Leading Dutch construction group drives closer collaboration and mobile Firstline working with modern enterprise solutions

With a history that stretches back over 150 years, Netherlands-based VolkerWessels saw the potential to transform its business and how it operates. By deploying Microsoft 365 and moving its infrastructure to the cloud, the company stands out as a leader, empowering all employees with more collaborative and mobile ways of working, while increasing efficiency. The secure platform underpins the business giving VolkerWessels more opportunity to focus on groundbreaking digital innovations and sustainable solutions.

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“We believe that standardization and the cloud are central to providing us with a platform for innovation—that’s why we wanted to work with Microsoft. It gives us the tools we required to grow.”

- Frank de Jong, IT Manager, VolkerWessels Construction & Real Estate Development 

The recession that followed the banking crisis of 2007 affected the whole Dutch economy. However, construction group VolkerWessels saw it as a springboard to move forward.

“The crisis gave us a choice—we could sit crying in the corner or use it as an opportunity to innovate,” says Frank de Jong, IT Manager at VolkerWessels Construction & Real Estate Development. “We looked hard at how technology could help us move into the future.”

VolkerWessels is dedicated to building a better quality of life for people across the countries it operates in. It prides itself on being at the forefront of the construction sector when it comes to innovation, sustainability and efficiency.

However, the company felt that its existing, disparate IT infrastructure was not providing the platform that it required to deliver efficient, innovative solutions. Instability meant that there were near-constant technology issues, leading to system outages, with employees often unable to work productively.

“While cost is always a factor, we used the recession to examine how other construction companies operate. From this, we realized we needed to change,” explains Luurt van der Ploeg, CFO at VolkerWessels Construction & Real Estate Development. “We had to industrialize our construction processes to reduce failure costs, decrease construction time, and increase delivery security.”

From the frontline to the boardroom

VolkerWessels employees range from Firstline Workers on construction sites to managers and executives in office buildings. To better support its disparate teams, the company needed technology that would be flexible and scalable enough to transform its operations. Consequently, it chose to migrate its work environment to Microsoft 365 Enterprise E3, which includes Office 365 ProPlus, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security. VolkerWessels also deployed Microsoft Azure to move its infrastructure to the cloud.

“We believe that standardization and the cloud are central to providing us with a platform for innovation—that’s why we wanted to work with Microsoft,” says de Jong. “It gives us the tools we required to move the business forward.”

VolkerWessels includes five separate divisions, but the construction and real estate development department has helped lead the digital transformation. It has now empowered 4,000 users with everything they need to work more flexibly, securely, and efficiently—wherever they are. For example, 1,000 employees use Windows 10 Enterprise and Office 365 ProPlus on Microsoft Surface Pro devices to access and update information from construction sites. As data is in the cloud, workers can seamlessly transition between devices, while working with colleagues on different platforms without barriers. Tasks that previously could only be carried out in an office can now be achieved onsite, speeding up processes and making it simple and secure to enable closer collaboration with customers, contractors, and partners with Office 365 ProPlus.

VolkerWessels is now using the full range of tools and applications within Office 365, including Microsoft OneDrive for cloud-based storage and Yammer for companywide communication. Demonstrating the scale of the solution, the platform handled over 24.5 million incoming and outgoing emails in 2018 through Microsoft Outlook. And the company now stores 680,000 documents on Microsoft SharePoint Online, up from 380,000 in 2017.

Security for a mobile workforce

With an increasingly mobile, always-on workforce, security is vital. VolkerWessels relies on the security features within Microsoft, including Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), which leverages machine learning and threat intelligence in the cloud to detect advanced attacks and protect users. “Every email is scanned, and every user is aware of this. This means they know that when they receive an attachment it is safe to open,” says de Jong.

To manage the company’s 6,000 mobile devices, VolkerWessels uses Microsoft Intune, which reduces administration time through simpler device management, and makes it straightforward to remotely erase data if devices are lost or stolen. “Our auditors recently evaluated our operations and were very impressed with how we protect data on mobile devices using Intune.”

Providing a platform for future growth

Unlike its previous infrastructure, VolkerWessels is confident that all of its activities are underpinned by a standards-based, stable and always available platform. Employees can access their data in the cloud securely from any authorized device. “With Microsoft, we have the stability we need. We know our data is always up to date in the cloud, so we can shift our focus to improving the business, rather than managing IT. For example, moving from Windows 7 to Windows 10 was extremely straightforward,” says de Jong.

Supporting business transformation

By working with Microsoft, VolkerWessels is further digitizing its business to drive innovation and efficiency. For example, in partnership with Microsoft, it has developed a 3D asset management solution. This brings together data on buildings and models  in a visual, understandable way, helping VolkerWessels to better advise customers, such as real estate owners, on how they manage their buildings and opening up potential new revenue opportunities. “When we chose to change suppliers, it was not only about cost, but also quality. We were looking for a partner for the future—we have this with Microsoft. The team is very proactive in giving us advice and helping us move forward,” says van der Ploeg.

Underpinning new ways of working

VolkerWessels employees are now able to work in a more mobile, flexible way. For a company of 16,000 with a decentralized structure, this helps drive greater co-operation. They can more securely share files through SharePoint with internal employees and external partners, with Microsoft Teams being evaluated as a hub for future collaboration. In 2018, VolkerWessels held 4,100 meetings over Skype for Business, enabling employees to work more effectively and reducing travel time.

Gerwin Plaggenmars, Business Manager at VolkerWessels Construction & Real Estate Development, who is responsible for introducing new technology from the business side, explains that the company is driving user adoption through focused pilots that are then expanded, “One of the key benefits our teams talk about is the ability to communicate and work together. Sharing files and having a conversation is now just one click away.”

“The construction industry is undergoing transformation. Just three years ago it was all paper and 2D information. Now we are digitized and using 3D models,” says van der Ploeg. “We can show customers upfront what they will get and be 99.9 percent sure that they will receive it—Microsoft’s platform enables us to deliver.”

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.