Kraft adapts social tools

24 March 2011

NORTHFIELD: Kraft, the food group, is making increased use of social media tools to encourage innovation and engagement between its employees.

Speaking in an interview with CMS Wire, Vinicius da Costa, Kraft's associate director for social collaboration solutions, argued the core goals of such efforts were broad.

"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," he said.

"It's about tapping into the knowledge inside the company and being faster, more adaptable, and more competitive."

The benefits for a multinational corporation like Kraft are particularly strong, given the highly dispersed nature of its workforce.

"If people sit in two 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," said da Costa.

"What and who you know inside the company helps everyone excel and can avoid duplication of effort."

da Costa added: "People who share are learning and adding more value to the organisation than those who don't. And our leadership understands and expects that."

One system assisting Kraft in these objectives is Microsoft's SharePoint, which is deployed on a global basis, and lets staff build online hubs to store information so it is accessible throughout its ranks.

The owner of Cadbury and Oscar Mayer Deli has also developed additions to the standard template, therefore ensuring the "human component" was adequately catered for.

Keeping up with evolving technology poses a problem at the infrastructural level, but proves an equal obstacle because staff cross numerous age ranges.

"On the business side, change management is one of the key challenges with a multi-generational culture," da Costa stated. "Technology and change happen faster than the majority of people can adapt."

The advent of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have only served to further demonstrate the varied preferences observable among individuals.

"Like many organisations we have employees from several generations with varying degrees of business knowledge versus knowledge of social technology," da Costa suggested.

"You have a demand from some employees for the technology at same time a push back that technology is changing too fast. So you have to manage different users and deliver value."

But Kraft's overall strategy, as with most large organisations, follows on from important targets.

"We want to better leverage our scale, increase productivity, and reduce costs," said da Costa.

"Business fundamentals like increasing revenue, innovation of new products, and reducing time to market … 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."

Cloud computing - often a common centre for storage and the retrieval of information - is also on Kraft's agenda.

"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," da Costa predicted.

"Ultimately we want to create knowledge spaces, versus physical spaces."

This aim is quickly moving beyond desktop computers, as smartphones and tablets influence enterprise management.

"We will continue to focus on mobility and work towards being device independent," da Costa said.

"It's not about the device, network, or physical location as much as it's about knowledge, delivery, execution, and collaboration."

Data sourced from CMS Wire; additional content by Warc staff