Scottish dairy strengthens family business values, customer service with Office 365

Graham’s the Family Dairy is one of Scotland’s largest independent milk producers. For 75 years, Graham’s used hard work and a personal touch to expand their business. Today, employees use Microsoft Office 365 to continue that tradition, working in virtual teams and sharing everything from Excel files to photos of product displays. Better digital collaboration boosts agility and service, helping Graham’s compete with multinational competitors.

Here’s what Robert Graham, managing director of Graham’s the Family Dairy had to say:

“Sharing data brings Graham’s together as a team. That’s the lasting benefit of Office 365—as we grow, we’ll maintain the strength and close collaboration that we derive from being a small, family-run business. Everyone loves the anywhere, anytime, any communication that we have with Office 365. It’s a perfect match for the spontaneous, personal contact style that makes our family business work.”

Watch the video to learn more about how Graham uses Office 365:

Business is discussed around the dinner table at Graham’s the Family Dairy, the same way it’s been done for 75 years. For three generations, the Graham family has grazed its dairy herds on the rich meadows of Stirlingshire in central Scotland. And today, it seems as if many Scottish households join the Grahams at dinner. That’s because there’s often at least one of the dairy’s products—milk, butter, ice cream or Scottish Cheddar cheese—somewhere on the table.

“Family has always been a huge strength in our business,” says Robert Graham, managing director of Graham’s the Family Dairy. “We believe in personal communications to build better relationships with co-workers, farmers and customers. After all, customers want to buy products from a company that they can relate to.”

When Robert Graham returned from university in 1992 and began getting up at four o’clock in the morning to milk the cows with his father, there were only 17 employees, and annual revenue hovered around £1 million (US $1.5 million). Today, the farm employs 500 people and generates almost £90 million (US $138 million) in annual sales.

Hard work, successful marketing programs, a new organic product line and Jersey cows—the “golden girls” who produce extra creamy milk—all contribute to the company’s success. Judicious investments in technology also help.

“Our IT partner, IA Cubed, knows what technology solutions will deliver real business value,” says Graham. “When we wanted to improve how we communicate and collaborate across the business, IA Cubed introduced us to Microsoft Office 365.”

Extends the personal touch of a family business

Graham’s uses the cloud-based business productivity services in Office 365, including the enterprise social network capabilities of Yammer, to connect its increasingly dispersed business. The company runs two processing facilities that receive 700,000 pints of milk daily from 90 farms. There are five distribution depots and offices in Bridge of Allan and Glasgow. Every day, 160 drivers make 6,000 deliveries, and six account managers visit 40 customers.

“Everyone loves the anywhere, anytime, any communication that we have with Office 365. It’s a perfect match for the spontaneous, personal contact style that makes our family business work,” says Graham. “Our sales manager uses presence and instant messaging to connect with account managers on the road, so he’s no longer frustrated by gaps in communications that could delay solving customer satisfaction issues. And I love that my mum is all over Yammer. When she sees a photo of a nice display of our products, she sends ‘Well done!’ messages to the reps. It adds to the feeling of being one big family.”

In April 2015, Graham’s is launching an extranet built on Microsoft SharePoint Online to enhance relationships with milk suppliers. “We’ll provide a portal for our farmers so they can review their financial statements and the lab results to the tests that we run on their milk,” says Graham. “This service will increase the value of working with us and encourage long-term relationships with our suppliers.”

Enhances customer service

Employees at the head office are providing faster service for customers who call with questions about Graham’s deliveries. Office staff are not always aware of potential delays caused by bad weather in the north, or a mechanical issue with a delivery van, but now they can quickly track information by sending an instant message to staff at the depots—even while the customer is on the phone.

“It sure beats telling the customers to call back for an answer about their delivery,” says Graham. “Providing personal service, one customer at a time, is how we differentiate ourselves from huge multinational dairies.”

Improves information sharing, boosts agility

Staff in the outlying areas of the country had been frustrated with poor Internet bandwidth that slowed file uploads from the server at the office in Bridge of Allan. Most employees stored files on their hard drives or a USB memory stick, which led to versioning issues and risked data loss.

“Today, employees use Microsoft OneDrive for Business to store and share Excel files, and I’m no longer worried about where our financial information is,” says Graham. And it’s easy to access those files anywhere, on any device, because Graham’s the Family Dairy can download the latest full versions of Office desktop applications on up to five PCs, laptops and Macs, and also on up to five mobile devices, including Apple and Android tablets and smartphones.

“Now that we can work anywhere and sync files on any device, the pace of business has picked up,” says Graham. “Sales reps no longer physically deliver customer order information to sales managers. They use their Surface Pro tablets and Lumia phones, managed by Microsoft Intune, to work on the road, and they upload data to our intranet. The sales manager can see it and take immediate action if there’s something wrong with the numbers.

Delivers better business intelligence

Going forward, Graham is excited about sharing business intelligence by using Power BI for Office 365 to publish real-time data in a new Azure-based, enterprise-resource planning (ERP) solution that IA Cubed expects to launch in April 2015.

“We can make the best decisions by using the latest information,” says Graham. “Sharing data will bring Graham’s together as a team. That’s the lasting benefit of Office 365—as we grow, we’ll maintain the strength and close collaboration that we derive from being a small, family-run business.”

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