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Microsoft Infrastructure Optimization
Customer Solution Case Study
Craft Brewer Increases Effectiveness, Efficiency Through Improved Communication
Country or Region: United States
Industry: ManufacturingConsumer goods manufacturing
Located in Fort Collins, Colorado, New Belgium Brewing Company is a premier craft brewer of Belgian-style beers. It is owned by its nearly 400 employees, who are committed to open-book management and environmental stewardship.
The company wanted to support its steady growth while maintaining business agility. It also sought to extend its company culture to its remote coworkers by implementing a range of communications and collaboration tools.
New Belgium adopted the Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License (CAL) Suite, implementing solutions within the suite that promote business productivity.
Extension of company culture
Minimal user training
Ability to support growth
Substantial cost savings
The more technology helps us tighten the practical and cultural connections among our sales, production, and support coworkers, the better we can please our customers and the more beer well sell.
Jay Richardson, Director of IT, New Belgium Brewing Company
New Belgium Brewing prides itself on continued commitment to its alternatively empowered culture, even as the company grows. To ensure that employees, including its dispersed sales force, can tap into that company culture and also access important information, New Belgium has invested in a range of communications and collaboration solutions through a Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License Suite agreement, which covers such products as Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and Exchange Server 2010. By doing so, the New Belgium IT department can easily add solutions to respond to ongoing business needs, without a significant increase in management or IT complexity. Plus, New Belgium is providing employees with a choice of familiar tools so that they can determine the best communications mechanism for a given situation, which helps them focus on producing and selling great beer.
Those who enjoy lifting a pint are probably familiar with New Belgium Brewing. Makers of a host of Belgian-inspired beers, the employee-owned craft brewery began operations in a tiny Fort Collins basement in 1991. Now the third-largest craft brewer in the United States, New Belgium Brewing Company creates and distributes Fat Tire Amber Ale, Sunshine Wheat, Blue Paddle Pilsner, 1554 Black Ale, Abbey, Mothership Wit, and Trippel, as well as an array of seasonal releases, to more than 25 states.
Although the companys beer is known for its excellence, that is not the only thing that makes New Belgium special; the companys culture is unique, focused on environmental sustainability, employee growth, social responsibility, and an engaging work environment. One of the tenets of the company is support of innovative technologiesand not just those that are related to brewing beer. New Belgium seeks to embrace technologies that help the entire company run more effectively and efficiently, especially when it comes to involving its dispersed sales force in the inner workings of the company.
New Belgium refers to its Fort Collins, Colorado, headquarters as the Mothership. This is where most of the information assets are held, but the companys remote coworkers need ready access to the Mothership, not just for product and sales information, but also to feel a connection to their fellow coworkers. Easy, regular communication is particularly important for our sales, warehouse, and other remote coworkers who dont get to experience in person the positive, infectious atmosphere here at the Mothership, says Jay Richardson, Director of IT at New Belgium Brewing. For the most part, our sales folks work on their own in various U.S. cities. Were always on the lookout for tools that make it easier for them to maintain a close connection with the Mothership. That way, they not only can get fast answers to their customers questions and concerns, but also can consistently promote the New Belgium brand throughout the country.
Like many businesses, New Belgium had grown from having just a single PC and a copy of Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheet software to using more than 200 PCs on a network. That network ran on Novell and included a Novell GroupWise email system until 2007, when New Belgium decided to take a more strategic tack with its long-term IT plans. At that time, we set a relatively aggressive technology adoption pace for coworkers, knowing that we are a fairly adaptable young work force that holds continuous improvement as one of its core values, says Richardson. The companys idea was to invest in technologies that would offer agility and support growth while maintaining a manageable infrastructure.
Over time, New Belgium had begun to use more technologies from Microsoft, including accounting software and a Microsoft SQL Server database. We realized that we would benefit from the substantial integration and interoperability opportunities that the Microsoft product line offered, so we looked for the most effective licensing agreement to meet our needs, recalls Richardson.
New Belgium signed a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement in 2007 and then upgraded to the Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License (CAL) Suite agreement in 2010. I would not have done it any other way, because enterprise agreements give us access to flexible testing opportunities, and they enable us to really make the most of what we have, ensuring the greatest return on our investments, says Richardson. When we examined the Enterprise CAL Suite agreement, we discovered the dual benefits of saving money and gaining access to technologies that wed been wanting to implement, including Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, Unified Messaging in Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, and certain business intelligence capabilities. New Belgium also appreciated that the Enterprise CAL Suite agreement included other valuable solutions, such as the Microsoft Forefront and Microsoft System Center suites.
Upgraded Messaging System
After signing its Enterprise CAL Suite agreement, New Belgium opted to upgrade from Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 to Exchange Server 2010, in March 2011. We wanted to take advantage of the Unified Messaging functionality in Exchange Server 2010, its built-in archiving capabilities, and other helpful features, says Travis Morrison, Senior Systems Administrator at New Belgium Brewing. For example, the company sought to put in place inbox-management features, such as Conversation View and Conversation Clean Up, and to import employees pictures from the companys Active Directory service and show them in Microsoft Outlook 2010. We were surprised at just how positive the response has been to the inclusion of coworkers photographs in Outlook 2010, admits Morrison. But options like that one help individuals feel more comfortable working together and will become even more important as we continue to grow as a company.
Varied Communications Methods
With the goal of offering employees their choice of communications capabilities, New Belgium worked with long-time partner PEI, which is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, to conduct an overnight upgrade from Office Communications Server R1 to R2. The transition went so smoothly that employees only inkling that something had changed was that they had to reset their passwords the following morning. PEI has proven to be a valuable partner, especially with the Office Communications Server project, says Richardson. By teaming up with PEI, we gain access to its own in-depth product understanding and to Microsoft engineers if we need answers to difficult questions. Our partners expertise with Microsoft technologies in general also helped us integrate Office Communications Server throughout our environment.
That integration is particularly important, considering that New Belgium is now moving to a softphonebased system that uses portable computers and handsets, rather than relying on its Cisco Call Manager system. We want to maintain only one phone system, and the functionality and integration we get with Office Communications Server outweighs a traditional PBX system, says Richardson.
The company is also planning to roll out Microsoft Lync Server 2010 in 2011 to further extend its communications flexibility. After the migration to Lync Server 2010 is complete, New Belgium hopes to remove all elements of its Cisco system. Having instant messaging, web conferencing, and video conferencing capabilities that work so well together will take us even closer to presenting coworkers with a single interface for information, and it will definitely streamline IT support, says Richardson. Remote coworkers will have their choice of using a softphone or a smartphone while onsite with customers.
Extensive Collaboration Capabilities
In line with its goal of extending the companys culture to the field and giving employees easy access to the sales, manufacturing, marketing, and other information that they need, New Belgium embraced Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 as a way of sharing that information. Our initial coworker portal was more of a glorified newsletter than a true intranet, says Richardson. It was mostly static, providing limited access to information, so we turned to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to fill in a key missing piece of our collaboration infrastructure.
Employees at New Belgium now use the companys Mothernet portal solution for sharing and collaborating through 20 department sites, 30 project sites, and multiple community sites designed for cross-functional groups, including the companys Management and Leadership Team. Although the project sites in SharePoint are used most heavily by coworkers here at the Mothership, they also help coworkers on different shifts in our production locations see what transpired in prior shifts and update colleagues, says Morrison. The companys sales force relies heavily on the Mothernet portal for sales support materials, business forms, travel coordination, beer quality surveys for customers, and sales analysis tools.
New Belgium also sets up community sites for special purposes. For example, employees who have reached their five-year anniversary with the company are sent on a weeklong trip to Belgium to mark the occasion, and New Belgium has a community site dedicated to trip planning. The site contains useful information such as flight-booking resources, trip itineraries, frequently asked questions, and more.
As of March 2011, New Belgium is in the midst of upgrading from Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to SharePoint Server 2010. We held off on heavy customization of our Office SharePoint Server 2007 solution in order to familiarize ourselves with it first, explains Richardson. Then a few of us attended a SharePoint conference and saw that a lot of the functionality that we have since identified as necessary for our business is now available out-of-the-box in SharePoint Server 2010. We are excited about the automated workflow improvements, My Sites, Office Web Apps, better browser compatibility for the Mac users on our design team, and the deeper integration with Excel Services and PerformancePoint Services.
Plans for Management and Security
New Belgium expects to expand its use of Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 to manage not only its server computers, but also its PCs; plus, it is evaluating System Center Configuration Manager 2007 to use for faster rollouts. Adopting System Center Configuration Manager 2007 would make it possible for us to replace a considerable amount of hands-on effort required of our two-person IT support team, says Richardson. For example, twice a year, all our sales coworkers return to the Mothership for a weeklong meeting. During that time, we scramble to take care of all 120 of their computers, making sure they have the latest updates and installing new software such as Windows 7 and Microsoft Office Professional 2010. Most of that heavy lifting would go away with System Center Configuration Manager 2007; we could use it to regularly push out software and updates remotely.
New Belgium also plans to migrate some of its security solutions so that it uses products covered under the Enterprise CAL Suite agreement. The company currently uses Trend Micro for antivirus protection, but its IT road map includes evaluating Forefront Client Security and that products integration with System Center Configuration Manager 2007. We would like to use both products in tandem to filter email and provide antivirus protection for Exchange Server 2010, Office Communications Server, and so on, says Morrison.
For New Belgium Brewing, taking part in the Enterprise CAL Suite agreement means that the company can continue to grow without sacrificing either its corporate culture or its straightforward IT setup. Authentic relationships and communications have been part of New Belgium's core values and beliefs from the beginning, says Richardson. As we add coworkers and spread to an increasing number of locations, we are equipped to hold true to our values, thanks in large part to Microsoft Enterprise CALrelated products. We continue to see Microsoft technologies and licensing agreements as a good fit for what all of us at New Belgium want to accomplish.
More Communications Options for Greater Productivity
New Belgium continues to add to the ways in which employees can communicate and collaborate, which means that they can work effectively regardless of location and can choose the communication method that makes the most sense for each particular situation. Anywhere, anytime access to people and information is more than a catch-phrase for New Belgiumits essential, says Morrison. Weve got shifts running around the clock on the brewery floor and in our warehouse, and our sales coworkers operate in multiple time zones. Giving coworkers easy ways to find and work with each other using a range of technologies has made a big difference in their ability to be productive. Weve all found presence functionality particularly helpful. Knowing whos available right at that moment and seeing how best to reach that coworker lets us get what we need to resolve issuesfrom inventory to manufacturing to marketingand better serve customers and each other with fast answers.
The company has a subset of employees who work from home several times a week, in part because its growth has resulted in limited office space at the Mothership. Our coworkers who work from home enjoy exactly the same connectivity and communication as we do here at the Mothership, continues Morrison.
Web conferencing has become increasingly important to the company as a result, and New Belgium has found that its work force is sharing information more frequently and with less effort, even with a greater number of remote employees. Since making easy conferencing capabilities available companywide through Office Communications Server 2007 R2, weve noted a rise in the number of online meetings, says Richardson. Its easy to see whos available, initiate a video conference, and work together on an issue or project. For example, the sub-teams among the companys salespeople now hold weekly or monthly Office Live Meeting sessions rather than waiting to address issues during their quarterly in-person meetings, as they used to do.
In addition, New Belgium is making it possible to collaborate more easily with key suppliers by giving them access to certain portions of the Mothernet portal. During manufacturing capacity-expansion projects, our production and engineering coworkers work with several vendors and partners, many of which are located outside the United States, notes Richardson. Giving them access to our project sites in Office SharePoint Server 2007 and holding video conferences by using Office Live Meeting helps team members make progress without a lot of the typical overhead.
The expanded communications and collaboration options have undoubtedly made the most difference with the companys sales force. The combination of our Mothernet and Microsoft technologies has certainly enhanced the way our sales team members work together, says Gregg DeBoever, Director of National Accounts at New Belgium. We have greater and more relevant insight into each others successes and challenges thanks to more frequent and convenient conference calls. Also, we have a central place for sharing and improving our customer presentation materials.
Adds Jon Eyberg, Senior Account Executive at PEI, The fact that salespeople can check order status while theyre on the road through a Forefront Unified Access Gateway to the intranet and use Office Communicator 2007 and presence functionality to get questions answered with no delay while theyre in the field speeds internal collaboration and overall efficiency.
Plus, the companys sales force can stay in close touch with its fellow production and warehouse coworkers, which helps keep customers informed about potential issues or delays. For example, if a certain hop variety or other ingredient is suddenly in short supply, and the brewery is unable to produce enough of a certain kind of beer to fill an order for a distributor, it can immediately alert the appropriate salesperson by email, instant message, mobile phone, and so on. The salesperson can then inform the distributor and retailers, proactively handling the situation and sustaining a positive relationship.
Salespeople also now can go to Mothernet to access weekly spreadsheets that contain up-to-date information about scheduled beer shipments, product availability, what their particular customers have ordered, and so on. The more technology helps us tighten the practical and cultural connections among our sales, production, and support coworkers, the better we can please our customers and the more beer well sell, states Richardson.
Extension of Corporate Culture
New Belgium can keep employees involved in the facets that make the company special because of its tighter communications with both remote and headquartered employees. The company relies on its Office SharePoint Server 2007based intranet portal, instant messaging through Microsoft Office Communicator 2007, web conferencing through Office Live Meeting, and other communications methods to stay in touch. New Belgium is a wholly employee-owned company, and our perspective is that all the owners have the right and responsibility to know about aspects of the business outside their immediate jobs and to be able to fully participate in the company, says Richardson. Our ongoing investment in Microsoft technologies helps our salespeople in the field and on the roadas well as our warehouse coworkers four miles awaystay engaged.
Minimal User Training
Ever since the company decided to pursue a more aggressive technology-adoption strategy, its employees have risen to the challenge of learning to use the new tools. We make sure to show our coworkers the business reasons behind a change and keep them well-informed about the coming technologies, and they respond positively, says Morrison. Theyre eager to adopt anything that helps New Belgium make excellent products, and we like to give them familiar tools because it means less time away from that pursuit.
Continues Morrison, Weve got a really motivated, change-resilient work force, and relying on Microsoft solutions eases any anxieties that might arise. Coworkers feel more comfortable having a common user interface across applications, and it reduces the need for IT staff to provide training on where to find features. Also, people consider the presence icon to be highly intuitive; whether they see it in Microsoft Word, a SharePoint Server document library, or an Outlook 2010 email message, they know how to take immediate action.
Ability to Support Growth
One of the most positive aspects of the companys move to the Enterprise CAL Suite agreement is that New Belgium can adopt technologies that promote efficiency without adding to its IT staff. The agility our IT team has gained as a result of the Enterprise CAL Suite agreement means that, if the company identifies a business need that requires us to implement something new, we know that we can integrate it into our environment without much worry or extra energy, says Richardson. Were more willing to jump in and support new initiatives because we have that peace of mind. Plus, were now spending far less energy and money on integrating tools and services across our IT platform.
The company also has the ability to support growth sustainably, which fits in well with the companys corporate culture. Whether our growth comes in the total number of coworkers or expanded geography, we are confident about accommodating it using our communications and collaboration systems, says Morrison.
Substantial Cost Savings
New Belgium is not only transforming its communications and collaboration infrastructureit is doing so while conserving costs. Our choice of the Enterprise CAL makes it possible for us to eliminate the need for our existing phone system, which means buying and managing significantly less hardware, resulting in cost avoidance and easier management, says Richardson. Were also able to better use our existing investment in Exchange Server through adoption of Unified Messaging functionality and voice-mail integration.
The companys future plans also call for the elimination of other third-party products, such as antivirus software. Continues Richardson, In total, we expect that our Enterprise CAL Suite agreement saves us a significant amount annually, which means that we can invest more in our brand and in our ability to make and sell fantastic beer.
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