Customer Story

Viessmann: Building a smart business to deliver smart homes

Man with manufacturing equipment

German manufacturing giant Viessmann combines the benefits of a centralized company structure with the speed of cloud collaboration to transform working life for its 12,000 employees.

Google Cloud results

Cuts costs by enabling Bring Your Own Device

• Migrates more than 8,000 users in only six months
• Enables centralized oversight without compromising speed
• Powers a factory floor terminal with Drive for real-time figures on quality control, workforce, and production numbers

Viessmann is a truly international business. From its base in Allendorf, central Germany, the manufacturing giant produces energy systems in 12 countries and services 74 territories around the world.

“We have 12,000 people working at sites from France, to Turkey, China, and North America,” says Alexander Pöllmann, the company’s Head of Intranet and Collaboration Services. “We cover the full range of time zones. But to control quality and the production process, we centralize systems as much as possible around our headquarters in Allendorf.”

Technology plays a vital role in making that centralized operation possible. When the company launched a digital transformation project in 2015, finding a replacement for its legacy email and document management system was a prime concern.

“Our email solution was outdated, and the feedback from our companies was that we needed to change,” says Alexander. “The trend in our industry is toward smart home devices. We’re building a smart business to match.”

Running IT systems at scale for a centralized international business is a major challenge. At Viessmann, all the production, distribution, and sales companies within the business used an IT infrastructure routed through Allendorf, Germany. That created significant latency problems for users looking to connect from sites on the other side of the world.

“We were experiencing delays when connecting from remote offices such as Beijing, especially at times of day when the network was in particular demand,” says Alexander.

Poor connectivity for mobile working was another constraint on flexibility. Staff could only send or receive emails when directly connected to a company server and could only connect with specific, compatible devices using clunky remote access solutions. It was a problem that ran beyond email to file sharing and video conferencing.

That’s why instead of simply installing a replacement email product, Viessmann looked to implement a comprehensive communication and collaboration platform. And by choosing a solution based in the cloud, the business aimed to eliminate the latency issues associated with its centralized network.

Finding the cloud tools that people really want

“We’ve been working with G Suite for a long time, so we’re used to getting on-site and setting a smooth migration process in motion. By ‘inviting’ employees to the process, providing training, and facilitating one-click migration, G Suite ensures a positive experience for everyone.” – Benny Woletz, Managing Director, Cloudwürdig

The Viessmann team ran a benchmark to test leading cloud-based communication solutions. “One aspect of our benchmark was user testing,” says Alexander. “Evaluations showed that testers found G Suite easier to use than any of the other options.”

Usability was just one of many factors behind the selection. “From my perspective, the main advantage is that G Suite operates independently of the device you’re using,” says Alexander. “That's good for users, but it's also good for the IT department. Google is transparent about its own security infrastructure and investment, and with the G Suite security layer we don't have to manage multiple clients. All people need is a Chrome browser on their device or a suitable app.”

At first, the team migrated 250 people based in Germany, including three board members. “Migrating senior management from the beginning gave them confidence in the new solution,” says Alexander. “Because they were involved early on, they could make an informed decision about the migration of the rest of the company. It also gave them confidence that we were capable of managing this deployment.” After a further 750 people and all board members were migrated to G Suite over the following four months, management assessed progress, then approved the deployment of around 10,000 accounts across the whole company.

“G Suite and Google Hangouts Meet help us cut costs by enabling Bring Your Own Device services and reducing the need for in-person business trips. We’re saving on hardware investment, without compromising security.” – Alexander Pöllmann, Head of Intranet and Collaboration Services, Viessmann

German cloud consultancy Cloudwürdig provided support for the migration. “Cloudwürdig have been an excellent partner for the project,” says Alexander. “From a technical point of view, they prepared everything so well that the migration was truly user friendly: from on-site training, to an automated migration of data that users could activate by clicking on a link.” With Cloudwürdig assistance, Viessmann began to migrate 1,500 people to G Suite per month, from all over the world.

“We’ve been working with G Suite for a long time,” says Cloudwürdig Managing Director, Benny Woletz. “So we’re used to getting on-site and setting a smooth migration process in motion. By ‘inviting’ employees to the process, providing training, and facilitating one-click migration, G Suite ensures a positive experience for everyone.”

“G Suite and Google Hangouts Meet help us cut costs by enabling Bring Your Own Device services and reducing the need for in-person business trips,” adds Alexander. “We’re saving on hardware investment, without compromising security.”

Becoming more independent, for closer collaboration

“The G Suite communications infrastructure looks after itself, and it’s made each of us more independent, too. We can work together from home, an airport, across borders and time zones, on any device.” – Alexander Pöllmann, Head of Intranet and Collaboration Services, Viessmann

Enabling users with mobility and flexibility has transformed work processes at Viessmann, as Alexander explains: “Because we’ve been able to introduce mobile working, we can communicate between time zones more effectively. People can jump onto Google Hangouts Meet from outside the office, using any device. That means we don’t have to rely on the window in the day when working hours overlap in China, Denmark, and Turkey, for example. And because they can join from anywhere, it’s easier for more people to make themselves available and take part in discussions.”

Meet is now used for everything from board meetings to daily stand-ups, which teams in different locations use to stay connected and in sync. “We simply bring our own devices into meeting rooms and use them to connect to Meet,” says Alexander.

Working together on Docs means Viessmann teams can now access a single version of a file from anywhere, rather than multiple versions held on servers that were only accessible from the office. And by combining Docs with Sheets and Sites, Viessmann has even developed a terminal that stands on the factory line at production sites, relaying real-time information on production numbers, quotas, staff absences, and quality assessment.

“We have different production lines for different products, but each uses the same Google Sites template with Google Docs and Google Sheets in the background,” says Alexander. “It’s both an information panel and a place for people to enter data through a touch screen.” By sharing real-time information in a simple way, production issues can be quickly spotted and dealt with, whether by rebalancing workloads or reallocating resources.

“The G Suite communications infrastructure looks after itself, and it’s made each of us more independent, too,” says Alexander. “We can work together from home, an airport, across borders and time zones, on any device. When it comes to acquiring another company, those loosely coupled units can be easily integrated without prior technical preparation. That saves us a lot of time and money.”

Calming user anxiety with simple, durable, long-life Chromebooks

Alexander and his team reached out for feedback from each block of 1,500 users, six weeks after their migration. “In our experience, six weeks is typically the point where novelty has worn off and people may be disappointed with a new piece of software or hardware,” says Alexander. “We set ourselves the ambitious goal to have 90% of users either ‘very happy’ or ‘satisfied’ with the change. When all the results came in, the average was 94%. That was a real success for the project.”

Now, Viessmann is migrating its entire archive of historical data to Drive, while it prepares for the deployment of Chromebooks.

“People are asking us to deploy Chromebooks as soon as possible,” says Alexander. “It’s not just the long battery life and smart look. With Chromebooks, they don’t have to deal with the anxiety that they’re going to break the device if they try something new. In the worst case, all they need to do is restart, and it’s as if they have a new laptop. Like the rest of G Suite, it sounds simple, but it makes a big difference to working life.”

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Cloudwürdig

Cloudwürdig is a leading cloud consultancy based in Germany, specializing in the implementation of G Suite, Google Cloud Platform, and Chrome for Business.