Energieversorgung Offenbach AG (EVO) supplies 150 000 people in Hesse and the Offenbach region with electricity, natural gas, waterand heat every day. Developments in the energy industry and increasing digitalization present the company with new challenges. The rules of the markets have changed and so has the way companies communicate and work together today. As part of these changes, EVO has decided to implement the CoffeeNet 365 Cloud Collaboration Platform so that employees can collaborate faster, easier and better. And not only as a team, but also across divisions and companies with customers, partners and suppliers. Anytime, anywhere and from any device. The introduction of the trend-setting cloud standard solution, allowed the digitization of important business processes in the areas of communication, information procurement and knowledge exchange, significant cost savings in IT and most important an establishment of modern and sustainable communication and collaboration.
The Swiss transport and logistics company Planzer with around 4,800 employees in Switzerland and abroad, set itself the goal of introducing a modern and forward-looking platform that can be used both as an intranet and for enterprise-wide collaboration. With the implementation of the Cloud-Collaboration-Solution CoffeeNet 365 the company established a trendsetting working and communication environment, increased the company-wide efficiency and the motivation and feel-good factor of the workforce.
Markus Felber is 49 years old. He takes care of the financial needs of medium-sized customers at BDO, a leading Swiss financial services and accounting firm. Markus Felber knows everything about the finances of his customers. "Trust is our top priority", says Markus Felber. Trust in people; Trust in the handling of data; Trust in BDO's service.
"In the past, this meant: trustworthy, personal advice, physical archives and regular availability over the phone. Today, it’s different. "Short-term inquiries, often outside office hours, highest security requirements and everything digital! To rely on your fiduciary means much more today!
BDO Switzerland already addressed the digitization at an early stage. They started with themselves. The workplace of their employees. "Before we offer customers something new, we must have tested it ourselves," says Markus Helbling, Head of the accounting division at BDO Switzerland. In 2010 BDO introduced CoffeeNet alias BDOnet based on Microsoft SharePoint: An Intranet+, and a digitally-oriented collaboration, communication and document management.
The BDOnet was the first step in our digitization strategy
With the introduction of the BDOnet, employees were sent to the digital age. "It took some time for us, for example, to familiarize ourselves with the tagging of documents and saying goodbye to our beloved folder structures," Helbling recalls. But the time we gained by finding information simply entering a word in a Google-like window, compensated our efforts quickly. "The BDOnet made us more agile as an organization, which enabled us to respond quicker and more reliably to our customers’ requirements."
From using it ourselves to offering it as a customer service
Some services require 24-hour availability. Hence a further step in the BDO digitization strategy followed in 2014. Customers also had to be integrated and linked to the organization via a secure infrastructure and managed in a controlled environment. The internally tested CoffeeNet (BDOnet) had now to become an extranet for the digitization of customer relationships as well and, in addition to a web-based accounting software, be part of the so-called Internet-trustee. Every customer had to be able to login to their own area with their personal details and access or work on meeting minutes, tax documents or insurance policies at any time.
"In the morning, when I come to the office, as a trustee I see, whether my customer has recently commented on the minutes. I can immediately take on his feedback and continue the work. If I have to involve colleagues on a topic, I can share documents, in the same workspace, but in a library accessible by the internal team only, finalize it with my colleagues and then drag it back to area reserved for my customer”, explains Markus Felber.
For the regionally distributed specialists the user-friendly and standardized layout facilitates their orientation across their various customer accounts. And, trustees can open up a new customer area without IT support. They only need a few clicks. And thanks to the standardization, the site is all set within minutes.
"We were familiar with the features of the Internet-trustee from the BDOnet and so we were able to fully concentrate on the onboarding of our customers and the further development of our service," Markus Felber adds.
Since 2014 CoffeeNet, as an extranet, is an integral part of BDO Internet-trustee. "Today I can offer a modern service, especially to younger clients. Offline I already had great customer relationships – but now, thanks to CoffeeNet, I can say the same for the online world" says Markus Felber proudly.
Roger Heckly works with data every day; He collects data, combines data, generates information and knowledge to then put it at disposal for his work colleagues. "I help my employer Uster Technologies AG, a leading Swiss manufacturer of measuring instruments for the textile industry, to get easier access to information and knowledge," says Heckly about his role in the company.
As a key success factor, he sees above all a consciously chosen culture, which promotes collaboration between the globally distributed employees of USTER. "Five years ago, we began to change the way we work together, triggered by the introduction of the collaboration solution UsterNet, based on CoffeeNet and Microsoft SharePoint.”
New way of working - Top-down
Whether an employee works in Tennessee or in Suzhou, the company goals must be clear to everyone. This requires, in particular, a direct and easy accessible communication from the CEO. At the same time, there must be no obstacles to effective collaboration between employees in Switzerland, the USA, China or India. These were the objectives of the former CEO of USTER. He initiated the launch of UsterNet in 2011 and personally supported the worldwide roll-out of the platform during the two subsequent years.
"UsterNet was a catalyst for change. Because it was not enough to just log in to the new tool, we had to learn a new way of working that fit the digital world. In that sense, having the top management as a role model was extremely important", Heckly summaries his observations during that time.
Historically grown data silos between departments and locations, which too often hindered efficient collaboration, had no right to exist anymore. With the UsterNet, employees were able to create virtual collaboration rooms, so-called workspaces, independently and without IT support. The information stored therein is accessible to authorized persons at any time. "This independency as well as the dismantling of the silos had to be practiced again and again," says Heckly about the most important tasks after the rollout of UsterNet.
The global UsterNet started as an intranet, a uniform information platform and a hub for all workspaces. But that was only the beginning.
More services - Bottom-Up
"This cultural shift continues to affect us today," says Heckly. For USTER, a long-term oriented increase in productivity is a central requirement. "After the UsterNet became an integral part of our daily work and we slowly familiarized with the new way of working, many are now realizing what is still possible."
Little by little, while using UsterNet, each business unit identified additional areas for efficiency improvements. One example is process-specific knowledge management in global sourcing, product management, textile technology or research & development. Key information, which previously one only got via its own network, can now be found through a central search function.
"One of the main points was dealing with correct information from the ERP system," says Heckly. Almost in every process there is the opportunity to integrate data from the ERP system, for example key figures on customers, products or suppliers, through UsterNet in the daily work. "This allows employees to work faster and with the right information, of which the source is clearly defined. And this reduces the number of mistakes."
Another example is Microsoft OneNote. OneNote is now increasingly used as an additional collaboration tool, accessible via the UsterNet. The open format of OneNote complements the features of the libraries for structured document storage, task management or posting news. In informal 'brown bag training' sessions, employees were shown how collaboration can be more informal yet also more effective with the help of OneNote: employee meetings, minutes or brainstorming sessions, for example.
"Employees have realized that thanks to UsterNet and to changing their way of working, it is now easier to organize and structure the exchange of information , also in teams with colleagues who work on other continents."
Communication, training and role models
Change or adopting a new behavior, does not happen just like that. It needs explicit support from top management. It needs training. It needs communication. It needs ambassadors such as Roger Heckly, who recognize early on how a new tool and the right way of handling it can have a positive impact on one’s own work and the organization. "It is still in my interest to remind colleagues that no more documents are sent via e-mail, that there are better solutions for individual excel sheets in UsterNet, or that one can work very well with a search engine, as long as documents are properly tagged. The change of today means being ready for tomorrow - Heckly is convinced about that.
Already at the age of 3 years Andreas Pfister loved to play with trucks. Later came the trains. He is still at home in this world today. At the family business Planzer. A Swiss transport and logistics company with around 4,800 employees, 50 locations in Switzerland and 5 abroad. Every day, around 1,400 vehicles, 350 rail cars and 3 cargo bikes transport goods for small and large companies from A to B in a sustainable way.
Andreas started as an apprentice in the dispatch department - one of the most important departments in a transport company! "It is the linchpin between customers and truck drivers. Many people who work in this department used to transport the goods in the past: a helpful experience or rather a prerequisite for being able to do a good job when planning the tours," says Andreas.
Today, Andreas is responsible for project management at Planzer Support National, develops transport concepts for large companies, prepares offers and takes care of customer support. "It's always exciting when the theory is put into practice - in the go-live of the transport concept," explains Andreas. Will it work properly on the rails and roads?
But how is such a transport concept developed today? "Experts from several Planzer locations and customers must be involved. We used to send the documents back and forth by email, but now we use our online FamilyTable. There we also find all the documents relating to Planzer's own quality management," explains Andreas.
The FamilyTable is MondayCoffee's out-of-the-box collaboration software. It replaced Planzer's existing SharePoint environment with the aim of creating a platform that combines intranet functionalities, communication and company-wide collaboration in a standardized tool. Furthermore, the solution aimed at a stronger integration and engagement of the employees, especially the drivers on the road.
"With the FamilyTable, I can set up my workrooms on my own, without spending hours on it. Project members can be easily invited, and if I need information from other projects, I have my pages that I follow just a click away. I like that," says Andreas. The tool with its predefined structure also provides the necessary orientation. "This used to be more difficult with SharePoint," adds Andreas. With his sleeves rolled back and a mischievous smile, he adds: "I have to admit, in the document libraries we still occasionally find ourselves using our old-famous file folder structure, even though that wouldn't be necessary anymore thanks to tags and the powerful search function."
It takes time, patience and practice to change the way we work. But it's worth it. "Our truck drivers post pictures on the road today via the integrated Yammer News Feed directly in the FamilyTable. "This reminds me of my time in the dispatch department," says Andreas. Or maybe of his childhood, when he dreamed of driving a big truck!
Everywhere and anytime. This is what many people expect at work. Employees also work increasingly with colleagues and externals without sitting anywhere close to them. However, it has become crucial to collaborate efficiently, easily and in a professional manner to achieve the defined objectives. A case in point is the introduction of a company-wide ERP system.
Lukas Fischer, project manager in the Corporate Development team at Emmi, Switzerland's largest dairy processor, was part of the successful implementation of their new ERP system based on SAP between 2012 and 2017. The certainty that Emmi would not be able to deal without an integrated ERP system was matched with equally large respect: this was a huge project with many unknown factors at the start.
"Every core process is affected by the introduction of such a system: countless stakeholders, countless meetings, and a never-ending number of new people who have to be onboarded and get involved as quickly as possible," explains Lukas Fischer the situation. “How can we make sure that everyone in the project team is connected intelligently and that we do not have to spend too much time with administration and IT issues?” These were the questions the project team had right from the beginning."
Efficient collaboration – agile progress
Questions that were easy to answer at Emmi. As early as 2009, Emmi started to facilitate the company-wide collaboration across its various businesses. "We wanted to enable our employees to become more efficient and agile in their collaboration. Everyone had to be able to access relevant information and existing knowledge quicker and more effectively, as well as to communicate and collaborate digitally with all involved parties, from within the company and with externals. That was the goal.
EmmiNet - the name of the SharePoint-based solution at Emmi - crystallized as a future-oriented and sustainable platform. Emmi’s operating system was already Microsoft Office at that time, and that had to remain unchanged. Hence, a professional Microsoft-compatible platform had to be found to prepare the company for its digital transformation.
No file shares, less emails
"CoffeeNet, the collaboration solution by MondayCoffee, sparked our interest not just of its original name," the application managers summed up. "We were presented an out-of-the-box and user-friendly platform that allowed us to work more efficiently and effectively, from a collaboration, communication and an enterprise-wide document management point of view. That, of course, was exactly what we needed”, Lukas Fischer recalls.
File shares and thousands of emails with attachments were gradually becoming something of the past. Needless to say, the project workers needed time to get used to the new way of working. However, they quickly familiarized themselves with the benefits of this collaboration platform and made good use of it.
The concept and implementation phases of the ERP project were entirely handled over EmmiNet. All project members can access the various documents in virtual workspaces, working together at the same time and from any device. Project updates or meeting notes can be placed at the same location, where the task lists and documents are also stored, "Lukas Fischer explains. "This has helped us to focus on what really mattered."
The rollout of the ERP project across the entire group will also take place on the EmmiNet as it allows our international colleagues to access relevant information and data quickly and easily.
In parallel to the ERP rollout, Emmi's application managers developed the EmmiNet further and also switched from a on-premise to an online solution, based on SharePoint Online / Office 365. "We focused on user-friendliness, modern and intuitive design, and a strong search function", explains the SharePoint team leader at Emmi, Thomas Pizzolato.
"We handed over the responsibility for the daily administration of EmmiNet to the business. In other words, they had to decide what kind of workspaces they wanted to use for what kind of topic and with whom”, Thomas Pizzolato summarizes the most relevant change that came with the new development. That’s why adopting the new way of working away from file shares and towards SharePoint technology is not an IT project, but much rather a business project with a large change component. "But once the users are familiar with the advantages, they don’t’ want to go back.” Precisely because one can focus on what matters most!