by Georgina Swan

Pearson Australia uses collaboration to smooth M&A integration

Jul 19, 20114 mins
Collaboration SoftwareSmall and Medium Business

When you’re a CIO for a global publishing and education solutions company, communication is everything.

Jenny Beresford understands this. As CIO for Pearson Australia and the former head of National Australia Bank’s technology experience office, she understands the importance a collaborative environment can have on bringing new organisations and employees into the fold.

“I work with a global CIO, Genevieve Shore, who is visionary and progressive,” she said. “We’re bringing global networks and collaborative spaces into play that can help us more quickly integrate people in companies we acquire, as well as their systems, on board,” she says. “There are two parts to an acquisition; one is the cultural issue and I think it is most important that people feel a part of the Pearson brand. The collaborative environment is extremely important, so we have a very progressive, actively used internal collaboration environment called Neo, which is based on Jive.”

Neo has only been in place since February 2011 but adoption across company is high.

Australia is the ideal place to do Ramp;D and to incubate ideas

“It has had incredible uptake in the Pearson global community — a real ‘pull’ demand scenario rather than ‘push’. Before Neo even went live, people were self-selecting to use it, encouraged by their colleagues, in an unorchestrated ‘Facebook’ type of viral marketing campaign. People loved it – and wanted their friends in Pearson to join the chat. It’s just taken off from there with a bang. We have had a quite unpredicted spontaneous increase in rich knowledge sharing and peer-to-peer and peer-to-group communications right across the 36,000 employees of the company,” Beresford said.

“Having this sort of warmly accepted and actively used collaborative environment in place also means that when we acquire a new company — which we do frequently (I quote the statistic of 30 companies acquired across the world in 20 months as at the start of 2011) — then our new colleagues can start to feel part of Pearson very quickly, understand our values and mission, and start learning and sharing their knowledge. We also have a vibrant local Sharepoint 2010 repository and collaboration site in ANZ which is well used for more formal work purposes – but we describe that as our ‘Linked-In’ as opposed to Neo as our ‘Facebook’. We are integrating Sharepoint with Jive environments now so that we get the best of both worlds and a one-stop shop for our employees to both chat and work.

The Pearson Group is arguably more recognised by its individual brands, which include the likes of Penguin and The Financial Times.

“As part of a global company, you want everybody talking to each other and understanding where their product or service might fit with one that we’ve just acquired and how it might benefit the customer.”

The emphasis on communication is also the impetus for Pearson’s latest global project: A revamp of its messaging collaboration environment that will link disparate systems on a variety of platforms. The idea is to connect the company’s 36,000 employees regardless of device or location. The vision for the project is ‘one click’ — to be one click away from anyone you want to communicate with, by the mode you choose — voice, text, email, telepresence, or social media channels.

The upgrade of its Microsoft environment for Exchange, Windows and Office is a fait accompli, but Pearson also plans to connect its Jive, SharePoint and voice and video conferencing platforms. Proof of concept implementations are underway in the UK and US — and Melbourne, Australia.

“I’m very proud that Australia is playing a leading role in this initiative for Pearson.” Beresford said. “I think Australia needs to be promoted across the globe — not just within Pearson but in the wider playing field – as a credible, early-adopter with a ‘can-do’ attitude — the ideal place to do RD and to incubate ideas. In Pearson we have proven that we can execute very well here – and so the Pearson business is recognising this as one of our local strengths. It’s exciting times for my team as they have the opportunity to learn about the latest market developments in technology and communications, put them into practice, and lead the way.”

Follow Georgina Swan on Twitter: @swandives

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