New capabilities for firstine workers through Microsoft Teams has been one of major announcements here at Ignite in sunny Orlando. While firstline covers quite a few industries, retail is a huge employer with staff widely distributed across store estates. After an introduction from Keara James (Product Marketing Manager and part time lettuce wrangler impersonator), Bernd Diel and Hagen Deike from dm-drogerie markt presented how they had successfully implemented Teams with now more than 20,000 monthly active users growing daily alongside Yammer, Exchange and other Office 365 components.
dm are a leading drugstore retailer in Germany and 13 other European countries with 40K employees in 1,920 stores in Germany alone.
With the support of the dm board, their strategy was to empower their firstline workers with a perfect digital workplace. The logic was simple, their firstline workers are first with their customers, first with their products and first with their brand. While they know this isn’t something that can be measured, this means they serve their customers better, and so end up selling more lipstick, diapers and other products. dm were really clear that the struggles and frustrations of firstline staff using out of date technology impacts customers and so sales, a confident, well informed sales assistant is an independent entrepreneur in their business.
dm want their firstline staff to be digitally equipped wherever they are on their shop floor, being able to instantly contact other colleagues for example in a stock room or another store using a Teams chat or call. As the first brand ambassadors for their company they want them to have all the information they need, in the modern world where a popular YouTube review of their products can send large numbers of customers into a store they can instantly provide information to their colleagues to be ready and knowledgeable. They also use Yammer alongside Teams for border less communications between colleagues across their stores and offices to share knowledge and solve issues.
From the start the project team saw this as a change project rather than a technical project, and placed an emphasis on communicating and engaging with dm colleagues. It wasn’t about delivering features, focusing on empowering the employees with more abilities and skills. Their motto was that the rate of change should be less than the rate of adoption. The project team used Office 365 as eating their own dogfood, particularly Teams, SharePoint, Sway and Planner. The most common question ever heard from their users was “Which tool to use when?” for which they created their own video to position Teams and Yammer to share with their employees.
dm chose to start by equiping 25,000 of their staff in their German stores with mobile phones as part of this initiative (other countries to follow), and had to build out the authentication, device management and network capability to support these well. By considering how and where their staff would use devices they identified that their existing WiFi didn’t reach all the back office locations where staff worked, so extended the range with additional access points.
They also discovered that staff were experiencing some performance that was not adequate on their network. They quickly showed that this wasn’t the experience on other, simpler networks so did a thorough analysis of how their network controls influenced performance. The biggest simple solution was to bypass traffic around the layers of proxies and network inspection as their traffic left for the internet. There’s no point in scanning this content, they know it will contain company information and that they are about to save it into Microsoft’s cloud, why slow the experience by scanning it so thoroughly. In the fullness of time they would like to break out their internet connections locally to each office and store rather that routing through one point.
Q. Big investment in devices, what is the ROI?
A.This wasn’t really a big concern to dm, their objectives as a business to improve their colleagues satisfaction and hence the service they give customers was clearly worth it. It should also be noted that when you purchase 25,000 mobile phones you would be surprised how low a price you can get! This first batch has gone to staff in their German stores, and covers most staff however there are some roles that are maybe just a few hours a week that don’t qualify. They are soon to buy more to roll out to their stores in other countries.
Q. Are they concerned about bypassing traffic to Office 365 that might not be to their tenant?
A. They are big supporters of the zero-trust infrastructure approach. If content needs protecting it should be protected with encryption, not rely on where it is stored.
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