Effective Virtual Collaboration for Better Mobility

By Torben Fabrin, SVP & CIO, Arla Foods

Torben Fabrin, SVP & CIO, Arla Foods

Give top-notch fishing rods to a group of novices but don’t teach them how to fish; will they be able to catch any fish at all? Only if they have the devil’s own luck! What good are advanced tools if users don’t utilise them optimally? With organisations increasingly espousing enterprise mobility tools that facilitate virtual collaborations from any location, it is crucial to educate employees on the most appropriate and effective use of these tools. Torben Fabrin, SVP and CIO of Arla Foods, a co-operative company owned by milk producers across multiple European nations, substantiates the importance of focusing more on how employees work with mobility tools. In a comprehensive interview with CIO Applications Europe, Fabrin shares his extensive knowledge of the enterprise mobility landscape along with valuable insights into reaping the maximum benefits of various enterprise mobility technologies.

How can decision makers across industries make the most of enterprise mobility tools available in the market?

As a Microsoft-based organisation, Arla Foods relies on Office 365, which offers several productivity applications tailored to address the virtual collaboration requirements of enterprises. Mostly, we employ Skype, Microsoft Teams, and OneNote, allowing our colleagues to work jointly across all platforms including PCs, tablets, and iOS as well as Android-based smartphones. But, no matter what choice organisations make out of all the latest technology offerings in the mobility space, they must predominantly focus on understanding the behaviour of these technologies. Since most of today’s organisations are based in multiple parts of the world, it is crucial for employees to grasp the intricacies of mobility tools and in turn, make virtual, collaborative work a success. Furthermore, in the case of online meetings, I strongly recommend the use of video conferencing over telephonic interactions as they ensure more effective sharing of ideas.

How have technological advancements in the enterprise mobility space helped address clients’ evolving needs?

Owing to organisations’ increasing need for collaborating and working virtually, employees connect with their colleagues across the world over shared spaces that enable them to interact via videos, work together on the same document, and more. Recently, there has been an increasing need for organisations to be able to connect to external people— those who don’t belong to their domain. Emerging technologies have helped set up such a collaborative space for both internal as well as external colleagues.

What are some of the critical, emerging technologies that catalyse the aforementioned development of a collaborative space for internal and external colleagues?

My answer isn’t entirely from a technological perspective, but organisations must essentially submerge all their employees in a virtual collaborative space where they can seamlessly share information, meet, chat, or talk regardless of their whereabouts. Such a voice, video, and chat collaboration space, coupled with efficient mobility tools, allows you to attend a meeting or share content while you are traveling or even from a different country.

As I have been emphasising the merits of understanding how the technology works, we, at Arla Foods, have even deployed our own chatbot to answer questions pertaining to the usage of any tool or connecting with a colleague. The chatbot can be reached out via Skype. Along with such chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to revolutionise enterprise mobility, for instance, by categorising the emails of virtually connected employees based on the topics discussed, documents used, and more. AI can be of great benefit if it also comes up with suggestions for users about whom to contact for a particular topic along with the type of documents and tools to be employed.

Is there any particular instance from your journey so far at Arla Foods that you think could add value to our readers?

One aspect that we have constantly spent our time and resources on is change management. As an amusing and engaging approach to change management and behavioral science, we have created two comical artificial figures—Mr. Reachout and Mr. Little Less. With extra long arms, Mr. Reachout represents a colleague who embodies new mindset, and has implemented several new tools and in turn, better collaborated with others. On the other hand, Mr. Little Less, with shorter arms, is the one to have failed to reach out to his colleagues because he refused to embrace emerging technologies and tools. We have T-shirts, banners, and emails titled Mr. Reachout as an encouragement to colleagues who are fully submerged in virtual collaboration and advanced tools, thus expanding their network.

We offer drop-in, virtual training sessions to help colleagues make the most of the new tools and evolve into Mr. Reachout. We also provide schematics-based guidance with regard to virtually working with a group, share documents, peer-to-peer interaction, and more. The diagram, with the help of arrows, suggests the tools to be used for the task at hand. We try to make it fun and engaging, and this approach has worked perfectly for us. The underlying objective for organisations must be to motivate employees to master virtual collaboration and various other mobility tools.

Based on your vast experience in the enterprise mobility landscape, what’s your advice to the budding CIOs and other executives?

Besides top management support and a strong team, we have majorly focused on change management and the engaging communication around it, which resulted in a snowball effect. Once you present the benefits of technology to people in interesting, interactive ways, your success is ensured. From a change management point of view, I would say, give them an advanced fishing rod, but also teach them how to fish.

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