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How Webex Teams drives digital transformation for SMBs: Q&A case study with Del Brenta

Del Brenta is stepping up to becoming the name top fashion brands rely on to produce the heels, wedges and platforms that turn their footwear creations into world-class objects of desire – and Cisco’s Webex Teams platform increasingly drives that success journey.

The Italian design specialist discovered Cisco Webex after a review of its ERP processes identified opportunities to improve its production communications efficiency.

The ERP review was informed by several challenges and a growing necessity to improve collaboration and communications between Del Brenta, its customers, and its suppliers. The repeated physical visits to customers and partners was also impacting the company’s efficiency.

In this interview, Del Brenta’s Head of Innovation Stefano Brezzon updates us on how Cisco Webex Teams has empowered the company to not only overcome the challenges it faced, but also evolve fresh and exciting working practices that are bringing unexpected business benefits.

What factors have driven digital transformation at Del Brenta?

Stefano Brezzon: The fashion business runs really fast – really fast. Time to market is critical. And we have had to become quicker in [terms of] reacting to the market, and giving feedback to our customers, and retaining competitive advantage generally.

Does this reflect a spirit of innovation at Del Brenta?

Yes, absolutely. For example, we started using 3D printers many years ago when the technology was first available. And we are always looking at new solutions for managing the company. Innovation is in Del Brenta’s DNA.

You’ve championed many business benefits of using Webex Teams. One of the most striking is the reduction in face-to-face meetings between Del Brenta’s people and their customers and suppliers, and the time and travel costs that saves.

There’s been an at least 50 per cent reduction in face-to-face meetings since Webex Teams came in. I remember how many journeys we made before Webex Teams, and compare it to how much we travel now. And not only do our people need to make half as many visits, using Webex Teams we are actually meeting with our partners [in virtual space] more frequently than before. And, I think, those meetings are of higher quality. So not only has the technology reduced the time and cost of travel, it has improved the productivity of meetings because we are now collaborating more easily.

Webex Teams is characterised as a communications and collaboration platform, but clearly as deployed at Del Brenta there’s more to it than that. How have your teams changed their thinking on how collaboration should work? Do you think differently about the concept of ‘collaboration’ than you used to?

Absolutely, we do. In teams of teamwork models, there had been room for improvement at Del Brenta. We used to work as separate departments, with each one going its own way, which limits alignment and inhibits productivity. Although we do have a technical team, an operations team, and an administrative team within Webex, we are – in effect – all in a unified team within which we can communicate in real-time with all other team members. There are no barriers to communication.

So you no longer work in sequential phases, where stages of a project are passed along a production line?

That’s right. We work more together, more cohesively, and not so much like a production line where one team only becomes involved once the previous team has completed their part of the development process. We are all working and communicating in the same way, using the same tools.

Del Brenta has been using Webex Teams for more than a year now. Is its use of the platform growing?

Every month we find new and innovative ways in which it can help us. For example, we are exploring ways in which to integrate company ERP into the platform. Another project in development involves augmented reality – we want to share 3D models of prototypes with customers in real-time during a video call.

That’s certainly pushing the boundaries. Anything else?

We are working on a project where we want to customise the ability to connect with our customers through the Del Brenta website. This is so that customers who do not use the Webex Teams platform directly can still reach our people easily using standard browsers. That contact might start with a chat with a bot that will put them through a process of scheduling a meeting here in Del Brenta, or in a mutual space through a video call.

Del Brenta has skilled artisan technicians and fabrication specialists among its workforce. Does Webex Teams enable the organisation to capture and share best practice for future reference, or to help onboard new employees?

It is doing that already. We have a new guy just join the project team he will be part of. To get up-to-speed he is able to view all the conversations and files that have been shared by the team via Webex Teams. It’s self-curating. He doesn’t need to comb through lots of emails and other disparate documents to discover what happened. In this way, he becomes involved with the project in a fast, efficient and comprehensive way. That’s another efficiency.

You have said that Del Brenta has experienced a 90 per cent reduction on its mould error rates since Cisco technology was introduced. Can you explain how the collaborative environment it now boosts quality control during the prototyping process?

I can. As I said earlier, in the fashion industry everything happens very fast, so it’s easy to miss information and design a model that’s not going to work. With the old way of working, we often didn’t realise this until it was too late, and projects had got too far down the line for corrective measures to be taken before the finished heels, wedges or platforms were in production. So then you have to start over. An additional risk is that our customers are usually working to tight deadlines, and that introduces additional scope for errors to creep in.

With Webex Teams you can, in real-time, add feedback on a two-way basis. This brings a huge advantage by reducing the error rate because our customers know that they can immediately get through to us [via Webex Teams] and solve any doubts or concerns they may have, in real time, so you get an instant alignment between us and them. With that way of working you reduce the error rate by a huge amount.

Is there also a benefit from having more human minds focused on a project at every stage lead to a better likelihood of somebody on the team noticing something that they feel warrants attention?

There is. If you are communicating through emails, for example, it can be a closed process that depends on how many and who receive that emails. So sometimes the person who could help you misses the email or is unable to respond by email. And trying to follow conversations on email, that can make things even more difficult to track. But if someone is in the same room on a video conference and sees something they think is not right, they just have to raise a hand and say ‘Hold on – I'm not sure about that’.

Del Brenta has been introducing some of its customers to the benefits of Webex Teams by encouraging them to adopt the technology in their own creative centres. How does that work?

It starts with asking them to install basic Webex Board and video conferencing devices. In effect, it constitutes a direct hotline between Del Brenta and its customers. It helps to create an even stronger bond between us.

Do they connect via a private network connection?

It uses conventional Internet connections, but via a Cisco cloud which applies standard encryption – which naturally is very important to us because we are sharing privileged documentation and intellectual property with customers. But we are using a standard network connection. This is important because we are giving this device to customers, and they don’t want something that has to be specially integrated into their own networks, but that is still safe and easy to use. This is a crucial point in terms of engagement because a customer’s IT department wants to be sure that everything is going to be secure.

The customer’s IT department is involved in the installation?

Absolutely involved. They are super-cool about it because they know Cisco, and they know the reputation that Cisco has for secure solutions. And it’s a good, no-risk way for the client to try out Webex Teams for themselves.

And how have your customers reacted to becoming Webex Teams users?

Generally, very smoothly. Everything is easier for them. They don’t have to put in phone calls and ask to be connected to specific people. They just drop a message or initiate a call. Everything is smoother.

And is the plan now to extend that scheme to more of Del Brento’s partners?

It is. Where we see there is an opportunity to improve the way we work with them and keep them bonded to us, we will always be trying to push the solution.

In conclusion, how do you think Webex Teams will further drive Del Brenta’s future success?

It’s increasingly seen to be the main communications platform for Del Brenta, and it’s actually become the communications backbone in some ways. And once the platform and its adoption grow more and more, I expect that will be the main way we will work with our customers on new projects, and once the customer will get used to further adoption of the technology they will want to work only using Webex Teams. In terms of discovering new, innovative ways to use it, I feel we will continue to leapfrog when it comes to competitive advantage.

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