Tag Archives: customer love

Flexibility meets efficiency for award-winning arts centre Vooruit, thanks to Google Apps

Editor's note: Today we hear from Wim Roose, Head of IT at Vooruit, Belgium’s most culturally significant arts centre, as he describes how Google Apps has given it the freedom to develop and grow while remaining true to its values. With 80 members of staff, hundreds of artists and countless partners to manage each year, communication and collaboration has become key to running the centre efficiently without losing the essential spirit of the organisation.

Vooruit is a unique place, not least because of its rich history and visionary objectives and aims. Can you tell us a little about its history and vision?

Vooruit was originally designed and built in 1914 as a festival and arts centre. It had a ballroom, a cinema and a theatre, as well as exhibition spaces and venues for debates and meetings. It quickly became the epicentre of the Ghent-based labor movement, and the building itself became a symbol of the socialist movement in the interwar period. Even the name Vooruit itself means “cooperative.” Although it was abandoned and fell into disrepair, it was regenerated in the early 1980s by a group of friends who wanted to re-establish its significance and honour its history, and that’s what we still do today.

We welcome around 300,000 visitors a year and host up to 600 events annually, meaning there’s something for everyone. We’re incredibly aware of the role we’re playing in Vooruit’s continuing history to provide arts services to the public, which is why we were determined to find a 21st Century IT solution that would allow us to work in the spirit of creativity, collaboration and cooperation that shaped the original Vooruit.

Tell us why you chose Google Apps to help deliver Vooruit’s objectives.

Google Apps was an intuitive choice. As an IT guy, I love the openness of the Google ecosystem. We wanted to find a way of working that suited the company’s ethos rather than working against it, something that would allow us to work freely and collaboratively instead of having to conform.

We also needed something that would support our organic growth and help us meet the efficiency needs of the modern world, and Google’s cloud-based apps do just that. Our building may be historic but the way we work needs to be as efficient and modern as any business operating today. In fact, our investment in a digital office was necessary as well as logical — if we’re to continue to work with the government and other organisations to deliver public arts and culture services, we need to be compatible with their way of working, but without compromising our own values. Google Apps make that possible.

Can you explain how you use Google Apps to increase efficiencies?

As opposed to working in the limiting and closed building automation system we largely relied on before, the Google ecosystem allows us to integrate everything into one interface, and for me that’s a giant step forward.

Gmail was the starting point for our digital revolution, and underpins how we work. We’ve migrated all 100 members of our staff from Outlook to Gmail, and we now send and receive up to 12,000 emails each month. Many of us now use Google Keep to create our “to do” lists, which means we can work collaboratively on projects with ease. The continuous updates to each project list allow us to work together with maximum efficiency, meaning no more duplication of effort or jobs left undone, as we all share access to the same real-time information. Gmail also allows us to track communications more effectively, and we can now communicate with each other — and artists and external partners — much more easily.

You’ve said that Vooruit is all about collaboration and cooperation — how does Google Apps help support this?

Google Drive has also been an integral part of our digital solution, and we now have around 25,000 files stored in the cloud, including Google Docs, Sheets and Slides. It’s been fundamental in terms of allowing access to information freely and easily. The planning of exhibitions and projects is a core part of what we do, but our existing planning software had limited document storage capacity. We now use Drive next to the planning software, which not only acts as a file server, but also a new way of communicating via the files themselves. We can upload all the relevant information for any one project in one place, which can be accessed wherever we are thanks to the cloud storage, meaning it’s much easier to work together.

The use of Google Docs has also revolutionised our way of working with others. We were at a point where some people were working in the cloud and some were saving documents locally, so all our assets were everywhere but nowhere at the same time. It was a mess — we couldn’t find anything when we needed it. Now we have single documents stored in one place, annotated with comments that allow us to communicate with project managers, contractors, suppliers and building guards. The fact that colleagues and partners can all access the same Google Docs and update information simultaneously has made us instantly more efficient and collaborative.

What about communicating outside the core Vooruit team? How has Google Apps helped Vooruit to integrate with the wider world?

We’re already ahead of the communications curve by using Hangouts instead of arranging meetings in person. Our aim is to reduce our environmental impact as an organisation, and not driving 100km to a meeting with an external partner can really contribute towards meeting our green targets. Daily meetings with artists and cultural organisations from across the world are also now possible without leaving our desks, broadening our reach and our potential, as well as saving us time and money.

What does the future hold for Vooruit in terms of IT?

Google Apps is key in helping us create a modern way of working that will grow with us, providing us with the flexibility to be creative as well as the efficiencies we need to succeed commercially. We’re constantly evolving while remaining true to our philosophy and we needed the fundamental change that would enable our organisation to be ready for the future and appeal to new recruits, artists and partners. Google’s cloud-based solutions have helped us prove that, as an arts organisation, we’re as willing and prepared to work digitally as any other industry, without having to compromise Vooruit’s original creative or collaborative values in the digital age.

The business of connection: How Osmose links the front office to the field

Editor's note: Today we hear from Ben Flock, director of operations support at Osmose, which provides inspection, maintenance and rehabilitation services and products to electric and telecommunications utilities. Read how Osmose provides its field workers with connectivity using Chromebooks.

In business, as in life, connection breeds success. When you feel connected to your team, your network, your customer, your family, relationships are stronger and everybody wins.

Osmose is in the business of connecting people. We do the work that ensures your utilities are up and running so when you open your laptop, you can connect to the internet, and when you pick up a landline telephone, you get a dial tone. We offer reliable service by maintaining the poles on which utility and electric lines are strung. This means our crews spend most of their time away from the office, and we rely on Chromebooks to keep them connected in the field.

Foremen are our first line of management and key to our operations. In the past, foremen had little connectivity and limited technology when working on a job site. They used paper and pen to collect data and complete administrative tasks. When they worked remotely they often missed important family events, such as childrens’ ball games or recitals. This made it hard for us to attract and retain staff. The problem compounded as we grew: we've tripled our number of field crews since 2006. Each crew has on average three people in it: a foreman plus two other field workers.

To connect our teams and provide greater mobility, we replaced paper with Chromebooks. The devices combine the best features of tablets and laptops: they’re light, easy to use and have keyboards. Chromebooks are tough and sturdy, and well-suited for field work, including some models which have waterproof keyboards and rubberized edges so they can withstand rough weather and hard treatment in the field. They provide our crews with the capabilities they need at a price that has allowed us to provide one for each field crew at a relatively low cost.

Chromebooks play a central role in our employees’ work from the day they start at Osmose. All onboarding forms are completed online, eliminating the vast majority of our paperwork. Every crew member is issued a Chromebook during their eight-week training period, which makes the process faster and more convenient because they can refer to it for information any time they want.

Our foremen use Chromebooks on a daily basis and see the most significant benefits. They’re able to send data from the field, communicate with the main office and access safety information with the touch of a button. They can easily complete administrative tasks without carrying heavy binders. And it’s now possible for our crews to enjoy a better work-life balance because they can work from anywhere and their colleagues and family can reach them at any time via email or Google Hangouts video calls.

We’re now expanding how we use Chrome devices. We’ve introduced Chromebox for meetings in our conference rooms and our training environments. Some of our vice presidents are also using Chromebooks for everyday computing because of their portability and convenience. These devices are helping to fuel our growth and accomplish our mission to help people stay connected.

Georgia creates a faster, friendlier driver’s license experience with help from Chrome

Editor's note: This week, we’re sharing two stories from Georgia state government agencies that have gone Google. Today we hear from Jeff Smith, CIO of Georgia Department of Driver Services, which provides secure driver and identity credentials to 3.5 million customers each year. See how Georgia Department of Driver Services saved hundreds of thousands of dollars, reduced wait times by 80% and improved customer service and experience with help from Chromeboxes.

Think about the last time you got a new driver’s license. What was the experience like? I’d bet it involved take-a-number tickets, long lines and outdated computers. Recently, the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) decided to change the image in our offices across the state.

In the years following the 2008 recession, the economy suffered and people feared losing their jobs. As a result, tax revenue was affected and Georgia government agencies faced 10 percent budget cuts across the board. Our management team came up with a creative solution — what if, instead of resorting to layoffs, furloughs or salary reductions, we could cut costs in other ways? Switching to Chromeboxes was one of the ways we saved money to meet the required budget cuts.

We submitted a formal proposal to the state technical authority to use Chromeboxes in our offices, and they gave us the green light once they understood it would be a secure solution. Chrome’s rigorous security settings and features mean we don’t have to worry about a customer data breach. The simple fact that devices store no data and reset automatically at the end of each session makes Chrome a secure solution for our locations.

Since we started using Chromeboxes in 2013, we’ve saved hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and expanded our use of Chrome to create a better customer experience. We designed our central Atlanta customer service center to look more like a mobile retail store than a traditional government office. Instead of sitting behind a reception counter, employees greet customers on the floor and help them fill out applications online at high standing tables. Our staff interacts more personally with patrons and can serve them faster, too — the average wait time in remodeled offices equipped with Chromeboxes has dropped by 80% from 30 minutes to six.
Chromeboxes are so intuitive that patrons of any age, background or technical ability can use them with ease. Some of our patrons know English as a second language, while others, like my dad, have trouble using computers. But it seems that anyone, including my dad, can use Chrome. Patrons also take the written portion of their driving test using these devices. Or, if a customer forgets their required identification documents, they can even use the device to access and securely print a water bill or bank records.

We’ve modernized our office and are now more customer-centric by switching to Chrome. While getting a new driver’s license or ID may never be a thrilling errand, we can now make it an easier and more friendly experience for every customer who walks through our doors.

How Jtel used Chrome to reinvent the call center

Editor's note: Today we hear from Lewis Graham, Chief Executive Officer of Jtel, which provides call center technologies for telecommunications companies and enterprises. Read how Jtel is transforming the call center industry using Chrome, which has added efficiency, time savings and ROI (45% increase for Jtel customers).

Think about the last time you needed to get in touch with a business. How did you contact them? You may have picked up the phone, but it’s just as likely you sent an email or a text message, tagged the company in a post on social media or visited the website to chat with a customer service rep. Today, there are dozens of ways for people to communicate with businesses. Companies who embrace this fact are rewarded with more engaged customers.

Jtel set out to reinvent the call center so businesses can handle all the ways people get in touch with them. Based on our 25 years of experience providing call center technology for telecommunications firms and enterprises, we’ve built a new multi-channel call center platform using Chromebooks and WebRTC. WebRTC is an open source project for real-time browser-based communications that was developed by Google. The Chrome and WebRTC solution eliminates telephones while letting agents handle email, chat and voice calls. Rather than switching between a phone and computer, the agent uses just one device.

Chrome has improved our call centers on three important fronts: call center teams work more efficiently, their calls are more effective and they save time. Chrome devices are easy to configure and manage, and they’re highly reliable — particularly important because call centers are notoriously difficult to install. Chrome and WebRTC have dramatically reduced the time required to set up a new call center: it takes four hours to set up a center with 200 to 300 Chromebooks, compared to the four days it takes to set up a traditional call center of similar size.

Chrome saves our customers money as well. In a traditional call center, each agent needs a PC and a telephone. There are also high deployment costs for each agent because of the complexity of the systems. Between hardware and implementation, it adds up to almost $1,300 per agent. Chrome and RTC save a huge chunk of that — about $800 per agent. By our calculations, that leads to a 45 percent increase in ROI for our customers.

Chromebooks with WebRTC also transform the way companies interact with their customers. It lets agents connect with customers in multiple ways, not just by phone. And it allows companies to integrate their call centers with their CRM systems so they can create self-service modules for their customers. This empowers customers to resolve issues on their own.

Companies need to to be able to help customers, however they choose to get in touch. Today, that’s through phone calls, emails, text messages and live chat. As these channels keep evolving, we will, too, thanks to Chrome and our partnership with Google. Chrome is helping us build the future of communications.

How Elsa State Bank made a road map to the future with Android for Work and Google Apps

Editor's note: Today we hear from Jaime Hinojosa, Information Technology Officer at Elsa State Bank, which has served Texans since 1945. Learn how Elsa State Bank overhauled its IT department to provide its workforce with the tools to be more mobile and productive.

Elsa State Bank's 20,000 customers across South Texas depend on our expertise in commercial, consumer and agricultural finance. We’re always looking for ways to better serve our customers and grow our customer base. As an IT officer, I introduce, evolve and maintain the technology that helps our 100 employees acquire more customers. Security, durability and affordability are top of mind when I’m researching a new solution.

In 2010, we looked to modernize our IT solutions. Our employees wanted greater flexibility to pursue customer leads outside of the office. At the time, our employees were using laptops and smartphones that didn’t have the security, functionality or mobile management we needed. I started researching other solutions and discovered Google Apps for Work, Google Mobile Device Management (Google MDM) and Android devices. I believed these solutions would help us achieve our goal of giving our team greater mobility with tools that not only advanced productivity but that also offered the security, central management and cost efficiency we required — I was right.

Today we use Google MDM to manage 40 Samsung Galaxy smartphones and Samsung Note tablets. These Android devices help us save time and money. One example: We used to print and ship 300-page binders for board meetings, which was wasteful and inefficient, but now, board members use Android tablets during meetings to view and share annual reports and quarterly earnings presentations.

Our employees are already benefitting from greater mobility at work. Lenders now commonly travel to construction sites to meet with customers, receive progress updates and pursue more loan opportunities. Loan officers who work away from the office can receive reminders about upcoming client meetings on their Android smartphone, locate and reach their destination using Google Maps and retrieve relevant customer documents from the cloud with Google Drive.

The security of Google Apps was essential to our purchasing decision. Since commercial institutions can be targeted by cybercriminals, protecting our customer data is especially important. Our centrally-managed Android devices help us save time and money without compromising security, and IT administrators benefit from capabilities like mobile device management. Remote administration also helps us save time and money from a pure logistics standpoint — we don’t have to be on site to solve individual problems that arise.

Before we adopted Google Apps for Work and Google MDM, our employees were clamoring for tools that allowed them to work from anywhere and better serve our customers. The integration of Google Apps and Google MDM, supported by Android devices, has vastly improved what our employees can accomplish each day. These tools have helped keep Elsa State Bank competitive amid a rapidly evolving work environment.

How Suffolk Libraries uses Chrome devices to keep visitors coming back for more

Editor's note: Today we hear from Leon Paternoster, Deputy Head of IT at Suffolk Libraries in Ipswich, UK. Suffolk Libraries serves the UK county’s population of over 700,000. Learn how Suffolk Libraries uses mobile technology to keep its members engaged and interested in visiting their local branch.

As a modern library network, we’re more than a place to read — we connect our members to the world around them. That connection could be a book, a newspaper or access to the internet. My job as deputy head of IT involves supporting and growing our libraries’ web services. Making access to information fast and easy across any and every library-owned device is a main focus for my team.
We know our members love browsing the web when they visit the library, so we wanted to make getting online as seamless as opening a book. In 2014, we worked with our partner Ancoris to replace many of our outdated Windows PCs with Google Chromebooks. We also purchased a number of touchscreen Google Chromebases, which allow children to interact with websites without using a keyboard or mouse. Ancoris developed a Chromebook Access Management System (CAMS) that integrates the Chromebooks with our existing library management system. This controls who can log on and how long they can stay online. Today we have more than 200 Chrome devices available for visitors to check out across our 44 branches. Now visitors are able to go online anywhere in the library. From young children playing literacy games to students diving into heavy research, customers of all ages can engage with material — whether at a shared table or in a quiet nook — on their Chromebook until the device is due back.

Chromebooks and Chromebases have been so cost-effective — both initially and once deployed — that we’ve been able to increase the number of computers available to library users while upgrading our technology overall.

Now that we have fast and simple ways for our visitors to get online, our branches are hosting new programs that people love. For instance, some branches have introduced “Code Clubs,” weekly meetings for younger visitors to play games and explore coding languages like Python and Scratch. We also provide a free family history service that helps members research their family trees online.

From an IT perspective, Chrome devices are ideal. They’re secure, easy to use and require very little of our team’s time to manage. With Chrome Device Management, we don’t have to worry about data on lost or stolen devices because we’re able to centrally shut down devices that we’ve identified as lost or stolen. Despite staff concerns about theft, we haven’t had a single Chromebook stolen. And with automatic system updates, the Chromebooks stay fast, up-to-date and ready to use at a moment’s notice.

Our technology is a huge draw for library members. They look to us as a portal for information as well as a resource for pursuing their interests and professional goals. Chrome devices are the perfect library companion for our visitors and a simple solution for our IT team.

Google Apps and devices as building blocks for change at ISG

Editor's note: Today we hear from Daniel Durgan, IT Business Partner at ISG, an international construction services company delivering fit out, construction, engineering services and a range of specialist solutions. Daniel explains why there’s never been a better time to digitally transform the construction industry.

The construction industry is undergoing a digital revolution. Companies that have for decades relied heavily on printed contracts, drawings and documents are now moving to online tools to save time and money and keep productivity up in a marketplace that’s more expansive and more demanding. At ISG, we’re using Google’s cloud-based tools to ensure that we’re at the forefront of this industry shift.

With Google Apps, we’re taking full advantage of technology-enhanced collaboration, productivity and mobility. Over the course of a few hours, I can use Google Drive to review a presentation on my tablet, Gmail to check emails and Google Calendar to schedule meetings on my phone while away from the office. I can also jump into a meeting with colleagues from around the world from any of the 26 Chromeboxes that are set up in one of our conference rooms. Whether I’m on a site visit, in the office or on the move, Google Apps allows me to continue working and collaborating with my team.

Projects move fast with real-time collaboration

It’s essential for our business to control who has access to certain documents. Drawings must only be issued to authorised people, and each person must review the latest version as it’s being developed. Drive enables us to completely control what’s shared inside and outside of our company — the fact that our team alone has 1.5 million files in Drive speaks to our reliance on the tool for secure file storage.

Google Docs allows us to collaborate on shared documents at the same time, no matter where we are in the world. I can start shaping up a proposal in London and invite a colleague in Europe to work on it with me. There’s also more of a human element. When someone comments, you see their face next to it — it ties you emotionally to the process. We keep track of all our revisions in Sheets to monitor our progress. And we can always instant message each other with quick questions or suggestions, so we feel connected, all the time.

A lot of what we do is very visual. It’s hard to describe building plans and designs over the phone. With Hangouts, we can bring everyone together to discuss these plans and drawings as if we were all in the same room. We can move quickly from stakeholders to contractors to suppliers to make sure the right people are involved in the right conversations.

Staff expect more from an IT solution

A big part of my team’s role is to help build relationships and ensure employees communicate effectively and get the support they need. When we sent out a survey using Forms to ask all our staff what they’d like to see from IT, they told us they wanted to find out more about our Google tools. We’re using Synergise Google Apps Training to help our stakeholders go beyond the basics and use the suite to its full potential.

Quality: getting it right the first time

Quality is extremely important in our business, so we carry out frequent on-site check-ins to ensure teams are following the proper processes and delivering a high standard of construction correctly the first time. When we do these quality checks, we submit recommendations and observations using Forms on Android tablets. The information is imported into Sheets, and using Apps Script, we create dashboards, so employees across teams and functions can easily track the check-ins in real time.

We’re improving the way we work all the time, and that’s thanks to the support and enthusiasm of our employees. Many of our automated solutions have been suggested by them, and it’s great to see how passionate they are about Google Apps. There’s also an excitement among my team around what the future holds for us and our industry with new tools at our dispense and a new way of working for our customers.

Building sustainable supply chains with Google and Smartsheet: Q&A with Shaw Industries

Editor's note: Today we speak with Melissa Pateritsas of Shaw Industries Group, which uses Google Apps along with Smartsheet. Read on to find out how these integrated solutions foster collaboration and add greater efficiency to the Shaw Industries supply chain. Register here to join our Hangout on Air on July 20 at 10 a.m. PT to learn more about how Smartsheet, a Google recommended app, can improve your business.
Can you tell us about Shaw Industries and why you chose Google Apps and Smartsheet?

Shaw Industries Group is committed to creating an efficient and sustainable supply chain for its flooring enterprise. Being the world’s largest carpet manufacturer and a leading floorcovering provider means sustainability isn’t just a moral or ethical imperative, it’s smart for business. More efficient supply chains produce better, lasting products with fewer costs.

With offices and sales representatives across the United States and world, Shaw’s sales reach nearly $5 billion every year. Our growing business needed an even more efficient (and sustainable) way to bring daily operations into the digital age. So we turned to two powerful collaboration tools: Google Apps and Smartsheet.

In Smartsheet, we could make good use of the collaborative work management (CWM) platform that marries the power of a project and process management solutions suite to the familiar interface of a spreadsheet. And we saw Google Apps as an opportunity to improve efficiency and collaboration across teams. With a strong working history, the two work in tandem very well and together were exactly what we needed to achieve our digital transformation.

You mentioned the importance of supply chains for Shaw Industries. How did considerations around the supply chain impact your decision to switch to Google Apps and Smartsheet?

Part of creating an efficient and sustainable supply chain is lowering overhead costs. The processes used to produce carpet and flooring at our various manufacturing facilities differed slightly from location to location. The many manufacturing divisions had common needs, but also their own unique challenges. Any solution would have to address these differences, while commonalities would cause overlap. It didn’t make sense to have different support teams for each process, especially if half of what the teams did was identical.

Sharing plans and projects was also challenging. The systems we had in place were costly and time-consuming. We needed a way to increase visibility and update project statuses, not only for our team, but also for external parties like clients and vendors.

What results are you seeing now that you’re using Apps and Smartsheet?

Turning to Google Apps’ collaborative tools was a positive first step. Google Drive allowed us to easily share documents and files both internally and externally. Documents could be instantly shared and jointly edited by employees around the world in real time. Plus, going paperless made our operations more ecologically friendly.

Smartsheet’s suite of project and process management solutions, which feature Google Apps integration, further enhanced what Google already had to offer. Smartsheet offers great flexibility. With them, we can easily create templates that we can edit and customize to meet diverse needs.

We also simplified project roll-ups — which were previously done by hand. Using cell linking, engineering managers could automate the process, saving time and effort, and automatic updates solved the problem of visibility that we struggled with. We could now easily share individual projects with stakeholders, both internal and external, ensuring that everyone was on the same page.

Also, today our separate business units are able to build custom and individualized solutions on a strong foundation that addresses both common and distinct needs. Managers and engineers can automate processes that had previously been done by hand, spending more time and energy on devising ways to make our products better and longer-lasting. These new solutions are built using familiar interfaces and services that employees already know how to use.

Can you tell us about the process of adopting Smartsheet?

Adopting Smartsheet was a simple transition because of its familiar spreadsheet-like GUI. We didn’t need additional software. Everything we needed could be done within the frameworks that Google and Smartsheet already offered.

So where does the company stand now in terms of its digital transformation?

We’re definitely in the midst of transformation. With Smartsheet and Google solutions, and their simplicity and the scalability that a worldwide enterprise like Shaw needs, we’ve reduced overhead and complexity and cut time spent on processes. We now have more time and focus on building for the future. We can also proudly say that we’ve met our goal to create easy-to-adopt digital practices and a more efficient, sustainable supply chain.

Top UK CIO explains how to create a 5-star digital hotel experience

Editor's note: Today’s post is from Chris Hewertson, CTO of glh, the largest owner-operator hotel company in London with over 5,000 rooms throughout London as well as two locations in Malaysia. Chris was recently named “disruptive player in the crowded hotels market” in the CIO top 100 list. Here, he shares his secrets to success.

In 2013, we launched the world’s fastest hotel wi-fi and put our focus on digital. We had big ideas to transform our business, and we knew we couldn’t do it alone.

We’re always looking for new and innovative technology solutions that can help us deliver the best guest-centred experience in hospitality. Hosted services and real-time responses are becoming more and more of a basic customer expectation in other industries so we thought, why not hotels? We worked with implementation partner Cloudreach to adopt Google Apps as our fully integrated, enterprise-wide cloud collaboration and storage solution.

Let product enthusiasts within your teams help usher a smooth adoption

With over 33 hotels, more than 1000 users and nearly 4 million files, how were we going to move everything and everyone onto Google Apps for Work? The answer was obvious – Jedis.

Well, not Jedis exactly, but pretty close. Our nominated Google Guides were a group of 65 champions across all our locations and departments – from night managers to head housekeepers – who helped kick-start our Google Apps for Work adoption. Their support and enthusiasm for the tools meant we could truly bring Google Apps for Work into every part of our business.

Not only did they help us cut down old and unused data as part of the migration process (we have now almost halved our original 3 million files), they encouraged everyone to use the tools for creative solutions. This is a great example of how a user led change approach can lead to high levels of engagement and adoption while minimising the need for a traditional data migration.

Find creative ways to use new tools to improve customer experience

At glh, we take guest complaints seriously and try to accommodate each request as much as we can. At our biggest hotel, room moves and changes happen daily. Guests move rooms to be closer to their travelling party, away from their boss (yes, really) or even to avoid odd numbers.

Before Google, this would cause major disruption across a number of teams from Housekeeping to Concierge. Now, all teams can see and edit real-time room changes in Sheets, and housekeepers can even use it on their mobiles. As a result, we’ve significantly minimized delays, confusion and complaints.

From internal invites to office polls, Forms has been a welcome addition to the working lives of all of us at glh. Now we have a form that allows staff to check out a guest from anywhere in the hotel in seconds. No more printed paper that was popped into a box at reception.

Invest big savings from new technology tools into workplace improvements

Trans-atlantic Hangout conversations have led to a 42% reduction in conference call charges. Hourly printouts of various logs and reports of over 1,000 pages are now shareable digital Docs that are securely stored on Drive. The logs are updated in real time and available on any device.

It’s just over a year since we introduced Google Apps for Work, and in that time we’ve made so many apps-based ideas a reality – like our Manager of the Month initiative, where everyone votes using a Form.

Our Google Guides, who were so central to our training and awareness a year ago, are still coming up with new suggestions all the time – it’s amazing how creative people can be.

How ebooks can encourage reluctant students to discover the joy of reading

Editor's note: Today’s post comes from Andrew McCaffrey, assistant headteacher for data and technologies at The Streetly Academy in Sutton Coldfield, United Kingdom. Caffrey, a passionate supporter of technology in classrooms, recently received the Inspirational Educator Award by the Worshipful Company of Educators. We invited him to talk about the value of ebooks in encouraging students to read.

As a teacher, I know what a gift reading can be — we all wish we had more time to tackle the books on our own lists — but not all of my students feel the same way. It can be an uphill battle to convince students that books will open up new worlds. Every day at Streetly Academy, we brainstorm ways to encourage students to find and read what they love.

To start, we set aside dedicated reading time for students so they learn the value of this fundamental skill. Reading time is scheduled into the school day, just like any other subject, which telegraphs its importance for students. During these sessions, some students bring in books from home, and some read them on their Chromebooks, which use the RM Books system so we can offer as many different titles as possible. For students who are resistant to reading, variety matters. These students often believe there’s nothing out there that they’ll enjoy, so access to different genres and topics can help pique their interest.

We’ve also noticed that reluctant readers will warm up to books on screen, since students are used to devices at home and in school. Research backs up our observation: a recent study from the UK’s National Literacy Trust found that boys in particular become more avid and confident readers when they have access to ebooks.

“A lot of students, normally boys, consider reading boring and don’t even want to attempt it,” says Rebecca Leason, an English teacher at our school. She’s seen the difference that ebooks can make with both boys and girls, as well as changing student thinking about how a “book” is defined. For example, Rebecca gives students excerpts from longer books.
Students at Streetly Academy have enjoyed the greater choice that reading with ebooks has brought them
“Students often think that reading must always involve a novel,” Rebecca told me. “The extracts give them the opportunity to look at a range of texts instead of focusing on just one. Sometimes they’re the beginnings of novels, but can also be nonfiction. A lot of students then go on to read the full texts for the subjects they enjoy.”

Greater choice of reading material is key to encouraging students to read more. Now that RM Books can be used with Google Classroom, we can select and share books even more easily with our students. We can also highlight the pages that we want to students to read so they know exactly how much reading to complete.

Along with offering students a wider range of reading choices, we also experiment with different ways to read. Rebecca, for instance, switches her teaching format depending on how students respond to a reading selection. In addition to giving students independent reading time, she’ll gauge whether small groups or a whole-class session would be more appropriate for a discussion. If students are struggling with a text, she might introduce an audio book option, or suggest that students read short articles on a subject before they move on to the full versions.

It’s heartening to see more students change their attitudes toward reading, and in some cases, to really embrace literature. One of Rebecca’s students started the school year with little interest in reading. After several months of reading short texts and discovering subjects she enjoyed, she grew so confident that she won the English award. Another reader on her way to a lifetime of discovering books!