With 450 e-commerce sites in 240 markets worldwide, Microsoft’s marketing operations were in dire need of synergy. For years, the software giant’s manual processes exemplified the proverbial “too many cooks in the kitchen,” as factors like competing Excel inputs, duplicate OneNote entries and unapproved website updates introduced countless errors into the workflow and led to delayed results.
That’s why Microsoft turned to K2, a leader in intelligent process automation, to help streamline its e-commerce processes. K2 offered a platform-based solution to digitally integrate thousands of workflows, helping reduce the number of users.
Microsoft implements K2
After implementing K2, Microsoft’s entire e-commerce division increased its efficiency and employee productivity, reduced publication errors, improved employee buy-in rates, and created better visibility in the end-to-end publication and promotion process.
“We have such a large scope and remit across so many digital properties … it’s crucial that we have consistency in the way we operate and the way we deliver new products, launches, and promotions across those properties,” said Douglas Lepar, a director of site operations process and programs for Microsoft’s digital stores.
Microsoft needed to solve three challenges that stymied its e-commerce operations, and K2’s Professional Services team delivered solutions — to synchronize publication management processes, improve efficiency in promotions management, and build an online infrastructure that could operate seamlessly within existing Microsoft platforms.
A tedious publication management process
The e-commerce team is charged with keeping the Microsoft.com website updated with accurate information and content for all its product lines, a process requiring multiple levels of approvals and collaboration between thousands of stakeholders across more than 200 regions.
Now picture this process requiring an Excel spreadsheet for each web page. Multiply that one spreadsheet by at least 200 and multiply that number by the total number of pages worldwide requiring updates. Toss in a collection of notes that hundreds of users uploaded into OneNote, and you have all the ingredients for chaos.
That’s exactly what the Microsoft e-commerce team experienced while attempting to approve content manually, which resulted in bottlenecks, publishing delays, and published errors.
“With everything being in OneNote, people were updating things as we were creating those pages,” said Jennifer Woolery, who works as a project manager for the Microsoft site operations team. “There was no way to track change requests in the system.”
Greater visibility and a 30% decreases in errors
The K2 Professional Services team used Nintex K2 SmartForms and its workflow engine to streamline the publishing process, allowing regional marketing managers to submit content through an online portal. Content and asset information were now included as part of the original request, tasks were routed to the correct region, and content was prepared and scheduled for entry into the content management system.
As K2’s systems placed full auditing and tracking capabilities into the process for greater visibility, publishing errors decreased by as much as 30% in some areas. Teams also were able to meet production timelines previously hampered by the additional time demands of manual inputs, tracking, and error correction.
Promotional campaign time savings
Tracking issues and publication errors also hampered the process of publishing merchandise promotion information across Microsoft’s global online stores. Promotions and campaigns for all product lines were input and tracked through OneNote files, which led to common errors such as duplicate entries. No method existed to mark a project as complete.
K2 listened to Microsoft’s concerns and worked with the team to deliver a system that allows merchandisers to reduce the time needed to submit promotional information and related campaigns. It also allows them to use a centralized online workspace to manage promotion page placement on various Microsoft.com websites.
“People can now track their work and this gives a status back saying, ‘Yep, we’re all done. This is ready to publish,’” Woolery said.
Each merchandiser realized a 25% time savings as a result of the steep decline in publishing errors, the creation of the online promotion brief, and the elimination of double data entry across multiple files.
Solution development with a 100% user adoption rate
The Microsoft e-commerce team doesn’t have a dedicated engineering group, so it needed to work with a services team to help build the required publishing and promotions management solutions.
Within eight months of Microsoft’s request, K2’s Professional Services team developed and delivered the promotions management solution along with a new product onboarding tool that adds new products to the Microsoft.com site. K2 manages the tool and maintains and manages the K2 installation in Microsoft’s internal Azure platform.
The programs were well received, with the promotions management tool achieving a 100% user adoption rate after launch.
“When we started doing research, one of the main reasons that we picked K2 was because it’s hosted on … any Microsoft platform that you want to host. For us, it was an internal Azure cloud that we needed to have hosted. K2 allowed us to do it the way we needed to accomplish it as well,” Woolery said. ”K2 really is the best in breed in this industry, and we’ve found that to be the case by working with the people on the K2 team.”
What’s next for Microsoft’s partnership with K2? A recipe for success. Later this year, Microsoft and the K2 Professional Services team are preparing to release their next major project, Global Launch, which will streamline the product launch process for products worldwide. Other pilot projects under consideration include integration with other third-party technologies.
Now we’re cooking!