The success that supermarket retailer Tesco has enjoyed on its shores has inevitably led to international expansion. The company has in recent years opened hundreds of stores in countries as diverse as China, the USA and Turkey.
This has caused problems. As Tesco has spread its geographical reach further and further from its corporate headquarters in Hertfordshire, the organisation has became more dispersed and federated. This has made it difficult to maintain a standard business operating model across its growing network of locations.
To address this challenge, staff at Tesco’s global services facility in Bangalore were charged with finding a solution that would allow staff in the UK to help their international colleagues implement its universal business model. The team quickly ruled out extensive international air travel, due to the economic and environmental cost, and standard telephone calls, which they believed would not provide the collaborative experience that was necessary.
A third option was already available to them. In 2008, Tesco had upgraded its global telecommunications network, allowing it to deploy a telepresence (high-definition videoconferencing) system from networking equipment provider Cisco. But while Tesco was broadly satisfied with the results of the telepresence deployment, alone it was still not providing the project collaboration functionality that was desired.
To achieve this functionality, Tesco turned to a rather more lightweight technology from Cisco, namely its web-conferencing and collaboration tool WebEx. Happily for Tesco, this was easily integrated into the telepresence systems, and it was this combination of high-grade teleconferencing and such web-based collaboration functionality as joint document editing and desktop sharing that proved to be a most powerful tool.
A three-month WebEx pilot found that a high percentage of employees were keen to engage with the technology. Those who used it were found to have saved, on average, two hours of work per week, time that would otherwise have been spent coordinating projects and distributing documents. Tesco now aims to scale its combined telepresence and WebEx deployment across more of its global locations, describing the cumulative benefits as being increased productivity and reduced costs.
The retail giant’s experience supports the case for fusing social media features with unified communications. While Tesco had a top-of-the-range videoconferencing system available, it was the addition of web-based collaboration features that ensured that employee interactions were as productive as possible.