Author: Ben Davenport, Portfolio & Marketing Strategy at Vidispine – an Arvato Systems brand
You may have noticed that we’ve made a few changes at Vidispine and Arvato Systems this week – specifically the bringing together of our portfolios for media management and monetization under a re-launched Vidispine brand. For the past year or so, I have had the real honour of leading a small, but amazing team of talented colleagues from across the organisation in the planning and execution of this project.
You can read all about the details of that here, but there might be two questions you have that remain unanswered. Why do this now, in the middle of a global pandemic, and how?
The “why now” is pretty simple. When Vidispine was acquired by Arvato Systems, we were working on integrating our technologies for some months. Almost 3 years on, the portfolio is tightly integrated in many places and products from what were the two brands sit side-by-side. Increasingly, it was becoming challenging to explain what was effectively one portfolio to one audience across two brands, and in places, separate account management and marketing. So, we planned to bring together the portfolio and branding, and do so in time to ramp up for IBC2020.
As you may also have seen, we were the first exhibitor to publicly withdraw from IBC2020 this year and, naturally, with IBC planned as the first big opportunity to meet the “new” Vidispine, we had to consider the brand and portfolio project in that decision. However, now more than ever, without the opportunity to sit down, in person, and go through all the nuances of how two separately branded portfolios come together, it is critical to make clear to our customers, current and future, how we can support them to address their challenges. We couldn’t wait.
The next question is “how”. I already mentioned that we’ve been integrating the technologies for some time and almost in almost three years since the acquisition, there’s also been significant amount of integration of processes and people between organisations. To that end, there are no massive organizational changes behind this announcement, but this is still, to varying degrees, a big change for our colleagues, customers and partners. Change management is no easy task in normal times, but with a workforce now 100% home-based and spread across multiple countries and time zones, it’s fair to say that the “roll out” of this particular change has faced a number of challenges we didn’t anticipate just a year ago. Here are a few things we had in our arsenal that helped us overcome those challenges.
1. Great Infrastructure
Technology that doesn’t work as it should can be massive “time thief”. We’ve all experienced that and when 1000s of office based employees, overnight, switch to home working, I think it’s reasonable to expect a few minor hiccups – but (as far as I’m aware) we’ve had none. While there’s been a steep learning curve in some areas – like how to switch from running day-long workshops with whiteboards and post-it notes to online tools or how get energy into a “virtual” meeting room – culturally and technologically the transition to remote working has been incredibly smooth. We’ve had to re-work a lot of our original plans since the end of February and being able to continue to work at pace, without interruption has been invaluable.
2. Bottom Up & Side-to-side
This project started not with a top-down instruction from “management” but with brainstorming between colleagues about how to overcome the challenges we were facing in daily work. As such, the project team was intrinsically motivated from the very start but also understood how the work we were doing would benefit our colleagues. At the same time, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, the project team worked across the organisation – all coming from different departments and teams. Typically, such a project might have been led by a marketing team, but having this virtual team coming from multiple viewpoints became a real benefit both in considering the perspectives of different parts of the business and also, using the relationships within our respective teams, in stakeholder management. We extended this further ahead of the internal announcement with a team of “ambassadors” who helped us both by giving feedback on communication plans, but also spreading information and answering their colleagues questions after the announcement.
3. The “Flurfunk”
“Flurfunk” is a great German word. The literal translation is “floor radio” or “corridor radio” but in English we might call it “the grapevine” or “rumour mill”. Often, we worry about the “flurfunk” as it can be a place that breeds negativity, but in this case, it was our friend. We always hoped that the outcome of this project would be a “natural step” and not a “shock” to colleagues, customers and partners. And since before the project started, we’ve been evolving our messaging in line with the technical integrations, at the same time, we wanted to create some anticipation and intrigue and that’s where the “flurfunk” came in.
4. Mixed Media
Different people take on different information in different ways – educators have been telling us this for years. Right now, the vast majority of our communication is through computer screens, webcams and headsets and that makes for a bit of a challenge when trying to adapt communications to the various learning styles. However, within the limitation of the screen, webcam and headset, we’ve used every medium that came to mind to communicate the change. Naturally, that centred around a large meeting with all employees, but even that meeting was themed and was a mix of slides, pre-recorded video and live panels/Q&A. We complimented with direct communications (mostly through our ambassadors), posts on Slack/Teams, informal “happy hour” chats and official email communications. In the (obligatory) follow up survey, the result was that only a very small minority were still unsure about the change and almost all staff understood what the change means to them and, crucially, our customers.
Of course, as we move into the last phase of this project and communicate our new brand and portfolio to the outside world, we face similar challenges. Early indications are really positive, but keep an eye out and we will be thrilled to share an update on how that’s going in a couple of months’ time.