Recently I had the opportunity to have a conversation about social collaboration with Vinicius Da Costa, who is the Associate Director of Social Collaboration Solutions at Kraft Foods.
Rich Blank: What's your role in the organization when it comes to Collaboration & Content Management technology?
Vinicius Da Costa: As a leader in Information Systems (IS), I coordinate social collaboration tools internally at Kraft Foods which includes the long term strategy and roadmap as well as the execution of the IS investment portfolio of related projects. I also focus on research and network with other organizations and universities to understand what the next generation of trends that might benefit Kraft Foods.
RB: How does Kraft Foods view collaboration?
VDC: The word “collaboration” has become a buzzword and it doesn't mean technology. Our user community expects they can exchange ideas, find experts, and search for relevant content in a faster way. It’s about tapping into the knowledge inside the company and being faster, more adaptable, and more competitive. If people sit in 2 parts in the globe, the expectation is that they can easily connect, resolve issues, work on projects securely, leverage the scale of knowledge and information faster… what and who you know inside the company helps everyone excel and can avoid duplication of effort. People who share are learning and adding more value to the organization than those who don't. And our leadership understands and expects that.
Certainly in IS, we have a clear understanding of what collaboration means to business. There's an expectation and demand for IS to provide the best solution/capabilities to the company. They expect us to understand what they are looking for, provide solutions, do research on best practices, and deliver innovation with our technology.
RB: Kraft Foods has made a investment in Microsoft technology for collaboration. Why Microsoft as opposed to other vendors?
VDC: Microsoft is a strategic partner with Kraft Foods offering a suite of technology with a global agreement at a cost that is competitive.
RB: Can you talk a little about your experience deploying SharePoint globally at Kraft Foods?
VDC: Technically, SharePoint's broad capabilities are strong but usability and adoption of out of the box SharePoint was a concern. Some of Microsoft’s partners are doing a great job developing social capabilities layered on top of SharePoint. They add agility and innovation to Microsoft products and solutions. We had to focus on the human component and change management which included partners such as NewsGator to enrich the social capabilities of the platform and bring a more enhanced user experience.
RB: What about your experience on the business side?
VDC: On the business side, change management is one of the key challenges with a multi-generational culture. Technology and change happen faster than the majority of people can adapt. Like many organizations we have employees from several generations with varying degrees of business knowledge vs. knowledge of social technology. You have a demand from some employees for the technology at same time a pushback that technology is changing too fast. So you have to manage different users and deliver value.
RB: Do you have an overall vision/strategy that guides you?
VDC: Kraft Foods’ vision/strategy is very solid and well communicated to our employees, our partners, and investors. Like many organizations, we want to better leverage our scale, increase productivity, and reduce costs. Business fundamentals like increasing revenue, innovation of new products, and reducing time to market …..all of which require increased collaboration and more transparent communication within and across the company. And we try to look at those business metrics to measure the impact of the technology.
RB: Kraft Foods is moving their collaboration technology to the cloud. What were your driving factors?Any concerns?
VDC: We feel that the cloud will bring several positive outcomes that align with the company’s business strategy and goals, including agility, flexibility and speed; delivering business requirements faster on a global scale; provide web-based driven applications; putting tools directly in business user hands. Our concerns are not about the hardware or hosting capabilities…but more about the network connection and capacity. Especially as more and more applications are built on a platform like SharePoint, we want to ensure we’re focused on maximizing its availability to deliver business value.