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May 03, 2016

Be global. Act local. The story behind GE Energy Connections’ transition to lean marketing.

Thought by Brent Bice, Sr. Account Executive
GE Energy Connections - Lean Marketing - FFW

In 2012, GE Energy split into three distinct businesses: GE Power, GE Oil & Gas, and GE Energy Connections. Each reporting earnings separately. Each with their own strategic initiatives. Each needing their own websites focused on regional and product-specific content.

The result was three separate companies, leveraging a myriad web technologies with dozens of websites that did not provide their users with a unified, seamless experience. Additionally, the overhead for developing, maintaining and supporting these properties was expensive and created challenges for both marketing and IT.

GE Energy Connections’ digital marketing and IT team quickly felt the shockwave as they worked tirelessly to maintain the systems, respond to market changes and support other sales and marketing initiatives. They knew they had to make significant changes and work together to simplify and consolidate their web platforms to one solution. They also knew that they needed a much improved web content management system - flexible enough to manage their unique needs, powerful enough to support a global market and secure enough to allow the teams to sleep at night.

A new digital strategy

From first touch to customer acquisition and beyond, companies that get ahead and stay ahead put their customer at the center of all their thinking – ensuring all products and services fit seamlessly into consumer desires and behaviors.

Placing your customers at the center of your thinking requires an outside in approach to marketing, sales and operations. Removing barriers, getting buy-in and working as a unified team rather than in silos. This is where GE Energy Connections’ team would focus their initiatives.

Holly Bounds, GE Energy Connections’ Digital Strategy Leader, facilitated meetings between marketing, sales and IT to ensure that their key initiatives focused on providing value to GE’s customers. She knew that in order to respond quickly to market changes and customer demand, her teams would need to become more lean and adapt quickly to a faced-paced, ever-changing web.

GE Energy Connections would become agile and remove barriers. They would adopt a single open source solution and outsource their hosting. They became laser focused on working as a unified team to provide more value to their customer.

Since web development, hosting and web support didn’t provide value to their customers they decoupled it from their internal processes, opting to outsource work to digital agencies and platform hosting providers.

A lean approach to platforms and marketing

As a part of GE Energy Connections’ decoupling and simplification initiatives, they began evaluating web solutions and digital teams that would align with their key initiatives. The solutions would need to:

  • Empower marketing to respond more quickly – putting content creation, distribution and promotion in the hands of their team. This would require a flexible content management solution.
  • Save money and not be beholden to expensive annual licensing fees and proprietary product roadmaps. GE knew they would need an open source solution.
  • Remain innovative. GE was built on innovative technology and continues to progress through innovation. They wanted to belong to a development community that shared those same values and continuously look for ways to improve and innovate based on advancements to web technology.
  • Develop on a reliable, secure platform that could scale economically and provide the comfort they needed to sleep at night.

After reviewing many content management systems and platforms, they ultimately decided upon Drupal, an open source solution that powers many of the top government, university and Fortune 1000 websites. They would host their solution on Acquia’s platform (built on Amazon Web Services) and leverage FFW’s years of Drupal expertise to develop what would become the framework from which all of GE Energy Connections’ websites would model.

Building a distributed website model

GE Energy Connections had worked for months better understanding their customer need, shifting to lean processes and selecting their CMS and hosting platform. The stage was set. It was time to begin developing the solution they envisioned.

Throughout the design and development process, FFW worked closely with GE’s digital team to understand their goals and objectives. It wasn’t enough to build an attractive website that generated conversion. They needed a solution that could:

  • Encapsulate multiple websites, making it as easy as possible to manage what could become hundreds of regional and multilingual websites through one code base to reduce maintenance and development costs.
  • Create multiple themes and layouts to be used across various business units, but retain brand consistency and cohesiveness. User experience was always top of mind.
  • Improve scalability so that new websites would be significantly easier to create – time to market needed to be fast.
  • Perform to the highest standards by leveraging advanced caching and security.
  • Remain flexible and adapt to their internal content management workflows to improve internal efficiencies while providing transparency and quality assurance.

In coordination with Acquia, FFW recommended a lightweight, distributed website model, leveraging multiple templates and unique content workflows that could control hundreds of websites through one codebase. Developing such a solution would not only satisfy GE’s existing requirements, but would allow new features to be seamlessly distributed across all websites – saving additional development costs and increasing efficiencies.

After only a few months of planning, discussing, building and testing, GE Energy Connections had a new digital platform rolled out across their Power Conversion business unit, which was the basis for the new GE Energy Consulting site that followed only two months later. The same code base was leveraged to migrate the existing headquarters site and the Industrial Solutions business unit site from other CMS platforms. Using Drupal’s multi-site capabilities, GE Energy Connections is currently managing over 40 sites on a single docroot with additional sites in various stages of development.

The intrinsic value of innovative technology

GE Energy’s digital team quickly realized the intrinsic value they had gained by leveraging innovative technologies and outsourcing their hosting and development.

In the first year, GE Energy Connections estimated a 22% decrease in hosting costs alone compared to internal data center hosting fees, and more than $645,000 in savings year over year in licensing fees and other support costs. Marketing efficiency was significantly improved, reducing the amount of time it took to respond to customer needs, publish and promote new content, and develop new websites.

Frustrations were reduced within the teams. Marketing no longer had to wait to make changes. They could instantly begin work and push updates without relying on technical support.

And as the scale and number of sites continue to grow, GE is seeing a reduction in support and maintenance needed. Their new solution requires less than 35 hours per month to maintain all of their web properties. Now that’s lean and valuable.

Lessons Learned

This is a great example of how successful enterprise organizations are leveraging open source technologies to become more agile and efficient. By focusing on customer need and adapting to an ever-changing Internet economy, you too can truly be global and act local.

It starts with focusing on your customers, assessing what provides true value to your organization and always looking for ways to become more transparent and efficient.

DrupalCon New Orleans Session

Learn more about GE Energy Connection’s journey at DrupalCon New Orleans. GE’s Holly Bounds and FFW’s Brent Bice will be co-presenting a session on Tuesday May 10 at 3:45PM in Room 279 sharing experiences about the value Drupal provides to businesses beyond clicks, conversions and revenue.

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