Loire-Atlantique Departmental Council
French county agency introduces Hyland's Alfresco platform, which became a critical application for 4,500 users in just one year.
Loire-Atlantique, a French county wedged between Brittany and Pays de Loire, ranks 12th in the country in terms of population. The Departmental Council manages a €1,305 billion budget.
The digital solutions department (IT department) wanted to provide a cross- organizational tool that:
- Boosted productivity for its 4,500 employees with heterogeneous needs (belonging to 100 different business activities)
- Was relevant for users with a limited interest in the IT system (high school cooks, road maintenance workers, etc.)
Hyland's Alfresco platform was selected to increase collaboration across the departments within the Loire-Atlantique council. The main challenge was to make the new practices part of employee habits. The solution had to be identified by all as meeting their needs and bringing real benefits in terms of collaboration and information sharing.
The project coincided with the implementation of a far-reaching organizational reform aiming to decentralize several departments, from the headquarters in Nantes to six territories. This larger project represented a real opportunity to demonstrate Alfresco’s usefulness.
The secret to our success is that we suggested use cases without forcing them, and we encouraged users to come to the tool at their own pace instead of presenting it as a purely technical web 2.0 evolution.
— Safia D’Ziri, CIO at the Departmental Council
Digital transformation consulting firm Lecko helped the Loire-Atlantique council define the change management strategy, particularly in terms of training requirements.
The project launch was intentionally low-key: A “serious game” was posted on the intranet for two weeks, encouraging employees to assess their knowledge of collaboration. Different types of training were offered, depending on individual answers: beginner, intermediate or advanced. As a result, out of 800 people who played the “serious game,” 400 registered for a training session.
A combination of word of mouth, curiosity from seeing their colleagues receive training and announcements by the Communications Department led another 2,000 employees to sign up for training over one year.
Back at their desks, users had access to the “collaborative spaces” and to a “sandbox” for the least confident.
“Even though we were keen to facilitate a change in habits for all, the objective was never to train everyone but to encourage new uses, including for users far removed from the digital world,” said Safia D’Ziri, CIO at the Departmental Council.
“Scouts” were identified at the start of the change management project. As beta testers of the new features, they helped the solution evolve significantly. They provided first-level support to their colleagues, for which they received dedicated training. They encouraged the use of collaborative spaces by asking questions or sharing information.
Three types of collaborative spaces were developed:
- Project management support
- Team management
- Best-practice sharing
The last two were instrumental in supporting the organizational project of decentralization of the departments. The spaces allow the new entities, which are geographically distant from each other, to communicate or get answers to questions fueled by the reorganization. From the start, the collaborative spaces have provided valuable support for the far-reaching managerial project. As a result, what was a potentially conflicting reorganization project turned out to be a real opportunity to promote the Alfresco platform project.
The “best-practice sharing” spaces rapidly met considerable success because of the added value they bring. They allow users to work differently, to share information regardless of the hierarchical structure and to federate business activities across several departments.
After a year, feedback on the Alfresco platform usage showed that it would be impossible to go back. Its widespread use and versatility turned the platform into one of the 10 critical applications that justify operational measures such as high availability.
“One wonders, how did users manage before?” D’Ziri said.
For example, cooks located in different high schools spontaneously share tips on how to deal with food allergies. They weren’t communicating so much before because they regarded email as less relevant to their needs.
To date, there are approximately 450 collaborative spaces. Some are closed at the end of a project, while others are created when a new project begins. Five hundred partners use Alfresco, in addition to 4,000 employees, as external access was allowed from the start.
Several factors explain the Alfresco platform’s success:
- Ease of use, increased by hiding elements that could appear complex
- Use of templates for rapidly creating spaces and inventing new uses
- Delegating space creation to a network of proficient users
- Investment in training for over 1,500 users
- Remote access: from the outside, from home, from a mobile device
- The involvement in the project of the Secretariat and of the communications department in support of the digital solutions department