At a time where digital workplace capability is becoming a necessity, COVID-19 acted as an accelerator to one semiconductor company’s digital workplace transformation.

In the summer of 2019, a multinational semiconductor company contacted us looking to improve their cross-sector digital collaboration. As a market leader in manufacturing complex integrated circuits, working with cutting-edge technologies was nothing new for them. However, they found themselves falling behind when it came to digital collaboration between teams.

The transformation they sought was aimed at promoting a more seamless digital workplace between business and IT teams by integrating Microsoft Office 365 with a focus on enhanced IT tooling. At the time, though, no one was aware of just how important this transformation would become in the wake of COVID-19.

Thanks to a data-driven focus and agile mindset of the team, a 10-month integration was accelerated to just four weeks and became vital in securing the company’s future in this ‘new normal’ of digital workplaces.

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The need for change

As a large company, employing thousands of people in locations all around the world, collaboration across distance and time zones was proving difficult. The company found that teams were getting bogged down in traditional email chains and phone calls. Increasing flexibility by working from home was not yet accepted as a viable alternative by many leaders. Overall, the opportunity for true cross-collaboration was missed and teams were hindered in realizing their full potential.

Exemplifying this gap in digital collaboration were the core engineering teams in California and the Netherlands. With a nine-hour time difference and varied communication styles, digital teamwork between sites was not optimal. Business teams were working out of sync and using different tools, making collaborating on work difficult.

Using this as a launch point, the transformation team defined its goal: to enable digital workers within the company by integrating Microsoft Office 365 globally. This would increase internal and external cross-sector digital collaboration, anytime and anywhere in the world, making them a high-tech company with an equally innovative employee experience.

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Building up to a global transformation

Once the goal of the transformation was clearly defined, the team lay out their transformation in a three-phase process:

  • Phase 1: Integrate a small department of 45 employees

The first step involved testing more unified ways of working within the same location by integrating Microsoft Office 365 tools with a focus on digital collaboration.

  • Phase 2: Connecting a team of 300 located in both the US and NL

Once the Dutch office had gotten the hang of the new tools, it was time to launch the pilot for the global transformation to come. 300 employees from both the Netherlands and California were involved in a pilot aimed at studying the workflow of the core engineers and integrating the right tools for collaboration, laying the foundation for the global rollout. 

  • Phase 3: Global agile Microsoft rollout to 25,000 employees

Using the learnings from the first two phases, a roadmap was created defining steps to an agile global rollout of Microsoft Office 365 to the remaining 25,00 employees. A planned 10-month integration, this step would strengthen the digital connection between the IT value stream and product owner, increasing adoption by the end-user. From there, it would be up to the adoption team to help promote this new way of work and harness this increased connectivity to come together and collaborate.

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"We view adoption not only as of the direct change from A to B but also as accounting for the shift in mindsets, beliefs, accountability, energy, resources, and leadership at all levels."

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During Phase 2 (and later in Phase 3), we applied the Transformation GPS to help identify future steps toward a successful transformation. A data-driven platform utilizing 1.5 million use cases over 20 years, the Transformation GPS helps identify the right direction to steer a transformation. By providing a single source of truth, it’s able to predict variables and formulate steps to success going forward.

This platform also has the benefit of inspiring more trust from employees by applying a data-driven focus to the change. Outcomes and actions were discussed with leaders in the adoption going forward. We view adoption not only as of the direct change from A to B but also as accounting for the shift in mindsets, beliefs, accountability, energy, resources, and leadership at all levels. The Transformation GPS not only shows what’s going on in the transformation but can also predict the steps to success in the future.

After a first successful Transformation GPS cycle and two pilot phases, we gathered the learnings they’d made and prepared to kick off the 10-month global agile Microsoft rollout (Phase 3) in late March. Little did they know that COVID-19 had other plans.   

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The pressure cooker of COVID-19

COVID-19 emptied workplaces overnight, making virtual collaboration not just a goal of the transformation but a necessity to continue working. This sense of urgency propelled the rollout forward from a month’s long process to just a few weeks, beginning with a company-wide switch from Skype to Teams. Something we can explain from our own experience

Unlike previous IT rollouts, the initial step involved not just tool integration but an effective push for adoption. This was the result of a close collaboration between IT and the newly formed adoption team and enabled the transformation to accelerate even more. 

Using the Transformation GPS data and the self-created Power BI dashboard—indicating company use of the Office 365 tools and end-user services—the project team was able to adapt to the changing circumstances. By analyzing both predictive and descriptive analytics to assess the change in a data and employee-driven way, they knew what key factors defined the success of the change up to that point:

  • Vision and Leadership – Have a clear and simple why, and support via leadership.
  • Accountability – Define roles within the company and make sure everyone knows what they’re responsible for. Reward and recognize your employees’ value.
  • Communication – Communicate clearly the why of the program via leadership at all levels.

Though COVID-19 changed the timeline, the focus and goals remained the same. The immediate need for a digital workplace accelerated the roadmap to get there, demanding realignment of all agile IT teams and stakeholders. The functional migration of the system proved the most time-consuming and as lockdown loomed, the transformation team, with support from management, successfully interlinked agile teams and communicated the migration.  

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"By bringing employees into the why behind the transition, they were able to make a true behavior change, ensuring the transformation’s lasting effect."

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A future-proof digital workplace

The transformation involved more than just tool integration. After the systems were in place, it was up to the teams to change the way they worked together. To guide them, the transformation team—titled the Digital Adoption Boosters—took an agile approach.

In this agile way of working, employees understand why changing their way of working was necessary and achieve a new perspective on their capabilities in their function. By bringing employees into the why behind the transition, they were able to make a true behavior change, ensuring the transformation’s lasting effect.

For this semiconductor company, this ongoing shift has resulted in:

  • Increased accountability: Employees now know why they do what they do and have the ability as digital workers to virtually connect and collaborate with any team. And feel rewarded.
  • Better communication and increased productivity: Communication lines are now more efficient, providing a better understanding between teams on what needs to be done and who is responsible.
  • Digital capability: Employees can now collaborate anywhere at any time, something that has become necessary in recent months.

By bringing business and IT teams together and enabling them to support agile and global workstyles with a modern solution (Microsoft Office 365), the company is more equipped to virtually collaborate worldwide, allowing them continued growth in a post-COVID world.

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Learnings you can apply to your own transformation

This transformation unearthed challenges experienced by many undergoing a similar digital switch. We’ve collected some key takeaways that can help guide those struggling to enable digital workers:

  • Leadership: As important as they are, communication and training don’t make the change, leadership and vision do. It’s vital to include management in the process and share findings during the transformation to ensure continuous improvement. In the past, we have seen that top-down commitment has a huge impact on the success of the program.
  • Change management: One size does not fit all, tailoring data-driven transformations to the region is key to successful adoption. Employees need to shift not only the way they work but also the mindset they bring to work. Change management can help bring employees into the ‘why’ of the change.
  • Urgency: Coming together on big decisions and finding a solution that suits all aspects of the business can be difficult and time-consuming. Business leadership needs a sense of urgency to take the steps to transform the company.
  • Agile mindset: Working in an agile way gives your team the ability to rebound from changes quickly while keeping an end-user focus. By working together in the value stream, teams can combine their strengths.
  • End user: A personal and tailored approach makes a big difference to the end user. Focusing on user experience and utilizing your ambassador network is key to growing your adoption.

Interested in turning your company into a digital workplace? Contact us to set up a consultation!

Marije Linden

Senior Manager – Accenture Strategy & Consulting, Talent & Organization, Human Potential

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