Welcome to our Work Unleashed series: a collection of posts from Box executives and conversations with Box customers on navigating the "new normal" of work today. Here, you'll find insights and resources that enable your teams to do their best work, anywhere, anytime.
The work IDEXX does touches a lot of people, and they may not even be aware of it. A member of the S&P 500, the biotech company serves the companion animal veterinary, livestock and poultry, water testing, and dairy markets with crucial diagnostics and software solutions. In a recent conversation with CIO Ken Grady, he quipped: "Safe drinking water. Fluffy puppies. Healthy kids. Even though people don't know IDEXX, they can all relate to our mission and purpose as a company."
Grady has overseen a transition from legacy IT to cloud-native IT that’s helping IDEXX scale from a distributor-based to a direct-to-customer model. He’s responsible for all workplace tech at IDEXX, and as the COVID-19 pandemic shifted global ways of work in 2020, he also oversaw 60% of employees’ swift transition to remote work.
A crash course in remote work
In addition to the global remote work shift, IDEXX recently made headlines when one of its subsidiaries, Opti Medical Systems, began to produce COVID-19 test kits for humans, building on existing tests for animals at its worldwide labs. That precipitated a lot of media and marketing collaboration that had to happen quickly and under pressure — and, of course, remotely.
Luckily, as Grady explains, "The breadth of collaboration capabilities we have across the company has accelerated for years." Still, not all employees were using all the tools. Prior to 2020, it wasn’t uncommon for an employee to work remotely at certain times, but that often meant simply working on a spreadsheet file brought home on a laptop.
One of the silver linings Grady has seen is a much higher comfort level with collaboration technology. Help-desk requests by employees spiked for the first few weeks of stay-at-home orders. But now, total help desk volume is down — not just down from the last few months, but from the last few years — by around 15%. People are getting a crash course in remote work and sophisticated use of cloud-based tools, and they're getting better at it, fast. Box data specifically shows that once-basic users are now starting to take advantage of more advanced features. Grady says “They are figuring out how to use this stuff that they've had access to all along and do more interesting things."
Why the cloud?
This rapid learning is good news, because IDEXX is intent on being a knowledge-based, cloud-native organization. “We’re based outside of Portland, Maine,” Grady says. “It’s beautiful, but it’s a hop or two off the internet superhighway.” The cloud scales well for variable demand over time — something that’s important in a diagnostics world where, for instance, pet Lyme disease tests spike in the summer.
Using Box in particular helps IDEXX keep its content and data compliant as the company navigates the complexities of regulation across diagnostics fields. Grady talks about leveraging Box Relay in the company’s workflows to route documents that need certain approvals through the correct paths. With a switch to a best-of-breed cloud-based approach, Grady says, "We've really changed the underpinnings of our technology to allow us to scale to our customers in the way that we aspire to.”
The hidden benefits of remote onboarding
Leadership at IDEXX has a learning curve when it comes to onboarding remotely. In person, a new employee would get an IDEXX tote bag, a personal tour of campus, and the chance to "drink the Kool Aid" in person, as Grady puts it. HR has had to hustle to keep the remote onboarding experience personal and effective. But one bonus of the remote talent search is that there’s no longer as much of a geographic component to sourcing candidates. Knowing that employees won’t necessarily have to commute to a physical office in the future, IDEXX can broaden its reach to attract candidates who live anywhere.
Of course, a lot of other companies have that advantage now, too. Grady says, "It sort of forces you to up your game as an employer." To that end, having a single platform for things like discovery and retention, and the ability to apply knowledge across everything, from HR to diagnostics to scientific research, gives IDEXX a leg up.
Moving from continuity to improved capability
The data and anecdotal evidence show that IDEXX’s remote workforce has been more productive than ever during the last few months. But it’s not an entirely sustainable velocity, in Grady’s mind. “We’re all going through unusual, trying times,” he says, “and simply trying to stay focused and be productive.”
For the time being, he plans to stay focused on continuity of service, continuity of operations, and, of course, continuity of care for both the workforce and customers. The next step will be to improve upon the company’s technological capability to improve upon remote work processes, using the information gathered from this experience and from conversations with other people in the industry. This latter point is an important one for Grady. “The one thing I would encourage you all to do, if you’re not already doing it, is to reach out. Everyone is in the same boat, and they want to swap ideas. We’re all in this together.”
Watch the full session with Ken Grady below.