Case Study: Dr. Oetker

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Case Study: Dr. Oetker

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Consumers know Dr. Oetker as their favorite baking goods, cereals, and pizza brand. The German food company is rapidly expanding and is using Skype for Business to bring employees in 40 countries closer together. Using Skype for Business, employees develop products, interview job candidates, and provide tech support more efficiently and often without time-consuming travel. The software works well with the other Microsoft tools staff use every day, and conversations are more secure within the corporate IT infrastructure.
Dr. Oetker is a household name in Germany and is fast becoming one in 40 other countries. In business since 1891, Dr. Oetker ranks among the leading branded goods companies in the German food industry, with its baking powder, cake mixes, frozen pizzas, cereals, and snacks as well as dairy products. It is headquartered in Bielefeld, Germany, and employs more than 11,000 people.

Needed: one tool for everything

As the company expanded globally, Dr. Oetker shored up its technology tools for communicating and collaborating. “The Dr. Oetker brand prides itself on quality, and achieving consistent levels of quality when manufacturing products all over the world is impossible without tight communications among global teams,” says Frank Pickert , Senior Executive Manager IT Services at Dr. Oetker.
“The company had standardized on Microsoft Lync Server 2013 as its technology lingua franca, but that software was limited to communications within the company and with partners that also used it. The human resources (HR) staff members could not use Lync Server 2013 to interview job candidates, so they ended up using third-party web-based conferencing products that were outside the governance of the IT department.”
“We had to pay for multiple tools, employees had to learn different tools for internal and external communications, and we didn’t have control over the conversations that happened on these unsanctioned tools,” says Christian Plitt, IT Manager, Infrastructure and Shop Floor Solutions at Dr. Oetker. “We wanted one tool for everything.”

A tool that everyone knows

Dr. Oetker found that one tool in Skype for Business Server 2015, the successor to Lync Server 2013. “We really like Skype for Business because of its full integration with the Skype consumer product and the ability to search for contacts in that product,” says Kathrin Worner, IT Specialist, Infrastructure and Shop Floor Solutions at Dr. Oetker. “Our employees and outside partners immediately knew how to use it, and this was not the case with other tools that required a big investment in user change management.”
“By using Skype for Business, we can bring colleagues together who would probably not otherwise meet.… This is very useful in helping people feel like they’re part of the same organization.”
-Christian Plitt, Dr. Oetker, IT Manager, Infrastructure and Shop Floor Solutions
Also, Skype for Business is under the control of Plitt’s team, unlike the other collaboration solutions that employees had been using. “With Skype for Business, our data resides on our servers,” Plitt says. “It’s critical that we keep conversations about strategy, pricing, new products, and other topics confidential.”
To date, about 200 employees at Dr. Oetker already use the Skype for Business client, and the company plans to roll it out to all 3,000 employees who are currently licensed for Lync Server 2013. “Skype for Business use is spreading by word of mouth,” Worner says. “We’ve received very enthusiastic feedback. It’s become an indispensable part of daily communication for the teams that use it.”

Better collaboration across global teams

Here’s a sampling of how various Dr. Oetker teams are using and benefitting from Skype for Business:
  • Human resources. The HR department uses Skype for Business to conduct video interviews with job candidates. Previously, these interviews were performed as regular phone calls, and the addition of video has been significant. “It’s very important that our HR staff members see the candidates to get a better sense of each person’s demeanor,” says Plitt. “It’s a big advantage for candidates, too, to see who’s on the other side. Loyalty and long-term relationships are a core part of our culture, and this starts at the beginning, with hiring. With video interviews using Skype for Business, we can set the appropriate tone with prospective employees.”
  • Product development. Dr. Oetker has cross-geographical teams all over the world in product development, marketing, customer support, IT, and other areas. These teams use Skype for Business to work together more efficiently. For example, although product development teams can’t use Skype for Business to taste products, they can collaborate more closely when manufacturing the same product in different countries using regional ingredients. The marketing team at headquarters can see pizza boxes and other packaging that different regional teams propose and make sure that they comply with corporate branding standards. “With Skype for Business, we increase knowledge transfer across the company, from person to person and team to team,” says Pickert.
  • IT. The company’s IT Services team works worldwide, providing technical support wherever there are Dr. Oetker employees. Communication and collaboration is key for this team so that it can provide good, consistent IT support for employees. Recently, this team needed to connect a new pizza plant in Canada to the corporate network and had three months during a cold Canadian winter to set up the necessary IT infrastructure and train the local staff. “We ordinarily would have had to fly team members to Canada for several weeks, but instead we used Skype for Business video calls to handle most of the prep work remotely, which minimized the time that the team had to be away from their families,” Pickert says.
  • Executive staff. Dr. Oetker executives have fully embraced Skype for Business and now use it to stay in closer touch with their far-flung staffs. “Our executives use Skype at home, so having Skype for Business at work is a big advantage for them,” Worner says.
Plitt is excited about the role that Skype for Business will play in mobile scenarios, such as supporting the company’s hundreds of sales representatives. By outfitting all salespeople with a camera-equipped laptop or tablet PC, Dr. Oetker could help them react faster during the sales process. They could quickly place video calls with corporate support teams to resolve sales blockers or even show supermarket product placement to marketing colleagues to optimize merchandising.
Video is particularly valuable in an internationally operating company, because meeting participants can see facial expressions and reactions of other participants, which helps bridge cultural differences. “By using Skype for Business, we can bring colleagues together who would probably not otherwise meet,” Plitt says. “For example, it’s very difficult for employees in less developed or more remote parts of the world to fly to Germany for meetings. With Skype for Business, they can participate in international meetings and meet their colleagues, and this is also very useful in helping people feel like they’re part of the same organization.”
Dr. Oetker even foresees using Skype for Business with consumers. “At baking fairs and other events, or from their homes, consumers could meet a Dr. Oetker baking expert over video chat and ask questions,” Plitt says. “Skype for Business opens up new communication channels with our customers.”

Consistent interface

In addition to the ease-of-use advantages that Skype for Business offers, Dr. Oetker appreciates the fact that Skype for Business works so closely with the other Microsoft desktop tools that employees use every day. “Microsoft is one of our two strategic software partners,” Plitt says. “We use Microsoft Office and SharePoint Server, and all our desktop computers run the Windows 7 operating system. When we upgrade to Windows 10 and the latest version of Office, Skype for Business will be part of that whole picture and help our employees be more productive. It’s of enormous value to our employees to have consistency across desktop tools and be able to switch quickly and easily from one to another.”
Pickert adds: “As we continue to grow internationally, we’ll use Skype for Business to make it faster and smoother to integrate new employees and offices into the business. Because it’s so easy to set up communications with new employees, we can make them part of the company right away. This helps the business be more agile and responsive to local customers and markets.”

Less time-sapping travel

While Dr. Oetker cannot estimate Skype for Business–related travel savings at this early stage, the company does have a new policy: before purchasing an airplane ticket, all employees should ask themselves, “Could I use Skype for Business for this meeting instead?”
“Communicating using desktop tools saves our people a lot of time, which is more valuable than the actual travel costs,” Plitt says. “Travel kills a lot of productivity, and we can recoup those hours by taking widespread advantage of Skype for Business.”
As Skype for Business use expands across the company through grassroots adoption, the Dr. Oetker IT staff is already eager for upcoming features. “One of the reasons we chose Skype for Business is the fact that Microsoft is innovating in ways that no one else can match,” Plitt says. “A good example is the Skype Translator technology currently in beta testing with consumers. This has the potential to completely change the communications landscape, especially for companies like ours with colleagues in 40 countries.”

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