Advertising giant improves employee productivity and satisfaction with cloud collaboration solution

Global advertising giant Wavemaker is based in London, England, with 138 offices in 90 countries. To help employees communicate and work efficiently on a global scale, the company instituted New Ways of Working using Microsoft Office 365. Wavemaker has seen benefits in terms of productivity, security, mobility, and employee satisfaction. The company believes that happy employees are more creative and more productive, so it has been pleased to see how excited they are about the new tools and processes available to them.

New ways of working

Wavemaker isn’t a company where someone sits in a corner working alone. The environment at the media and advertising giant is extremely collaborative. Whether at the company’s headquarters in London or at one of the other 138 offices spread across 90 countries, Wavemaker employees constantly work together to make customers unconditionally satisfied.
Wavemaker formed from the merger of two successful advertising companies—MEC and Maxus—and there were challenges that came from the merger of two IT infrastructures. A lot of company communication was done via email, and this was inefficient—files were going back and forth as attachments, and multiple versions could get confused. Locating and accessing files could also be difficult. “Each company had its own file storage system,” explains Lily McCann, Data and Technology Director for Wavemaker. “So in order to open a file and look at it, you needed to find it first, and then get permissions to access it. It was really inefficient.”
As Wavemaker looked at how to best integrate the two IT infrastructures, an exciting idea emerged. “The natural first reaction is to think of recreating the old systems, but making them twice as big,” says David Kaganovsky, Global Chief Technology Officer at Wavemaker. “But instead of doing the same thing differently, we decided to create a New Ways of Working program and do things more efficiently and effectively.”
Wavemaker had access to Microsoft Office 365 through its parent company, Group M, the global media investment management branch of WPP, a world leader in advertising and marketing services. Wavemaker saw great potential in Microsoft OneDrive for Business, SharePoint Online, and Teams to help establish new work methodologies. “We decided to move everything into the cloud” says Kaganovsky. “It gives us a level of agility we didn’t have before. If we want to transfer a 100-megabyte file, we just put it in OneDrive—we’re not running around with thumb drives, or, worse yet, using unsecured free file-transfer methods on the internet.”
The company also wanted to make work more rewarding for its employees by freeing them from tedious tasks and giving them more time to focus on the things that make them excited to come to work every day. “In the old way of working, you would compose a document and then email it around to all the stakeholders,” says Kaganovsky. “Then everyone would make edits, save a local copy, and email it back. Then you’d have to take all those versions, combine them, and send them back out again. That’s just a boring waste of time. What if there were a way that everyone could collaborate simultaneously on a single version of a document?”

Techniques for organizational change

Wavemaker saw Office 365 as a well-integrated set of tools that would make it easier for employees to accomplish their everyday tasks. To provide employees with an easy and straightforward entry point to the Office 365 suite, the company deployed AddIn Work Hub from Microsoft Partner AddIn365. Work Hub gives every employee a personalized portal to all of the Office 365 applications, in addition to the company’s internal communication platform. “Work Hub is like your own door to all the various rooms of Office 365 that we have been using,” says Anastasia Donchenko, Business Transformation Lead at Wavemaker. “No one needs to remember where an application is or how to get there.”
Adds Kaganovsky, “On average, onboarded employees have used AddIn Work Hub four times a day to step into the right Office 365 service. Work Hub has simplified the Office 365 experience and helped employees access relevant and personally useful information quickly to complete their tasks.”
To achieve its New Ways of Working, Wavemaker needed employees to use the new tools available to them. The company made use of onboarding methodology from AddIn365 to maximize adoption. “A key to our strategy and success has been that we don’t present this to employees as a technology project,” says Kaganovsky. “It’s not Teams training or SharePoint training. It’s a workshop on New Ways of Working to make us more efficient in both our internal work and our communication with customers. It’s about making the business more agile, and everybody can understand that concept. Learning the software is part of that, but the emphasis is on the business benefits.”
Wavemaker also consults with individual groups to understand their needs and challenges, and then customizes the workshop to create a sense of ownership and get employees excited. The workshop leader identifies individual “champions” in each office who commit to learning more about the resources so they can support their coworkers. The business-focused strategy, combined with the usefulness of the tools, has meant that there is no shortage of champions. “There are always people volunteering—usually more than I need, actually,” says McCann. “They get really excited about it.”

File access and sharing from anywhere

Picture this: You’re out for the evening, and your CEO calls to ask for the PowerPoint deck he needs for tomorrow morning’s presentation. For Wavemaker employees, a request like this is no problem, as Kaganovsky explains from his own experience: “The PowerPoint file was on OneDrive, so I just opened the app on my phone and sent him a link. Even better, before he could open the link, I was able to go in and make a quick edit to the file. In the old days, I would have sent him multiple emails, saying ‘Here, use this version of the file instead.’ Things are so much easier now.”
At Wavemaker, it is essential that all employees have easy access to the files they need, when they need them—whether it’s creative content for a customer’s ad campaign or a business file for internal operations. Wavemaker has found that OneDrive has been an excellent solution to enable that access and do so highly securely. Onboarded employees can save and access files using OneDrive from any device—even when they aren’t connected to the intranet—using the sync client for the Windows or Macintosh operating system.
As a result, onboarded employees can spend more time at customer sites and still access all their content. “There was one day that I was at a customer’s office and our CFO emailed me to tell me he couldn’t find an important contract,” says Caroline Tran, Senior Partner at Wavemaker. “I had saved it using OneDrive, so I was able to sign in and forward it to him. It saved the day and made him look good because I was able to get it to him so quickly and easily.”

High security for valuable work

Whenever employees can access files remotely, security is a concern, but Wavemaker trusts its Microsoft solutions. “When we were considering Office 365, one of the first questions I asked our global compliance leader is whether it’s safe and whether we’d be permitted to keep our files there,” says Kaganovsky. “He unequivocally said yes. The leader of our information security team said the same thing. So we felt comfortable accepting it as our global standard.”
Wavemaker now has a single source of truth for its documents and a more secure place to store them in Office 365. Onboarded employees no longer worry about version control the way they did in the file server days because with real-time coauthoring, everyone can access and update the master version of a document using OneDrive. This has been great for new employees who don’t need to learn a complex file server structure. It has also been a reassuring source of security for important files. “In my workshops, I hear a lot about security and compliance being a highlight of OneDrive,” says McCann. “In OneDrive, you can store a file where no one else can view it unless you choose to grant them access. You don’t need to send the file across email, you just send a link. Everything is in the cloud, and nothing sits on your desktop.”
Adds Kaganovsky, “Like all corporations, we’re subject to malware, phishing attacks, and other information security challenges. We feel very comfortable with our level of corporate resilience to such attacks now that our files are in the Microsoft cloud. In the old days, if someone’s laptop was compromised or disabled, they could lose access to all of their files and customer data—they could potentially lose everything they’ve ever created. That’s a real tragedy. Now, everything is saved in OneDrive, so nothing is lost, and the employee can pick up a new laptop and just keep working.”

Collaboration as a team

At a collaborative company like Wavemaker, working together as a team is more than just sharing content—it’s sharing ideas and communicating in real time to create work that delights customers. Wavemaker is using Microsoft Teams to streamline communication and offer employees new ways to work together. Files they collaborate on are immediately accessible in Teams as well as OneDrive.
“Teams is amazing,” says Tran. “It’s much more efficient than trying to set up and manage email distribution lists—you’re always bound to forget someone. There’s so much back and forth that we eliminate with Teams. I can say something once, and everyone can see it. I can share a document, and everyone can start coauthoring and having a conversation about it, and those conversations are transparent to the whole team. People don’t need to answer the same question multiple times.”
Adds Kaganovsky, “People no longer need to sit staring terrified at an inbox that just keeps getting larger and larger. We have all of our communication in one place, and we can focus our attention on what’s really important and urgent. We potentially see Teams replacing email to a large degree.”
Already, 100 percent of onboarded employees use OneDrive and Teams, which means no longer sending attachments via email or risking productivity due to version control issues. “One of the key performance indicators I’m looking at is the time people no longer spend opening attachments, saving them, resaving them, and resending them,” says McCann. “I’d estimate that can take about 20 minutes a day, and I expect that to improve as everyone gets more used to the new tools. I can see all employees saving half a day every week through more efficient communication tools. To me that’s a very achievable goal.”

Communication with clients and colleagues

Wavemaker is using OneDrive and Teams to share files and ideas, and the company has another efficient new way of communicating—both within the company and with customers. “We love SharePoint communication sites,” says McCann. “They’ve become a central hub where we go for information. We’ve got a Wavemaker site where people can go for all of the latest company news—it’s a one-stop shop to find out what’s happening with the business. There are CEO updates, departmental news, facilities news, and new employee tips. And they’re easy to create, so anyone can use them.”
Wavemaker teams are also using SharePoint communication sites to publish content for business teams to use as reference material in their work. They also set up a secure communication site where they can give customers constant project updates, instead of making them wait for a summary email at the end of the week. They can also use the sites to control the distribution and security of project information.
“Individual teams can also use Teams to share work with the customer that they aren’t yet ready to share with the entire department,” says McCann. The sites let us see whether a file has been opened or not, and they give us a lot more ownership and control in terms of what we share.”

The final word

Wavemaker started the transition to Office 365 in November 2017 with an AddIn Work Hub and AddIn365 onboarding methodology pilot in one UK market with three advertising teams. After a successful deployment, the strategies and software were rolled out to eight more of the company’s markets that represent 80 percent of company revenue. Wavemaker has now onboarded 50 percent of its total employees—that’s more than 3,500 people in just six months—and plans to complete the rollout by the end of 2018.
Through the efficiencies gained with Office 365, onboarded Wavemaker employees have more flexibility and a better working experience. “We want our people to have a good work/life balance,” says Kaganovsky. “This project is giving us the flexibility—and Office 365 is enabling the mobility—so they can find that balance. People can now work from home, or a coffee shop, or an art gallery, or wherever they want to be. They couldn’t do that before, and it helps them be more creative.”
The overall impact of the New Ways of Working is key to a successful future for Wavemaker. “Our industry is under tremendous pressure,” says Kaganovsky. “We cannot continue to deliver work in old ways and sustain our profits, our margins, and the quality of work we deliver to customers. We have to change. And we’re using Microsoft solutions to do that.”
For Kaganovsky, the happiness and productivity of Wavemaker employees is most important to the company’s ongoing success. “I can tell you right now—if someone told me I need to reconcile the changes in 15 versions of a PowerPoint deck, I’d spend the first 15 minutes of that activity updating my resume. No one is satisfied by tasks like that. We’re making work more meaningful, and that’s making our people happier. And making them happier makes them more creative, more productive, and more excited to be part of Wavemaker. That’s a great thing to be able to give them.”
Find out more about Wavemaker on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


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