The same procedure as every year?
A huge, lavishly decorated Christmas tree standing in Krones’ headquarters building at Neutraubling, adorned not only with colourful balls but also with innumerable wish slips. At Krones, that usually means: the company’s Christmas initiative, which enables Krones employees to give presents to children living in homes, is once again in full swing.
“Usually”, however, here being the cue indicating that 2020 is a whole lot different from previous years. Large crowds in front of the Christmas tree in Krones’ headquarters building had to be avoided this year, nor would any employee working from home have had an opportunity to take a wish slip off the tree. So the coronavirus pandemic put a spoke in our Christmas initiative’s wheel, too. Meaning cancel it altogether? For our project team, that was completely out of the question. After all, the Christmas initiative has meanwhile become a fixture in Krones’ calendar, and the children in the homes would surely be happy to get gifts again from the Father Christmases at Krones. So one thing was clear even in summer: the team had to come up with an alternative. And I can tell you this much now: the initiative has been transferred to the online world.
What exactly this alternative looks like and how Krones succeeded in having its virtual Christmas tree after all, this is what you will now learn from my colleague Kai Bernard, who works in the Corporate Communications team and has deployed a great deal of energy and expertise to get the digital alternative up and running.
Kai, what’s inspired you to join the team tasked with implementing our Christmas initiative?
I have really been a fan (and participant) of it ever since it was launched. I thought it would have been a shame not to have the Christmas initiative in this unpleasant year, of all time! And it was also a matter dear to our heart, not only for me but for the entire team.
What role exactly have you been playing in this project?
I was tasked with finding a way of how we could make the cards available to our employees online. The top priority here was, of course, to ensure that the alternative could be implemented relatively fast and without any fuss. Ultimately, we opted for SharePoint in connection with Power Automate. These two applications do in fact provide everything you need to image this sort of workflow.
To start with, my colleague Nicole scanned all of the wish slips written by the children one by one and uploaded them into a public library, in which the participants would then be able to view them later on. With the aid of user-defined formatting, a button was added to each of the cards that triggers a flow in Power Automate for the card in question – at precisely the moment when an employee chooses to make the wish written on the card come true. So if this particular card “was taken off the tree”, a flow was triggered, whereupon a confirmation mail was sent, a check performed to see whether the card had already “been taken off” and the card in question deleted from the public pool.
What sort of problems cropped up while you were implementing this procedure?
To tell the truth, the biggest challenge was to design the complete package for maximised simplicity, so as to minimise the obstacles preventing people from participating. Needless to say, a SharePoint library does not radiate the same magical charm as a Christmas tree, with all the cards attached. But the only thing that matters in the end is that all the children’s wishes are really turned into presents. It was a big help, too, that I was able to configure the workflow so as to make sure the participants received their cards by email via Power Automate. Thanks to this solution, the employees simply found their specific wish slip they had “taken off the tree” in their Outlook inbox as an email, and they didn’t have to bother with familiarising themselves with a new system. Another equally important aspect was to prevent more than one employee choosing the same card. But thanks to the underlying flow, it was possible to avoid this, too.
How long did it ultimately take you to implement this elaborate project in the system?
I tinkered with its implementation over a period of two to three weeks, whenever my daily work routine left me some room for it.
Did you take part as well?
You bet! At the latest when I see some kid wishing for Star Wars Lego, I can’t help myself: I rush out and buy it.
In your opinion, was our Christmas initiative’s digital version just as successful as the “normal” one?
Yes, at least as successful. I was really amazed at the run on the cards and very pleased, of course, to find that people took to the initiative so well even in its digital version. Obviously, a bit of your pre-Christmas fascination is lost when you cannot go to the tree and “take your card off” yourself. But the only thing that matters in the end is that you’re going to give some kid great pleasure. And I think we’ve definitely achieved that goal.
Thank you, dear Kai, for taking the time to talk to me, and thank you, everyone in the project team, who have seen the initiative through this year as well. And now I would say we can take the question mark off our headline. Yes, we do want to have the same procedure as every year here at Krones: playing Father Christmas and giving pleasure to children from the surrounding region. So now it’s time to wish you a very Merry Christmas that will hopefully – just like our Christmas initiative – perhaps be a bit different this time round but definitely no less special than in all the previous years!