It’s not easy to collaborate when your 500 employees are scattered all over France, and use different tools depending on the day’s tasks. The French National Center of Forest Properties (CNPF in French) wanted to simplify exchanges and improve information circulation: at the beginning of 2020, their head of digital development turned to Talkspirit to develop their organization around a single interface.
The CNPF is a French public establishment, operating under the supervision of the Agriculture Ministry. It is in charge of developing the sustainable management of private forests, which represent almost a quarter of the national territory belonging to 3.5 million private owners. Its employees are divided between regional centres, a Research-Development-Innovation department, and a General Directorate at the national level that coordinates business, human resources, accounting and financial aspects.
The CNPF carries out numerous missions, including studies on forest evolution (particularly in relation to climate change), training, and guidance in the management of private forests. It also has the role of approving sustainable management plans, a mandatory document that must be completed by all owners of more than 25 hectares of forest.
Key figures of the CNPF:
- 12.6 million hectares of private forests
- 500 employees throughout France
- 11 regional delegations
Interviewed by our editorial staff, Alain Posty, Head of the IT and Digital Development Department at the CNPF, details his initial needs centered around the circulation of information and collaborative work, and tells us about the improvements brought on by using Talkspirit.
The CNPF faced with the need to accelerate its digital transformation
The use of digital tools is becoming increasingly important for us, as we need to monitor and measure our daily actions by building databases that are easily accessible everywhere. Until recently, the CNPF used isolated/fragmented databases: a database for the land registry, a database for mapping, a database for forest data, etc. The CNPF has been using these databases for a number of years now. Since my arrival in 2018, I have been working on consolidating these databases to unify our work tools, because our missions involve a lot of interaction. Because of climate change, the forest, in the broadest sense, is under enormous stress; this is why mastering the experimental data collected over the last 30 years is essential to monitor and analyse changes (current and future).
A desire to facilitate collaborative work
Our second need stems from the desire to accentuate collaborative work. Spread throughout France, our employees used to take their cars to attend physical meetings at their local sites. In 2015, we modernized by implementing videoconferencing in equipped rooms, still involving people travelling to their department site. And in 2018, I looked for a simpler solution. So we switched to a cloud service that allows videoconferencing from PC to PC, without the need to travel. The software deployed also allowed us to chat. Employees gradually discovered and adopted these new remote collaboration uses.
Another need that came up regularly was the need to be able to share documents on common subjects. We made a trial by deploying a corporate forum and wiki, but it proved difficult to implement. The tools were not natively interconnected and were difficult for employees to use. I was thus looking for a simpler solution that was technically simpler and more intuitive.
A word-of-mouth guided choice to find an ESN tool
It was our colleagues from the ONF (French National Forestry Office), who were already using Talkspirit, and who spoke to me about it in a positive way. As a manager in a public establishment, I have two key factors to consider: choosing French suppliers as a priority (especially with the Covid-19 crisis!), and making sure that my service providers are in compliance with the GDPR. Talkspirit being both a French company and hosted by OVH, I had two good reasons to examine the tool.
Moreover, the CNPF is a public establishment: if we buy 500 licenses, we are required to make a contract. Since Talkspirit is referenced at the public service purchasing center, this greatly simplifies the technical and financial aspects. We therefore chose this tool, and launched the deployment in early 2020 with 50 licenses at first.
Gradual deployment within the establishment
The Communication team, which is in great demand for a high-performance collaborative tool, and the Digital department, which has ten people spread throughout France, were equipped first and foremost. We had a good intuition: the deployment took place three weeks before the start of the confinement. Obviously, this “forced remote working” gave a boost to the use of the tool, because all the employees equipped were able to continue working in a fast, user-friendly and easy way.
Since then, we have been gradually increasing the number of people connected to Talkspirit. Word-of-mouth works well internally: I sometimes have employees who ask me for a license because they have worked on the tool with someone who is already equipped, and they want to get started.
Talkspirit is extremely easy to use, and it is gradually becoming part of our daily routine, making it easier to organize group work. In an entity such as ours, it requires a bit of organizational skills to facilitate adoption. We are planning courses to teach employees how to take full advantage of it. Not so much on features but on how to use Talkspirit: for example, to reassure them that they are not obliged to respond immediately to notifications, and by making them aware of the right to disconnect. We want them to understand that Talkspirit saves them time, and that it’s not a new constraint! We also need to train our managers in the new, more horizontal methods that the tool induces.
Talkspirit, a team exchange facilitator
After a few months of use, we can see that the use of Talkspirit improves communication, daily collaboration, and ultimately the productivity of users thanks to its simplicity and versatility. It may seem trivial, but every morning we all say “Hello” on Talkspirit: for employees who mostly work remotely, this is a major change, and a very pleasant one.
At the CNPF, the teams used to use e-mail as a synchronous tool, which was stressful (some receive more than 100 emails a day!), and highly complex as soon as there was a long history of messages and many recipients. These loops where anyone could add or remove a recipient also posed a problem of privacy, with the risk of sending information to people who should not have had access to it.
The Talkspirit tool provides an answer to both of these problems. It favors chat rather than email for synchronous exchanges, and indicates the availability of interlocutors. If one of them is “Unavailable”, he can answer later, without being unnecessarily redirected. For project monitoring, an administrator creates chat rooms by controlling who has access to them. Managers can thus easily follow several teams in parallel, which makes things much easier for them!
The benefits observed by using Talkspirit
Now that the first collaborative practices are in place, the CNPF is ready to step up a notch by soon equipping all of its employees, as soon as the “Document sharing” feature is fully operational on Talkspirit. I have people waiting!
Today, we share our documents in the cloud, but if we can co-edit them directly in the tool, it will become our unique work interface, concentrating documents, chat, video and audio calls. From an organizational point of view, this will bring even more simplicity by bringing together on a single interface all the functionalities that are useful on a daily basis, thus limiting the dispersion or duplication of information.
From a financial point of view, I also see a real gain: Talkspirit being a complete platform, it reduces licensing costs (no more need for so many apps and software to work together). I’ve calculated that switching to Talkspirit for videoconferencing will save us 16,000 euros a year. That’s a big budget. If, in the long run, we can also use the platform to organize our webinars, which today require a specific license, the gain will be even greater. Not to mention that having a single tool to manage, in compliance with the GDPR, is a real plus for us.
What’s the most important thing to remember about Talkspirit?
I see it as a gain in productivity, in simplicity to follow my teams and interact individually and as a group, and of course a financial and technical gain thanks to a simple interface, which brings together various indispensable daily functions. I also appreciate the human contact with the Talkspirit team, the possibility of formulating requests that are taken into account, there is a real exchange.
Talkspirit’s view on the CNPF’s issues
“By its very nature, the CNPF’s operations are based on remote work. Such an organization requires fluid, high-performance, well-integrated tools that strengthen cohesion between teams and promote the circulation of information. The establishment was aware of the burdensome nature of email exchanges, with numerous messages sent and received every day, loops of recipients and exchanges of attachments that are sometimes difficult to follow. Management wanted a tool that would simplify interactions by bringing them together in one place, rather than switching from one tool to another throughout the day.
Talkspirit provides them with a single, easy-to-use work interface that creates cohesion but also allows information to be compartmentalized when necessary. Other sectors with dispersed workforces can take advantage of it, such as the sales force, hotel chains, real estate agencies, etc.
We are very attentive to the CNPF’s feedback and requests: it is thus a true win-win partnership with our customers, to identify, develop or perfect the functionalities that are the most useful for them. In this way, we continuously improve our solution. This benefits all of our customers, with a work tool that is always more complete and more efficient”.
The Talkspirit teams are available to answer all your questions and help you with your collaborative projects. Please contact us!
Author: Clémentine Garnier