When Graymont Limited went looking for a tool to help it “transcend the continent” and get far-flung employees working together as if they were just around the corner from each other, they turned to the enterprise 2.0 technology in ThoughtFarmer.
As one of North America’s largest producers of lime, the essentials of Graymont’s business haven’t changed in 60 years. They operate facilities on sites that have been in operation for 200 years. But the company’s philosophy around information and technology is absolutely 21st century.
“We believe that sharing information everywhere possible will help us do a better job and be a lower-cost producer,” says director of IT Ron Ogilvy. And part of that philosophy is that every employee be included in the collaborative environment, especially those who come to work in steel-toed boots and only occasionally sit at a computer.
Graymont planned to implement a company intranet as a binding element in its seven-year strategy to build a common set of information tools for over 1000 employees in several dozen locations across the continent. Ogilvy briefly considered Microsoft SharePoint for this crucial role. “But we came quickly to the conclusion that to do what we wanted in SharePoint, it would be a very large, expensive and long project.”
Last year, he trialed several “intranet in a box” products – plus ThoughtFarmer. ThoughtFarmer won hands down. “Its ease of use and the look and feel were huge attractions. We were amazed how quickly we could set up a complete and very effective tool,” Ogilvy says.
Today, three months after launch, myGraymont, the company’s ThoughtFarmer-based intranet, is the portal to most of the applications, tools and information resources employees use, including the Web-based JD Edwards EnterpriseOne ERP system. It’s also the primary interface to the company directory. Employees are responsible for keeping their own listings up to date on their personal myGraymont pages, which they’re encouraged to personalize with pictures and information about themselves.
And ThoughtFarmer is the company’s document management system too, its database already populated with thousands of items – policies, instructions, how-tos. Employees can edit and correct most and post their own. “So you have a continuously evolving, self-healing base of information,” Ogilvy says.
The payback? Easier access to information and tools will make employees more productive – and less frustrated – and also reduce the management burden for IT. “But the big values,” Ogilvy says, “will come in areas outside IT – when a person in Pennsylvania, say, connects with someone in Alberta and shows him something he’s done that saves the company $10,000 or $20,000; or when an informal discussion group is established amongst maintenance workers or kiln operators across borders and geography. We expect those things will happen regularly.”
Just using myGraymont to interact more personally with distant colleagues can be an end in itself, he adds. “If it helps create a new relationship, the value of that relationship will be the payback.”