Video conferencing, collaboration tools and cloud applications have become an integral part of everyday work in countless companies. The pandemic has driven decentralised digital working to unprecedented heights. Union Investment recognised the benefits long before. Together with adesso, the capital management company of the Genossenschaftliche FinanzGruppe switched to Microsoft 365 and introduced Microsoft Teams for 3,500 employees.
Union Investment sums up its own claim in a single word: forward-looking. Understanding what is going on in the world. Knowing today what tomorrow will bring. Always thinking one step ahead. That is what Union Investment stands for. As a leading German capital management company, this applies not only to its view of the markets and its work for its customers, but also to the topic of digitalisation. When it comes to digital transformation, Union Investment must think and act with foresight.
‘We wanted to take advantage of the digital opportunities that the new world has to offer,’ says Christine Pagel. The project manager of Union IT-Services GmbH is referring to November 2020. With a single click, she and the project team activated Microsoft Teams for 3,500 users. ‘It was a nice moment because we had worked very hard for the launch and everything went smoothly in the end,’ Pagel recalls. The release of the collaboration tool was a milestone in the ‘Collaboration goes Microsoft 365’ project (CgM365). Its beginnings date back to a time when nobody could have predicted the Covid-19 crisis, not even Union Investment. However, the company had already recognised the benefits of collaboration tools and video conferencing before the pandemic saw their popularity skyrocket.
The main reasons that led the company to take this step were wanting to discover new forms of collaboration and exploit the potential offered by switching to cloud-based applications. It also had quite a pragmatic reason, too: the on-premises application SharePoint 2013 it had been using up to that point was being discontinued. For Union Investment, SharePoint 2013 was a cornerstone of collaboration. There were countless project and collaboration sites, and almost 40 specialist applications ran on SharePoint 2013. ‘We needed an alternative for everything we had mapped on SharePoint up to that point anyway,’ says Pagel.
The search for this alternative began with a preliminary study, for which Union Investment chose adesso as its expert IT service provider. Both companies knew each other from previous successful projects. ‘Plus, adesso impressed us with its technical and specialist expertise as well as a lot of project experience in the Microsoft 365 environment,’ Pagel explains.
Starting in May 2019, the partners worked together to develop a professional and technical objective for using Microsoft 365 services. During this time, they laid the foundations and created the organisational and procedural requirements for the switch. In January 2020, the implementation commenced. ‘That’s when we first focused on getting the other units in the company involved.’ Finally, the main goal for 2020 was to go live with Microsoft Teams.
Union Investment, headquartered in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, is the investment company of the DZ Bank and a member of the Genossenschaftliche FinanzGruppe. The mutual funds are distributed through the 875 German cooperative banks (known as Volksbanken and Raiffeisenbanken) as well as through the sales force of Bausparkasse Schwäbisch Hall AG.
The most noticeable change in the course of CgM365 was the introduction of Teams. The tool and its collaboration options were completely new for Union Investment. To prepare themselves, Pagel’s team kicked off a pilot phase with 150 participants before the tool was introduced throughout the entire company. The launch for all of the approximately 3,500 employees then took place following the pilot phase. ‘Teams proved to be really popular. It was nice to see that we met an apparent need,’ says Pagel.
But IT operations also had to change. ‘The biggest challenge is that everything is different now. We were used to buying a product that doesn’t change for five years after its implementation,’ Pagel says. ‘But that is a thing of the past. With Teams, something changed every day.’ A paradigm shift that forces established processes in IT to adapt.
Together with adesso, around 25 employees at Union Investment began to adapt the processes. Part of this was related to training. Continuous training and new ways of imparting knowledge are now needed in place of one-off seminars. ‘With adesso’s help, we are developing a concept that will keep all our users up to date,’ says Pagel.
Union Investment reached a milestone with the launch of Microsoft Teams. The company laid the foundations for decentralised, digital working at an early stage. ‘Everything went perfectly on the technical side of things. The bigger task was and is the cultural change for both the users and operations. You need this change to successfully establish new tools such as Teams. But we got off to a good start in that respect as well,’ says a satisfied Pagel.
The CgM365 project is not completely finished yet. Although Teams received the most attention within the company, the project and the technical implementation of Microsoft 365 go further for Union Investment. Pagel’s team is particularly busy with migrating the SharePoint application. The company continues to receive support from adesso. ‘We are incredibly impressed by the strategic project support we received from adesso. From the preliminary study to the implementation and rollout of the new Microsoft 365 service, Union Investment was always able to rely on adesso’s expertise,’ says the IT project manager.