Fretex's retail stores are a key enabler of its charity fundraising. How could it help managers across Norway share ideas and collaborate on marketing campaigns?
Fretex engaged Sisyfos Digital to build a collaboration platform based on IBM® Connections™—enabling personnel based hundreds of miles apart to work together in vibrant digital communities.
Improvesknowledge-sharing and helps managers promote their stores more effectively
Enablesemployees to find answers to frequently asked questions faster, improving efficiency
Strengthensthe company culture with regular news updates from across the organization
Business challenge story
Bringing together employees across the country
When people in Norway need support to get back into the workforce, Fretex is there to help. Through its relationships with employers across the country, the company helps more than 1,200 people find jobs in the open labor market. Fretex also operates second-hand stores, which are an important source of revenue for the organization. The income they generate enables the company to support the environmental and social initiatives of its parent organization, the Norwegian Salvation Army.
Fretex’s retail stores are distributed across a wide area, reaching from the very north of the country near the arctic circle down to its southernmost coast. With managers and employees working hundreds of miles apart, effective collaboration was a significant challenge.
Trine Gjermundbo, Communication Director at Fretex, explains: “Whether it’s identifying ways to improve our vocational training programs or comparing notes on successful retail marketing campaigns, we know that collaboration helps us get better at what we do.
“Because we’re a lean, charitable organization, we don’t have the resources to invest in large conferences where we gather all of the company together in one place. As a result, it was difficult for people working in different parts of the business to see if their peers were working on similar projects or solving similar challenges.”
As the popularity of social media took off, many Fretex employees expressed an interest in creating online groups to support their work. However, using third-party platforms presented security and compliance risks for Fretex, and the organization was keen to maintain tight governance and control over its data.
For a number of years, the company had been using an out-of-the-box version of IBM® Connections™ provided as a service by the Salvation Army in the UK. Fretex saw an opportunity to use the solution to create a social business network tailored to the unique needs of its operations in Norway.
“Our sister organization in Sweden—Frälsningsarmén—also uses IBM Connections, and had recently engaged their business partner Sisyfos Digital to create a custom experience for their users,” recalls Gjermundbo. “That solution was a great success for Frälsningsarmén, and we were keen to move forward with a similar initiative.”
Building a central space for collaboration
As a first step, Sisyfos Digital met with employees from across Fretex, including its stores, sorting centers and offices. During the pre-study, Sisyfos Digital mapped out the ways that different groups worked together, and identified opportunities to use digital workflows in IBM Connections to enhance collaboration across the organization.
“In our smaller locations, all employees work together in the same physical space—whether they’re in administrative or customer-facing roles,” Gjermundbo continues. “The pre-study highlighted the need to surface information in IBM Connections based on each employee’s location as well as their role. In addition, the process helped us define intuitive naming conventions for collaboration capabilities such as digital communities, forums and meetings, based on our internal business vocabulary.”
After a workshop at the Sisyfos Digital office in Uppsala, Sweden, the companies defined a timeline for the IBM Connections deployment. Through an agile, iterative development process, Sisyfos Digital developed a customized presentation layer for IBM Connections. The company provides the new application to Fretex as a cloud service, which runs on top of the core IBM Connections platform hosted by the UK Salvation Army.
“Meeting with the Sisyfos team in person was a very valuable experience,” says Gjermundbo. “As a result of the workshop, we decided to prioritize development of a public Fretex newsfeed—enabling us to start sharing company-wide information with our employees quickly. Over the next few months, we subsequently added digital communities, file sharing, wikis and blogs to the platform. Finally, we integrated the new IBM Connections experience with our Simployer human resource management solution—enabling employees to find answers to frequently asked questions on our employment policies in the IBM solution.”
Fretex has relied for many years on IBM Notes® and IBM Domino® to deliver email and calendaring to its employees. To help support high levels of security and robust data governance for IBM Connections, Sisyfos Digital integrated the solution with user identities in IBM Domino. This integration ensures that employees see information based on their individual access permissions when using IBM Connections.
“Our collaboration with Sisyfos continues to be productive, and we have now launched the new IBM Connections experience to users across the business,” comments Gjermundbo. “Sisyfos even decided to donate half of the license fees for the new solution to the Norwegian Salvation Army—helping to support charitable endeavors across the country.”
Driving revenues for good causes
Today, more than 700 users across Fretex start their working days by logging into IBM Connections. The platform is also available on mobile devices, ensuring that the company’s teams have access to the resources they need even when they’re on the move.
“In the past, our store managers on the west coast could have been working on similar projects to others in the north, but they’d have no way of knowing unless one of our executives noticed it and brought them together,” explains Gjermundbo. “Thanks to our new IBM Connections experience, we’re empowering our store managers to take the initiative and share ideas with their colleagues in digital communities.
“For example, if one of our retail stores in Oslo runs a successful marketing campaign, they can now publish their experience in a community, and answer questions from other managers who want to replicate the campaign in their own stores. Every sale we make goes towards charitable causes, and we’re confident that our IBM Connections platform will have a valuable contribution to make to the effectiveness of our retail marketing.”
In the back office, the IBM solution is helping Fretex’s administration teams to find the information they need faster and use their time more effectively—lifting operational efficiency. Based on its success to date, the company is planning to roll out the solution to another 200 part-time workers in the organization.
“Our IBM Connections newsfeed is making it easier than ever to disseminate updates across the company,” adds Gjermundbo. “Better still, everything that we publish to IBM Connections becomes searchable, which means new employees can gain valuable insights from public discussions on the platform.”
Gjermundbo concludes: “Fretex was founded to do good in society, and collaboration is a crucial enabler of our mission. Thanks to our IBM Connections solution from Sisyfos Digital, we’re equipping our people with collaboration tools to help them excel at their jobs—supporting our charitable work across Norway."
Founded in 1905 and headquartered in Sandnes, Norway, Fretex is a social enterprise entirely owned by the Norwegian Salvation Army. With six main locations and 50 second-hand stores across the country, the organization operates two autonomous branches for its environmental and vocational rehabilitation activities.
Take the next step
To learn more about IBM Connections, please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/marketplace/ibm-connections
Headquartered in Uppsala, Sweden, Sisyfos Digital helps companies analyze, identify and act on opportunities to digitize their business processes. With deep expertise in mobile and collaboration solutions, Sisyfos Digital empowers clients to enhance productivity and efficiency across the enterprise