How AIRBUS Defence and Space use VisibleThread on their 3-year Digital Transformation Program
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In this webinar we discussed
VisibleThread are delighted to partner with AIRBUS Defence and Space to support their Digital Transformation program.
Head of Commercial and Contracts for Space Systems
Airbus Defence and Space is a division of Airbus responsible for defence and aerospace products and services.
Claire Whelan (00:04):
Hello everyone. And welcome back to another VisibleThread webinar. My name is Claire. I’m on the Marketing team here at VisibleThread, and I’m delighted to welcome André Zobolski from Airbus Defence and Space to chat with us today. Earlier this year, VisibleThread announced it entered into a three-year business agreement with Airbus to support their digital transformation programme. Prior to the agreement, Airbus completed an extensive proof of value, which Andre’s going to talk about today.
Andre leads the commercial and contracts department, and he was the project lead for the VisibleThread proof of value, and now oversees the full rollout as part of their digital transformation programme. Over to you, André.
André Zobolski (01:14):
Hello everybody. Welcome to the session. Delighted to speak to you today about the journey with VisibleThread. As Claire mentioned, I’m in charge of the project to implement VisibleThread in Airbus Defence and Space. I have been asked to share our journey with you, explain a bit what the challenges have been, and also what were the success factors in rolling that out so far.
André Zobolski (02:20):
I think it’s important to give some context for those of you who don’t know us. I just will give you a brief context. Airbus Defence Space is one of the two divisions of a group. We have Airbus commercial airliners, and then we have two divisions, space, and our helicopters.
André Zobolski (03:16):
Okay, so to dive a bit deeper, we have 33,000 employees mainly based in what we call the home countries which are Germany, France, the UK, and Spain, but also with other teams worldwide. In 2020 we made 10 billion in revenue and roughly 12 billion in order intakes. And we consider ourselves one of Europe’s leaders in the defence-based sector.
Our portfolio basically ranges from satellites and communication solutions to flying platforms and services. We build, and of course, sell, combat aircraft, UNT area vehicles, transport aircraft, and of course satellites to all those platforms and we also provide services to our customers. It’s a very, very diverse and heterogeneous portfolio.
So why VisibleThread? More than two years ago we started with a proof of value. It was basically a three-month trial period. We selected 120 participants and we signed a PO for three months with VisibleThread to introduce their tool to our teams. We selected multifunctional teams, as our bids or proposals are written by very diverse teams from programme procurement to engineering.
We asked a very diverse group of people from all the different corners of the business to test the tools, VTDocs and VTWriter. To help teams get to know the tool we had 15 webinars and a physical workshop with the teams to help them to understand the functionality and understand it a little bit more. And after the three-month trial period, I started a survey to collect feedback and build the case. So, what was the feedback? High likability of the tool. This is really what I still get as feedback from new users, they often say that it’s very intuitive and easy to work with.
One of the big advantages is that VisibleThread helps us to chop our RFPs, or other big documents and structure them in a way to dispatch work to the respective team members more easily than it has been before by using traditional tools. Let’s have a look then at our quantitative data, what did we get from using the tools?
André Zobolski (08:34):
By using VisibleThread’s tools, the mean average efficiency gain per person, per user, per month was estimated at four hours per month and 80% of users recommended those tools for implementation.
The feedback is more qualitative because, with our heterogeneous organization and our different workloads, we are measuring our time spent on each proposal step, etc. So, for me, it was more important to get feedback on a qualitative basis. And the business case that I set up was if it’s it gives us more than two hours per month, then basically we have a business case, which at least is neutral from a cost-value perspective.
We started the rollout of VisibleThread in the defence space. I would like to share with you some of the challenges that I have encountered and seen – which can be divided into three groups. One is the customer portfolio mix; we have 60% roughly governmental customers and 40% commercial customers. And of course, their requirements are very different, and we have a lot of business that we do without any formal RFP.
André Zobolski (10:59):
To give you some context, we do between 1500 and 2000 proposals per year. And those proposals can range between probably 20 pages for a simple service proposal right up to several thousands of pages for combat aircraft.
One of the latest use cases for combat aircraft proposal had 3,600 pages and 42 volumes.
What were the other challenges? Idea user and use cases differ a lot within the organization and there are different processes and of course different budget holders. So, budgeting and paying is a big topic, as is security requirements. There are many complexities within our businesses too.
I would say those were the challenges. We are three months into the rollout, and we have a hundred users. If you asked me what the specific success factors of using VisibleThread’s products are? Well, it’s a new software tool so it’s not changing any process within every different space in our sales process, but certainly, it has changed the way people are communicating within our multifunctional approach.
André Zobolski (17:33):
Centralizing information sharing was essential, so we created a SharePoint to manage all the documents. We had to think about license management, because as with any new software, in the beginning, everybody wants to have it, because it looked good from the onset. The more you learn about the tool, the more you learn as well that you need to put in some upfront effort to get the most out of it. For example, the dictionary section. We adopted a flexible approach and redistributed licenses, with send boxes. I think it’s a very crucial part because confidentiality, at least, in our business of governmental and, and defense business – high tech, it’s a lot about confidentiality. And if people trust in this confidentiality and that nobody can see their documents or proposals, well that’s great. So here VisibleThread helped us a lot to gain this capability within the department so that admins or the people that have the admin rights can set up send boxes.
In any company, succeeding with any rollout is all about communication. It’s not only about stakeholders but also about targeting potential users too. What we do is a lot of internal webinars with managers.
André Zobolski (21:04):
We have around 200 contract managers and a couple of dozen in legal procurement as a central function over the entire group. So, they’re huge groups of potential users, but they are all of course, busy as well. And to tap into this potential, it’s a lot about communication sharing and training, which I think is another very crucial point. And here, I really have to say, the VisibleThread team have been great. Over the three-month trial period, we’ve been able to share 15 webinars with our managers, and we have continued to do repetitive training with managers over the course of a couple of months.
André Zobolski (22:13):
These are a mix of generic trainings that we also record and, and put on our website. Specific sessions, for example, a survey for the users, based on what specific points they would like to hear more about. Replies told me that people had the most questions about the dictionaries and especially around the different kinds of analysis. For example, gap analysis, which I think is like a hidden gem, especially on VTWriter. Since those trainings kicked off, we’ve got good usage of the tool and we can see that [the team] is discovering many more uses for the tools, which is great.
And so far, it’s very successful. Where do we stand right now? We have signed on for a three-year term with VisibleThread. We have a ramp-up plan to continue from a hundred licenses today, on both modules, VTDocs and VTWriter that will go to 250.
We have a shared platform called Confluence, a tool that we use where people can write in parallel. And the bid team has started to use it. We came a bit late for this campaign, but the bid team could use VisibleThread in the last bid phase. And, after the bid submission. They ran some of the exercises themselves again with VisibleThread just to make the case for what is the difference and how much value it can deliver. And the result was quite astonishing. So, the feedback was that in the RFP evaluation, the shredding process, and the reading process, to analyze the customer requirements, we can save two work weeks. But within the bid core team, we can save between two to four hours per week easily.
Typically, we use an external company to do the proofreading for us, because of language barriers from country to country so on those final steps we spend between fifty to hundred thousand euros per bid. And the conclusion now is that by using VTWriter, we will be able to do that fully in-house.
Claire Whelan (31:23):
Thanks very much, André. It was great to hear about the proof of value from your point of view. I do have some questions here for you. Did you use VisibleThread for compliance aspects? And if so, how are you better-aligning work to government requirements?
André Zobolski (31:46):
Yes, we use VTDocs also for requirement purposes, for compliance purposes. Compliance is a big topic in the company, of course. Yes, we have involved our legal teams and the compliance teams, the value and the benefit will come with the right dictionaries – so we are working on that.
Claire Whelan (32:23):
Overall, which of the VisibleThread capabilities were most useful?
André Zobolski (32:33):
Good question. I would say the first instance, my quick response would be abbreviations and comparing documents. Well, for me from a contractual point of view, once you have finalized your negotiation with the customer, you have your clean version of the document. In the last version, you give it to the customer to sign, comes back signed, and you will need to make sure that nothing has been changed last minute. With VTDoc, it takes 30 seconds to see what has been changed or not.
Claire Whelan (34:45):
What was your strategy to get leader leadership support during and after the proof of value? And do you have any learnings on how best to build a business case?
André Zobolski (34:59):
It’s all about communication. The advantage that we have is that VisibleThread was embedded into this programme within the defense space. The products deliver very tangible results. For my business case, I kept it quite easy – the results speak for themselves.
We don’t have a clear measurement of what we spend on each step of a proposal. So, I needed to find another way around to argue for the business case. I translated the cost of a license into how much gain you need to have. And for different spaces that adds up to around two hours per month that you need to gain. And if you have gained that at the hourly rate each month, basically the annual license is paid. This was basically my argument.
Using VisibleThread will help us to work on steps and tasks that are rather repetitive and low value like reading and comparing a document. Really saves a lot of time and money in the long run.
Claire Whelan (40:01):
Have you been able to quantify hard savings by using VisibleThread or cost avoidance?
André Zobolski (40:11):
On this proposal, it saved us several weeks of work. To not use an external agency that in the end for such a big proposal saved us around a hundred thousand euro. So that was a great achievement.
Claire Whelan (41:25):
And a question to finish up on – what would you do differently if you were to start it all again with VisibleThread?
André Zobolski (42:25):
Using VT earlier than 3 years ago would have saved us a lot of money! A lot of our competitors in the defence space have been using your products much earlier than this.
For our test case, I was a bit late with onboarding and then realizing that there are many other functions that have a use case. Whereas today I would say that certainly commercial contract people and legal and procurement, are some of the key functions that will have a very huge gain from VT.
Claire Whelan (45:21):
Yes. I just wanted to reiterate what André said. Every organization is different with different challenges, and that’s why we really encourage organizations to take on a proof of value so that you can see how VisibleThread can help solve these challenges. If you would like to learn any more about VisibleThread’s language analysis platform, just visit our website, or you can contact us at email@example.com. If you’re not yet a VT customer, you can request a demo at firstname.lastname@example.org