Carhartt—building a durable, agile workplace with Office 365

Today’s post was written by John Hill, chief information officer at Carhartt.

Carhartt pro pixOver 127 years ago, hardworking Americans were building the ultimate connectivity tool, the railway. Hamilton Carhartt created the iconic Carhartt bib overalls for railway workers by asking them directly what they wanted from their work wear. When I joined Carhartt seven months ago, I saw that this culture of one-to-one interaction remained intact. Authentic communication is at the heart of the Carhartt brand, so when we looked for a business productivity solution to help our employees work better together, we chose Office 365 as the ideal toolkit to keep our core values in a digital age.

It’s difficult to maintain a face-to-face culture in a screen-to-screen world, but with Office 365 we’ve built a close-knit, interactive and empowering workplace for 1,500 office workers out of 4,000 employees across Mexico, Canada and Europe. We use video calls with Skype for Business Online to erase geographical boundaries for conversation, ensuring that no one is at a disadvantage based on his or her location. Marketing and product teams are begging to use Office 365 Planner to work together and manage opportunities and projects. We collaborate on presentations using Office Online and OneDrive for Business to work efficiently as virtual teams. Recently, folks in the United States and India finished a presentation over the weekend; when I checked on Sunday night, there were three people finalizing the draft concurrently so it was ready for Monday morning. People have moved from attaching documents to sharing links in OneDrive for Business so everyone is working from the latest version. In the last two weeks, I have not received a single email attachment from within Carhartt.

Like any apparel business, we need to stay one step ahead of customers’ preferences, which change on a dime. Real-time analytics and data visualization are powerful new tools to help us understand and react to customer demands. We are working on a project that will enable our entire sales team to use Power BI to visualize data from our wholesale and retail solutions, as well as our e-commerce site. This data is stored in the Microsoft Azure cloud computing environment. With current sales data, everyone is up-to-speed about what’s happening on the ground, empowering them to make better, more informed decisions.

Everyone is excited about new tools like Office Sway that the marketing team will use to visualize ideas, such as the best way to market to millennials. Like every other Office 365 app, they love the ease of use and have easily adopted it into their work lives. We also see Sway playing an important role in communicating about products with our wholesalers.

We aim to use Office 365 to enhance the relationships we have with our six thousand “groundbreakers,” customers who field test our gear and provide feedback. In a lightning-fast version of Hamilton Carhartt’s century-old strategy for gathering customer feedback, we will use Office 365 digital communication tools to engage with customers directly, going beyond merely collecting their comments, to having two-way conversations. And we’ll use Power BI data visualization to collect and share this wealth of knowledge to transform our products. Collaboration between our product management group and marketing also includes spontaneous discussions on the Yammer corporate social network, so these teams can work together on filling in gaps in our product lines to meet customer demands.

With Microsoft cloud computing, it is no longer necessary for the internal IT team to build our own infrastructure to handle peak demands in computing. Furthermore, the cloud environment is the perfect testing ground for proof of concepts; when paired with Power BI, the chance to inexpensively test new solutions is a fantastic way to optimize operations.

When I first began searching for the right technology for Carhartt, Google Apps for Work was also on the table. But the interoperability of Microsoft cloud technologies and the productivity enhancing features in Office 365, such as the ability to launch collaboration directly from inside a document, tipped the scales in favor of a Microsoft solution.

At Carhartt, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to best design our products to protect our consumers from the elements. Our corporate data can be thought about in the same way; we need to anticipate breaches in our technology infrastructure and find the best solutions to keep our proprietary information protected. Using Advanced Threat Protection proactively safeguards our inboxes. And the legal team is very happy with the built-in legal hold and email archiving capabilities we get with Exchange Online. Leaving the security up to Microsoft frees up my IT team to focus on the business. We like to say, “Carhartt has been outworking them all since 1889.” Today, with Office 365, we are continuing that tradition in a digital world.

—John Hill