Aviva is the world’s sixth largest insurance company providing customers with insurance, savings and investment products. It is the UK’s largest insurer and one of Europe’s leading providers of life and general insurance.
At a “round table” event recently Ismayeel Syed, chief technical architect for global services at Aviva, told the story of Aviva’s journey towards enabling flexible working and collaboration as part of the Group CEO’s vision of One Aviva. The company aims to use collaborative technology to unify the business, which currently has autonomous business units and a disjointed communications and IT infrastructure.
With workers increasingly mobile, the company is implementing hot desking. “The challenge is: when people are not in the office, do they become a passive consumer of the data being shared?” said Ismayeel. “What happens if Visio is being used on the SMART Board in the meeting room, but I can’t interact with it because I don’t have an interactive whiteboard at home?”Aviva uses Bridgit conferencing software from SMART to enable remote attendees equipped with iPads to interact, through finger or stylus movements, with content being shared on the SMART Board in the meeting room. “Now you can walk into a meeting room you’ve scheduled in Outlook, use Active Directory to authenticate, connect the SMART Board to your document library in SharePoint, write on the board and have an audio-visual session in Microsoft Lync.
“At the end of the meeting, the documents can be saved to PDF and stored in SharePoint automatically, or emailed to all attendees directly from the board. There’s a short time to ramp up a meeting and we can quickly close down the room for the next meeting, all without losing any materials or spending time writing up notes at the end,” explains Ismayeel.
To make the most of the new technology, especially Bridgit, the company now issues iPhones and iPads, at the discretion of the business unit and line manager, so staff can truly work from anywhere. Ismayeel explains: “We previously saw a shift from desktops to laptops. Now, with thousands of iOS users, laptops stay at the office – few take them home.”
Aviva also introduced a new global intranet based on Microsoft SharePoint, and employees are asked to complete their SharePoint intranet profiles with rich information including skills, interests and languages spoken, which can enable the company to quickly create new collaborative project teams. This approach has allowed Aviva to find employees with the right software development skills required to create several rapidly-prototyped, mini-applications or “applets”. One such applet, which provides an alternative way to display flood risk, was built by a 15-strong development team drawn from India, Poland, Hungary and the UK who collaborated using the Sketchflow prototyping software on SMART Boards. Built within four working days, spread over two weeks, the app is an impressive demonstration of what can be achieved using collaboration technologies and distributed teams.
The whole unification project was guided by the principle that everyone should have access to communications services, everywhere, and easily. “We couldn’t say we were building video conferencing for the executives but not for the call centre,” said Ismayeel. “We built everything for everyone. Helping to maintain a healthy work/life balance for its workforce is a priority for Aviva and we wanted to make sure it continued or improved.”