Four keys to global digital transformation success

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As one of the largest insurance companies in the world, the Allianz Group’s workforce is spread across over 70 subsidiaries in every part of the globe. When we embarked on our digital transformation journey to bring these people together and evolve our company’s culture, we knew it would take time and a thoughtful, strategic approach. Several years ago, we started the process by analyzing the state of our digital workplace.   

At that time, each of our subsidiaries had their own intranet for communications, which presented a unique set of challenges to building the unified, collaborative culture we were striving for across countries and locations. Most of their intranets were static, one-way tools. We also had some wikis in place for limited collaboration, but none of this was meeting Allianz’ needs. It was clearly time to focus on providing a world-class digital experience for our employees around the world.   

Here are some lessons I learned throughout my company’s digital transformation: 

1. Take Small Steps that Make Immediate Impact 

In early 2012, we had some ambitious goals to launch a more interactive intranet where people could connect in more intuitive, modern ways. However, we didn’t want to force a new system on our employees too quickly. To start, we built a pilot for our headquarter’s employees in Munich that centered around 15 key use cases. Some of these groups were purely focused on communications, others on team and project collaboration, and another involved creating a community for the IT organization, where the CIO could blog and share valuable updates and resources with our technical community.

By focusing on specific user groups and objectives, we avoided the temptation to “boil the ocean” and our initial pilot was an epic success. Many employees heard about the interactive intranet (built on Aurea’s Jive solution), and jumped onto the internal community even before we rolled it out broadly. We watched and learned how they used the solution over time to successfully support knowledge management, ideation, new employee onboarding, peer-to-peer communication, feedback collection and corporate communications. Our pilot users enjoyed exploring the new possibilities of this digital workplace on their own and spread the word. 

2. Translate Local Wins into a Global Transformation 

In 2015, Allianz launched a global corporate renewal agenda to accelerate its digital transformation and drive cultural changes inside the organization. Given that increased focus and our early success with the pilot, we decided it was time to transform our internal network into a broader interactive intranet that could serve as a gateway to all of the company’s people and knowledge worldwide. We re-launched it as “Allianz Connect,” rolled it out to all 140,000 employees, and it became an instant game-changer for internal communications.  

For the first time, we had a platform from which our CEO could reach everyone in the company. We quickly noticed topical sub-communities developing across the countries and subsidiaries, as well as teams collaborating together with new people they’d never connected with before. In addition, knowledge hubs, team rooms and project communities sprang up where small teams or entire departments could easily exchange ideas on a specific topic, such as IT support or customer service. The greatest strength of Allianz Connect has been having the ability for colleagues to collaborate on projects in real-time, which reduces the amount of email communication and improves efficiency. Our interactive intranet is now a place where everybody can meet and collaborate the way they want to. It’s a launchpad where they can find whatever information or experts they need across our very distributed organization. 

3. Embrace a Different Kind of Global Corporate Communication   

Once everybody worldwide could participate in our interactive intranet, we had to think about how to shape their personalized individual experiences while also considering our corporate communications needs. Within my team, it's important for us as communicators to not only help managers deliver their messages, but also know whether we’re reaching everybody, and whether employees understand and engage with the messages. This might be in the form of a “like,” comment or share on a strategic blog post. Now that we have insight into the sentiment of employees, we can adjust and improve all of our communications tools, techniques and messaging to make sure they are as effective as possible. 

4. Use the Interactive Intranet to Accelerate Cultural Change 

The less tangible, but no less crucial, part of our digital transformation was cultural change. As with any large-scale project, it was not easy to change people’s behaviors at Allianz, especially when it came to employees who didn’t already use social tools in their personal lives. To address this challenge, we invested a lot in community management and change management. We offered a broad training program with onsite trainings, webinars, explanatory videos, tutorials and a knowledge library of questions and answers. This helped our employees learn about the possibilities of the new software and how it could support their preferred working methods.   

This was important to us because we knew that we wanted Allianz Connect to play a central role in advancing the mindset of our employees – and it is already making a big difference. Our digital transformation has made the company faster and more agile and transparent across hierarchies. People work closer together, they collaborate across silos, they can meet anyone in the company and initiate any type of conversation in real time, and they are having lively exchanges and stimulated discussions on a range of topics. All of this helps us unlock the full potential of our interactive intranet. 

One of the unexpected lessons we’ve learned since our initial rollout is the value of corporate memory. Now that everything people create is saved and available for everybody else, nothing gets lost. Everyone knows where to look for content, people or skills – and that boosts productivity and helps us retain important institutional knowledge over time. Now that all employees can actively participate in Allianz’ company communications, we’ve advanced beyond the classic intranet concept with significantly more engagement and interactivity. We’ve enhanced collaboration, interaction and direct communication between our subsidiaries and their employees, increased knowledge exchange and broken down information silos. All of this was possible because we were able to bring together two worlds: the world of company information and communication, with the world of collaboration.

Michael Wegscheider, Global Portal Manager at Allianz Group 

Image Credit: Wichy / Shutterstock