XM Radio Uses QuickBase to Help Transform Organizational Behavior

Feb 11, 2008
7 Min Read

People sometimes express a concern that taking social software inside the organization will lead to employees wasting time. One of the ironies is that the right applications of web 2.0 can actually increase productivity through increased discipline in the work processes. This comes as a result of the increased transparency that can result from Web 2.0 tools, as well as the increased collaboration. People tend to perform better when they know that their peers and management have a window into the status of projects, and even better still when others can easily provide comments and suggestions. Here is an example of Changing Organization Behavior at XM Radio through Enterprise 2.0 and QuickBase. It is reproduced with permission from the Portals and KM blog.

"There has been some friendly controversy covered, in part, on that blog on whether enterprise 2.0 can actually help change organizational behavior. Andrew McAfee has proposed this position and others such as Tom Davenport have said that “Enterprise 2.0 won't transform organizations.” As I wrote there in, Managing Personal Knowledge: Setting a Foundation for Transformation?, I think the differences have been somewhat exaggerated but it still sets up an interesting debate.

Well here is a chance to move beyond debate to see an example where introducing an enterprise 2.0 tool, QuickBase in this case, actually helped transform organizational behavior. In this case it helped move XM Radio from an organization relying primarily on email and desktop tools like Word and Excel to a globally collaborative organization that performed most program management activities using QuickBase in the successful launch of their new satellite radio to the market.

Let me set the stage and fill in some of the details. XM is the number one satellite radio company in the US with more than 8.5 million subscribers. It broadcasts live daily from studios in Washington, DC, New York City, Chicago, the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Toronto and Montreal. XM's 2007 lineup includes more than 170 digital channels including commercial-free music, sports, news, talk radio, comedy, children's and entertainment programming; along with traffic and weather information. So there is a lot to coordinate.

XM Radio also works with the automobile market through partnerships with carmakers such as General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Porsche, Ferrari, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota. In addition, they make chips to support their radio services so there is a global manufacturing effort and supply chain to support. I recently spoke with Mark Roenigk, the Senior VP for Operations at XM Radio on these activities. Mark has been with XM Radio for 9 months and found that some functional groups were still operating in a startup mode with few defined processes. Communication was done through email and desktop tools that provided little ability for online peer to peer communication.

XM brought in an enterprise 2.0 tool, QuickBase, to help bring more rigor, order, collaboration, and transparency to the processes (see my post QuickBase: Enterprise 2.0 Application Builder for Business Users). Since it was a hosted service, the monthly rental fee per user was an easier way to get started and provided a quicker and easier implementation. XM first used it for project management around the launch of XM Radio’s newest product called the XpressRC. QuickBase facilitated global communication amongst the many partners involved in the successful launch of the XpressRC throughout the end to end supply chain. QuickBase provided a robust program management database that made the key issues transparent so they could be addressed and resolved in a timely manner. The transparency promoted accountability and a clear and concise escalation process. The right data was in place for all to see and progress could be posted in QuickBase via a very effective metrics dashboard. This is what many enterprise 2.0 advocates have predicted so it is nice to see it happen.

QuickBase can be applied to many applications and the success with project management gained broad support for this enterprise 2.0 approach. A variety of uses emerged. QuickBase was utilized by XM to manage outsourced partner management throughout the Supply Chain. It was used for collaboration with manufacturing partners. Operational and logistics issues could be listed in QuickBase and resolved within the tool. Emails on issue resolution were eliminated as all progress was entered real time by the respective parties. QuickBase was applied to assist XM with end to end visibility of product throughout the supply chain and is used as the primary inventory reporting tool. The graphics for all product artwork and packaging resides in a repository within QuickBase and can be quickly accessed and used by XM and all of their supply chain partners. XM radio also uses QuickBase to many cost reduction and efficiency improvement projects to provide a common platform and toolset so the all projects are managed consistently and transparently.

All of these individual QuickBase applications were developed by business teams at XM to support their newly defined processes. Prior to enterprise 2.0 many software tools imposed a built-in top-down process on business teams. Mark said that the ability to share information quickly and collaboratively with increased transparency of real business issues was a huge value add with the implementation of QuickBase. QuickBase increased accountability and conversation, and this change enabled meaningful collaboration, a much better way to improve the operational efficiency of the organization."

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