Olympus, the maker of medical technologies, life sciences, industrial solutions, and cameras and audio products, has diversified lines of business, all united by a common ethos: having a positive impact on people's lives and society at large. That ethos comes through not only in the products Olympus makes, but also through the spirit of its employees. Instead of an appointed IT leader making every technology decision from a place of ultimate authority, Olympus has cultivated a technology team that actively responds to user needs.
Heading that team, with responsibility for the Americas region, is Adrian Marsh, Vice President at Olympus in charge of guiding the company into the digital age. Over his 18 years at Olympus, in positions that have touched on finance, commercial operations and sales management, Marsh has learned the business side of the company well. When he moved into his role as technology decision-maker five years ago, he brought that business perspective along. Today, Marsh and his team focus on bringing new and emerging technologies into the organization to drive efficiency, but also to address the silos that have naturally built up over the years because of independently operating lines of business, M&A activity and multiple IT organizations, each with their own endeavors to keep up with the pace of technology.
"Over the last four years, it's been a mixture of bringing new technologies and eliminating the silos of the IT organization to bring a unified approach to delivering IT."
— Adrian Marsh, Vice President, Olympus Corporation of the Americas
The digital workplace is built from the ground up
In addition to the hard-to-manage sprawl of disconnected technology silos, the need for a shift to a digital workplace has intensified at Olympus over the last decade. Overall compliance needs have deepened with increasing demands in information security, data privacy and other evolving regulations. The pressure to get products to market quickly has sped up in our global economy. For Olympus, mergers and acquisitions have brought a lot of new users and their existing tools into the organization's processes. The workplace demographic is skewing younger every year, which increases demand for cutting-edge tools that employees may already be using in their personal lives.
In his role, Marsh constantly faces the challenge of the consumerization of IT. He says, "If you have a credit card, and you're a manager, you could go buy IT services yourself." For this reason, vendors often try to come in through non-IT doors, which adds to the potential for a fragmented tech landscape. "This is very attractive to users," says Marsh, "who have historically seen IT as a centralized, monolithic, slow-to-change organization with legacy systems at the core." If Marsh doesn't provide viable solutions like cloud-based file sharing, leaders from lines of business will seek to solve their own problems by using consumer file-sharing solutions on their own, which makes content governance impossible.
Marsh's goal has been to get governance under control while simultaneously changing the perception of IT from a monolithic entity into one that actively supports the individual teams within the greater organization. His approach is to listen to what lines of business need, then provide solutions that meet those needs without compromising security and governance. For instance, he offers Box as a solution that answers employee needs but keeps content governance firmly in the domain of IT.
Collaboration gets an upgrade with cloud content management
Christine Duborg, Director of Integrated Marketing Communications for Olympus, is one everyday user who now uses Box to manage her work content. "I do a lot of work on my phone. I feel stressed if I don't have access to something readily when I'm out and about," she explains. "Box has allowed me the opportunity to not have to rely on our shared drive files, which I can't access without opening up my laptop. That in itself has been a huge value for me."
"My work and my life coincide with each other, and I prefer it that way."
— Christine Duborg, Director, Integrated Marketing Communications
Although Duborg's team still has access to shared drives, having cloud-based content management tools at her disposal gives her the flexibility to work nimbly with both internal and external partners, and has ultimately shifted her work style away from using those shared drives as a resource. In one particular marketing campaign Duborg was orchestrating with a team based at the company’s parent headquarters in Tokyo, Duborg used Box to share content with the main team in Tokyo as well as colleagues in Europe and across Asia, directly from her mobile device. Once the rest of the team adopted Box for the campaign, global collaboration became much easier and faster.
Technology as a catalyst for better processes
For Olympus, the smart way to institute change has been a progressive rollout of new technology. Marsh doesn't just indiscriminately offer a new solution companywide, because Olympus is constructed of many business units and functional teams, all with their own processes and technology needs. You can't just roll out a great technology and hope it will fix inefficient company processes automatically. Instead, you have to map out the right process with users up front.
Case in point: the company's adoption of a leading electronic signature solution to speed up paperwork processes. Marsh didn't just give everyone in the company access to the technology on day one, because he knew there were some pretty inefficient existing processes within the company, particularly around document approvals.
Marsh explains: "The worst thing I could do would be to give a great tool to the company, and say 'Don't worry about your processes; just jump in.'" Instead, he assigned one of the company’s business process analysts to streamline the processes that would leverage the digital signature technology. When a group and its processes are ready, the shift is powerful.
"Now we have streamlined processes that technology enables, as opposed to bad processes with expensive technology on top."
— Adrian Marsh
Similarly, when Cloud Content Management was introduced with the adoption of Box, it was first offered to select groups as the need arose — typically, when a group came to Olympus’ IT team asking for a solution to their mobile or global collaboration obstacles, or sometimes because they saw another group using it, and wanted in.
One of the furthest lines of business along the digital transformation journey at Olympus is the Medical Sales Group. With Box introduced and now integrated with other cloud-based solutions into the team's day-to-day functioning, employees are more productive and efficient. Quotes are sent to customers via Box integration, and they also have access to their invoices, contracts and quotes in a dedicated Box folder. Medical Sales employees are no longer emailing these types of documents in an insecure way, or passing actual flash drives back and forth manually. This streamlined process has created a significant gain in sales-cycle timelines, as well as positive customer feedback on the ease of doing business with Olympus.
"Get a few good use cases under your belt in different areas of the business... that message then starts to spread."
— Adrian Marsh
Solutions designed for all generations
For a company whose parent is celebrating its centennial next year, change has to happen at a pace that's manageable, in a way that serves all users but also keeps sensitive information secure. The conundrum for Olympus, and many other companies attached to legacy systems, is that rapid technology innovation and constantly emerging tools are at odds with how change management needs to occur companywide.
"The biggest disruption we're facing is the number of generations in the workforce," says Marsh. "We have four generations in our workforce right now, and that creates challenges with technology. One of our challenges is providing the right tools for the right employees while also maintaining consistency in a world where we have to consider security of data as a cornerstone of the organization."
Marsh sees digital innovation as an evolving state, not a big bang. As the company's overall tech stack evolves, it's a fine balance of creating order from chaos and giving individual teams and lines of business the right tools to do things in the way they're most comfortable and productive.
The blueprint to build a digital workplace
- Start small, with use cases or lines of business primed for change, and let them be the shining examples of how a digital workplace transforms business.
- Always show, don't just tell. Rather than imposing IT ideas on the greater organization, use the power of attraction to illustrate better solutions.
- Anticipate that your plan will evolve, and that available technology will, too — it's a living, breathing landscape.