables analysis of data relating to the growth in customer sales, customer retention on a global basis and the number of new customers. To make best possible use of this information, Omron wanted to implement a new management system that would align the activities of individual employees with overall company strategy and reward them fairly and transparently for their efforts.
The new management system integrates data from a back-end mainframe computer with data from the customer database. It includes a portal that which enables employees to collaborate on projects, view company strategies and access information on sales. Employees can also input information relating to their own performance, enabling a transparent and accessible reward system.
The solution, known as the Focus BSC Framework was implemented by CRN Solutions. Rico Ho, Application Specialist at CRN solutions, says: “After engaging with Omron, we were pleased that much of what the company needed was already available as standard features within the release of the Microsoft Office System. We built and integrated the rest of the components using the Microsoft .NET Framework and Microsoft Visual Studio® .NET 2003.”
Employees input information relating to personal performance using Microsoft Office InfoPath™ 2003, a highly customizable form application. This presents data to the back end database in XML format, ensuring that all back end systems can be updated accurately and automatically. The XML functionality built into the 2003 release of Microsoft Office also enables employees to present data from the back end in other Office applications such as Microsoft Office Excel 2003 or even Microsoft Office Word 2003.
An XML Web service was written using the .NET Framework and Visual Studio .NET. This gathers and integrates information from back-end systems, irrespective of the database or platform being used.
Collaboration is achieved using Microsoft Windows® SharePoint™ Services. This creates areas to store information relating to particular projects and strategies. It can be used to discuss ideas relating to future strategy or to map the progress of projects. Strategy maps were illustrated in Microsoft Office Visio 2003 to help the team understand and visualize their action plans. As well as helping to monitor corporate achievements and reward employees for their individual performances, information collected from employees in Windows SharePoint Services can also be used to decide future corporate strategy.
Because data is collected using familiar Microsoft Office System applications, employees will not need extensive training to use the system. Because most of the data required for the Balance Scorecard can be pre-populated from existing databases, employees can add their own content quickly and effectively and maintain focus on their core tasks.
The solution enables executives to access the portal and see who else is online at that time. They can then send messages in real time and receive the information they need immediately. In addition, the portal also tracks projects through their entire lifecycle. Managers can see at a glance whether problems are occurring on a particular initiative or measure. Where the results fall below their expectation, these measures are flagged with a red mark, making them highly visible and increasing the accountability of the employees that are responsible.
In October 2003, design for the solution was completed. It will be rolled out across 25 sales and marketing staff initially with the intention of broadening the implementation in the future. Ultimately, the solution will be extended to other departments, including HR, which is responsible for increasing the skills and experience of employees and ensuring good professional development.
Streamlined Working Practices
The new collaborative portal is revolutionizing the efficiency of Omron’s operational processes. Before the solution was implemented, executives were required to be physically present during meetings to discuss strategies and performances. Now, the process of analyzing performance and setting business strategy has been vastly simplified.
Mr. Tiong, Managing Director of Omron Electronics Malaysia, says: “The solution enables managers to collaborate much more effectively. Now, we can create discussion groups between sales people to establish best practice and company strategy going forward. They can go online at their convenient times and work together to achieve common goals.”
Better Management Practices
Before the implementation of the Microsoft Office System and Windows SharePoint Services, employees were given a performance review twice a year. This focused entirely on the financial performance of the company and did not take account of critical issues such as customer satisfaction. Now, Omron can take a more holistic view of its achievements while fully understanding the contribution of each member of staff. More importantly, they are able to analyze which measures deliver the right performance and which did not. Simply, they are able to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of each strategy.
Mr. Tiong says: “The new system enables us to be much more transparent about the way the business is managed. This is because we can align corporate strategy with tasks completed by individual employees. As a result, we can be sure that we are measuring success using the right criteria and we can control the direction of the business much more effectively according to our strategic objectives.”
A Highly-Motivated Workforce
Instead of conducting performance reviews that rely on incomplete management information, Omron managers can now reward employees for achievements in all areas, including customer service, business generated and projects completed on time and to budget.
Mr. Tiong says: “While we can align strategic goals with activities on the ground, we can also see exactly what individual employees have contributed to the business. We are now able to promise financial benefits to employees who achieve to a certain level and we strongly expect this to have a profound effect on people’s motivation. In turn, this will help to drive success for Omron and help us maintain our leadership position long term.”
Maximizing the Value of Existing Infrastructure
Before the implementation, Omron was working with an IBM AS400 mainframe computer and a Microsoft SQL Server for its customer data. It also had Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft Windows XP on the desktop.
To protect these previous technology investments, the company needed a solution that would integrate seamlessly with existing systems. The Microsoft Office System and Windows SharePoint Services were able to maximize the value of previous investments because of their in-built XML features.
Mr. Tiong says: “The XML integration features of the 2003 release of Microsoft Office were a determining factor in our decision to proceed with the project. We had a problem trying to find software that would integrate with our back-end systems and it caused us to consider putting the BSC project on hold. The Microsoft software, in tandem with the knowledge and expertise of CRN has delivered the ideal solution.”
A Time-Effective Solution
While it is important to collect information relating to financial achievements, customer satisfaction and the progress of projects, employees must not be distracted from their core sales responsibilities. As a result, it was important that the new system should be comprehensive without placing unrealistic demands on employees’ time.
Rico Ho says: “Figuring out how to use a new application can take a lot of time and entering lots of data into a system can slow sales people down, compromising their effectiveness. The challenge was to create a management system that was highly intuitive and easy to use. It was also to create a system that provided the right information in an automated way. This is what we have achieved with the Microsoft Office System and Windows SharePoint Services.”
The Omron office in Malaysia is the first to implement this kind of Balance Scorecard solution. If the project delivers the expected benefits, the scope of the project could be expanded to cover additional areas of the business.
Mr. Tiong says: “The sky is the limit. If the project is as successful as we think it will be, there is a very good chance it could be rolled out across the Asia-Pacific region to help all areas of the business align high-level strategic objectives with the activities of employees on the ground.”
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 14, 2004