VCA creates a welcoming environment and boosts innovation with Microsoft

VCA logo.

Today’s post was written by Brandon Antin, vice president of Social Responsibility and Innovation at VCA.

If there’s one thing the more than 25,000 VCA employees know, it’s that we’re a pet-friendly work environment. In fact, I bring my rescue dog, Charlee, to work with me every day. I wanted to build on that idea of a welcoming workplace based on common corporate knowledge to promote a more connected culture among team members at our more than 815 veterinary hospitals across North America. When you have different cultures across such a large area, something as simple as understanding the common threads that bind everyone together is challenging. Today, we’re using Office 365 as our communication and collaboration platform to create an environment where everyone can share their ideas. Now that all our employees—from doctors and vet techs, to people in the support office, and even the CEO—have the ability to offer their expertise on how to improve our company, we’re in a better position to be more innovative and provide the best possible care for our clients’ pets.

When I was asked to build the Innovation department at VCA, my first task from our CEO was to create ways for employees to easily communicate their ideas within the company. I launched a competition, called VCA NEXT, and asked for any and all ideas that could help us discover new areas that would improve VCA and its future. One idea that triumphed came from an employee in the Risk and Safety department. He suggested building a collaboration network to create a more inclusive work environment. We applauded his idea and started researching the major platforms available. We decided that partnering with Microsoft—and Office 365—would be the best choice to help us bring our idea to life by giving us the fastest path to new capabilities. By providing the latest communication and collaboration technology to all our employees, we were confident that we could achieve a highly productive workforce and a connected company culture.

Our amazing VCA Innovation and IT teams got to work migrating more than 25,000 employees across 1,000 locations to Office 365. The total project was accomplished in less than three months, an impressive result that would have taken many companies a year to complete. We also worked with our IT partner, 6th Street Consulting, to help us build our new WOOFConnect collaboration network, based on Microsoft SharePoint Online. With their help, we developed our vision to create a one-stop shop that we could use to connect with one another, share documents, establish best practices, work on medical cases together, and transform our hospitals into a dynamic network of pet health professionals.

With Microsoft, VCA has the perfect partner and platform to expand our innovation program and discover new solutions, something that was previously more arduous. Specifically, Office 365 provides a seamless mechanism to build inclusion by offering new ways to communicate for any employee working at any job from any hospital, lab, office, or facility across our network. With transparent and open communications, we can scale best practices and innovations to improve pet care and client service.

Nowhere is this more evident than with our client service representatives and veterinary technicians, who work directly with our clients and their pets, sometimes under stressful situations. You could have a dog that gets excited by the presence of other pets and a client asking questions about parasite protection products, while the front desk team continues to check in pets, field phone calls, schedule appointments, discuss wellness plans, and carry bags of dog food to clients’ cars. It’s a very fast-paced environment, and until now, it was difficult for Firstline Workers to find the information they needed to serve clients quickly. Today, they can search WOOFConnect, pose a question on Yammer, or connect directly through Skype instant messaging on mobile devices to immediately get answers in the hospital. They can also use Microsoft StaffHub, an app designed to help staff access the tools, resources, and communication channels they need to manage their busy workdays. With the capabilities of Office 365 and apps like StaffHub, our Firstline Workers can save time, collaborate, and work more efficiently. And by saving even one minute, they help pets faster, which makes clients happier. By experimenting with additional services from Microsoft, apps in Office 365, and extensions opportunities available within StaffHub, we hope to create even more efficiencies. Better access to corporate information means our Firstline Workers will improve their knowledge about the company, their work, and their peers. They can also contribute their ideas within VCA through our new two-way communication channel.

We’re partnering with Microsoft to deliver an enterprise-wide collaboration platform that empowers everyone from the boardroom to our Firstline Workers. As a result, we are creating a stronger culture, improving productivity, and streamlining business processes. If you’re an oncologist working on a case, you can now consult in real-time with other VCA doctors around the country. If you’re a regional director with 20 hospitals and need your team to collaborate on a document, participants can easily join a team site and work on the document together. Departments will be able to send updates to the company through a Yammer feed on the homepage of WOOFConnect. Instead of an employee in Risk and Safety sending out hundreds of emails that answer the same question—such as “We have unused pharmaceuticals that will expire in three months, how can I properly dispose of them?”—it will be much easier to post the answer on Yammer and build a knowledge database. We’ll be able to improve inventory management in a social context. If a hospital needs 400 boxes of flea and tick medication, but is required to purchase a minimum order of 1,000 boxes, the staff could post the availability of 600 boxes on Yammer for another hospital to use—saving everyone time and money.

The hospital manager who won our first VCA NEXT competition proposed innovative ways to solve major staffing issues with our hospitals. As a result, we discovered that StaffHub within Office 365 was the perfect solution. For example, hospital managers can efficiently notify staff and fill open shifts, access and share content, set schedules, communicate key messages, and provide better shift management. Our client service reps will be able to manage their schedules as well. With Office 365, when hospital managers, regional medical directors, doctors, HR staff, and acquisitions teams need information on the go, they can easily access data from their mobile devices. Doctors will carry mobile devices to consult clients’ files and make notes, so we’ll be able to eliminate all our paperwork. And our Acquisitions department is looking forward to using Microsoft Teams to project manage hospital acquisitions.

Data protection is paramount in our company, and we’re confident that our data is highly secure with Microsoft and Office 365. We now have the ability to define appropriate access to team sites and documents, an important feature for VCA. For example, we have protected medical documents that can be shared only with a select few individuals who are working on a case, so creating location-based and role-based access to these documents saves time and effort, helping to protect pet and client information.

When I travel around to different VCA hospitals to speak to our employees about our new VCA Innovation department and the new Microsoft services that we are deploying, I can feel their excitement to see what’s coming next. They can already imagine how powerful this new “oneness” approach will be. Knowing that we’re making the company more efficient, while enabling a culture of sharing ideas, is driving a sense of pride that’s key to helping us achieve our mission statement: “Where your pet’s health is our top priority and excellent service is our goal.”

—Brandon Antin