Case Study: Nobel Biocare


“It is no longer ‘something else we need to do,’ it just is our routine. That’s about the highest praise I can imagine.”

Brian Volken, Director of Global Nobel Procera Technical Support


1. What business needs were you trying to solve when you brought in PBworks?

Nobel Biocare is a leader and innovator in the rapidly changing dental implant and dental restoration marketspace - including implant systems, individualized prosthetics (uniquely customized for each specific patient), CAD/CAM systems, diagnostics,treatment planning and guided surgery.


We are a global company with subsidiaries in 34 markets. Take the fast-changing marketplace, shift towards CAD/CAM, high technology software, constant innovation, new employees, an expanding product line and expansion into new countries - it was a huge challenge to effectively distribute information (e.g. knowledge, best practices, tips & tricks, how-to guides, known issues, literature).


My team is responsible for post-sales support of our products - typically used by dentists and dental laboratories.  We field a wide array of technical questions on a very broad product line.  It had become impossible for one person to be an expert on everything we sell. I needed a fast, efficient and effective way to gather, consolidate, organize and distribute information - and do it quickly as new questions are asked and new solutions are found.  I needed to ensure our global support teams have all the necessary technical information prior to product launch. Adding 3D CAD systems and software to our portfolio provided a new level of complexity - not just the software, but the underlying PC and OS now required our support.


2. How were you meeting those needs prior to bringing in PBworks?

We did our best to distribute information via e-mail, online meetings and shared drives.


It was during one of our annual sales meetings that I had the opportunity to sit in a meeting with our field-based technical specialists.  I was thoroughly amazed at the volume of technical information that was being shared - verbally - among the team.  I knew that we needed a way to "harvest," consolidate, validate, organize and share this information.


3. What other solutions did you consider?

I did consider a “roll your own” SQL Server solution - but I have learned about what I call “Frankenstein” projects - those are simple grass-roots proof-of-concept projects that somehow get out of the laboratory and ravage the countryside.  All the while everyone is looking to you to be the administrator, developer and owner of the tool - in addition to one's day job.  Not again, thank you.


I did try a few free wiki products including externally and internally hosted solutions.  The wiki concept was solid, but the implementations were mostly of a very basic level.


4. What were your reasons for choosing PBworks over the other solutions considered?

PBworks (then known as PBwiki) had a nice product - good user interface, good pricing.  The PBwiki team was still developing a mature "enterprise ready" product at the time, and they were interested in my experiences and my 'wish list'. Despite my earlier "Frankenstein" experiences, I did a grass-roots proof-of-concept in North America.  The results were interesting, and, indeed, the monster did escape the lab and the project went global (English only).  Fortunately, the PBworks product was developing into a more robust, more fully-featured product - features like folders, page-level-security and improved user management - and I was able to keep the global expansion under control.  Mostly, I have been pleased that the PBworks team listened to my inputs - positive and negative.  The team has continued to evolve the product. I like to think it couldn't have been done without me!


5. How did you roll out PBworks to your team?

First, in the North America pilot, I led by example - extracting "knowledge nuggets" from the flurry of e-mail passing my system daily. As the quantity of information reached a ‘critical mass’, then the audience began to come to us asking for access.


It is important to carefully consider the culture of your organization.  A tool alone, regardless of how well it works, will not solve any problems, no more than a box of tools will build the house for you.  Changing behavior is more complex and takes longer than you plan.  Progress can be slow (I'm in year three of the process!). Leadership support (or at least ambivalence) is important.  And attempting to grow a solution from the grass-roots upward is exceptionally difficult.


When my position changed to global in scope, I included the Knowledge Database Wiki (KDB WIKI) into my strategy for a globally organized support team. The KDB WIKI has a central place in my Vision Statement for my department:


The KDB WIKI was the core of my communication strategy - email was OK - if it included links to the information on the KDB WIKI.


Rollout was by no means easy.  Changing global behavior is a complex change management issue. Implementation is a continuous process of change, implement, listen, change again, repeat. Our KDB WIKI has undergone many evolutions, from a single workspace to multiple workspaces, and from a 'bucket-o-information' to a well-organized structure.


6. How did the PBworks team help you configure PBworks to meet your team's specific needs?

Not to sound like a PBworks commercial, but as I mentioned several times before, the PBworks team, up to and including the president, listened to our issues and our needs.  More importantly, the team made every effort to meet those needs, and they have indeed met them all. Especially in the areas of user management and administration - the addition of groups (we have over 350 users) was a massive improvement. A recent example, I noticed that on the user profile page, an administrator could see the user group memberships, but could not change them. I submitted a suggestion that being able to add and delete users from groups while on their profile page would be very handy.  In just a few months the feature was there (and a damn handy feature it is).  It is this commitment to enhancement of the feature set and the usability of the product that has been a great help.   The ability to see documents without first having to download them - it's in there.  Today, my list of "need to have" is empty and only a few things are on my “nice to have” list


7. How has PBworks changed the way your team works?

It is very gratifying to hear almost everyone in the organization refer to “the WIKI”.  "“It is on the WIKI” or “did you check the WIKI” are very common now. Our team could not efficiently execute the complex task of a globally coordinated support effort without having access to centralized data.  We could never achieve the level of quality, competence and speed we need without a tool like PBworks.  We do not have the luxury of having regular training sessions - we are scattered globally and we need to be on the phone or with the customer.  The WIKI allows us to, in essence, deliver continuous training.  I like to say the KDB WIKI enables us to be an expert when we need to be an expert - when the customer needs us to be an expert.


8. How do you feel about PBworks after rolling it out to your organization?

I like to say that the KDB WIKI is now ‘invisible’.  The good news is I really don't think about the WIKI anymore.  This may seem odd, but, the whole concept has evolved into “the way we do business”.  It is no longer “something else we need to do”, it is not an imposition into our regular routines — it just is our routine. So, the need (and ability) to feel nothing is about the highest praise I can imagine.

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