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HK firm creates idea melting pot for 4,000 employees

Carol Ko | Jan. 16, 2014
Hong Kong-based apparel manufacturer Esquel Group has recently rolled out Yammer to 4,000 plus employees across Asia for better engagement, collaboration and innovation within the Group.

Hong Kong-based apparel manufacturer Esquel Group has recently rolled out Yammer to 4,000 plus employees across Asia for better engagement, collaboration and innovation within the Group.

Esquel is a high-end cotton shirts producer for brands including Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Nike. Its 100 million annual production throughput is supported by a unique vertical supply chain from cotton farming, spinning, weaving & knitting, apparel making, accessories & packaging, to retail and direct distribution.

Today, China forms Esquel's production base, but the company also runs several factories in Vietnam, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Mauritius, and a handful of merchandising offices in the US and Western Europe.

Within and across these widespread production facilities, a lot of important upstream and downstream communications are bound to occur. "In our business, any single mistake made along the communication path can produce a wrong shirt," said Wilkie Wong, CFO (Hong Kong and Overseas), accounts and IT, Esquel. "Clarity and transparency in communication are essential for us to produce the right products for our customers."

Use of new tools help retain young talent
Wong said the use of modern social and productivity tools can enhance team collaboration, increase productivity, attract young talent and facilitate knowledge sharing and innovation.

To retain young talents, Esquel's CFO said it is essential to create a liberal environment to help get fresh ideas across to the management. "The younger workers tend to be more vocal and want more instant feedback. We want to create a less hierarchical work environment to attract and retain young talents — not just retaining them, but getting them to share with us their thoughts," Wong said.

Two years ago, Esquel began a pilot deployment of Yammer to about 100 users. After Yammer's acquisition by Microsoft in June 2012, Esquel continued the adoption and its Yammer user base has already surpassed 4,000.

"We chose Yammer because it is a well-proven enterprise-grade social network, with over 200,000 organizations currently using it," said Andrew Ling, group director, IT, of Esquel Group. "I am so glad Microsoft bought Yammer," Wong added.

According to David Hooper, Office division director of Microsoft Hong Kong, 85% of Fortune 500 companies are currently using Yammer, whose user base has reached seven million globally. Besides Esquel, other local customers include Mandarin Oriental and Crown Worldwide Group.

Cost savings
For Esquel, the biggest benefits of using Yammer have been reducing productivity loss through real-time communication; increasing mobility through anywhere access to emails across devices; developing a unified culture by promoting staff collaboration; and reducing hardware administration cost. Altogether, Esquel estimated to achieve US$2 million savings a year.

Regarding IT cost reduction, Ling said Esquel aims to eliminate its 28 email servers and 14 Windows and SP servers, and all desktops. Of course, the application servers still need to reside in-house.

 

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