Overview

In 2009, global automotive supplier Continental Corporation launched a corporate-wide collaboration initiative designed to drive innovation and efficiency by facilitating knowledge exchange among more than 60,000 information workers. A linchpin of the project is harmon.ie for SharePoint, social email software that advances team collaboration and knowledge sharing by providing full-featured access to Microsoft SharePoint within email, where people are accustomed to working. With harmon.ie bridging the gap between email and SharePoint, Continental is enabling seamless document collaboration that is critical to building the network culture mandated by CEO Elmar Degenhart.

"Without harmon.ie, we could not meet our goal of achieving an integrated social, communication and collaborative environment. harmon.ie is a key enabling technology to help us break the cycle of 'knowledge monopolies' and leverage the collective intelligence of all Continental employees." - Juergen Hagg, Head of Department, Corporate Functions IT, Global Applications & Solutions

'Unified Communication and Collaboration'

Continental is a German-based automotive supplier with 2010 sales of €26 billion (US$37 billion). The company has more than 155,000 employees in 46 countries.

The company's Unified Communication and Collaboration (UCC) initiative was born out of a recognition that Continental's fragmented IT messaging, collaboration and information sharing landscape would hamper efforts to forge the people and knowledge connections needed to fuel continuing business growth. The company not only had the usual patchwork of standalone applications, but duplicate tools created by a 2007 merger with Siemens VDO Automotive AG that had added Siemens' Microsoft infrastructure to Continental's IBM environment. The results were poor usability, low user satisfaction, and inadequate preparation for the enterprise social networking required to create a collaborative corporate culture.

The company decided to consolidate tools and build an integrated communication, collaboration and social platform with their chosen applications. Most of Continental's legacy IBM platform was retained, including IBM Lotus Notes for email, and the company standardized on SharePoint 2007 for document sharing in order to take advantage of several thousand existing SharePoint sites established by former Siemens employees.

Email Bridge Needed

In Continental, as is the case elsewhere, virtually all document collaboration has traditionally taken place by email. Business-critical information and document edits from multiple reviewers were dispersed throughout the organization in email attachments on local computers. That had to change to centralize information access, streamline the document development process, and ensure permanent information availability.

Continental needed a strategy to encourage people to use SharePoint without forcing them to change their email-centric work habits. Complicating that challenge was the lack of integration between the environments of two different providers. Without a bridge between the two, end users would not be able to upload project documents and correspondence from Lotus Notes to SharePoint. That was unacceptable.

"Most of our employees still distribute information by email, and that information must be incorporated into our knowledge network. Marrying email and SharePoint is therefore a cornerstone of our efforts to build a culture of cooperation and collaboration." - Juergen Hagg

Faster, Easier Collaboration

The search for a solution led Continental to harmon.ie for SharePoint – Notes Edition. With harmon.ie's social email software, end users can drag and drop email attachments and correspondence into SharePoint from an email sidebar without leaving their email comfort zone. Users can also find, open and e-mail SharePoint files from the same email window – again without the multi-step navigation and repeated application switching otherwise required to complete SharePoint tasks.

In addition, email headers are automatically saved as SharePoint metadata, preserving vital information such as sender, data and subject for tracking and compliance purposes. Documents can be sent as links instead of attachments, substantially reducing email storage requirements. And users can take full advantage of SharePoint's co-authoring support to gather collective input, speeding the document development process.

"Without harmon.ie, project information would be stuck in our email system instead of being shared and accessible to everyone on SharePoint. Document collaboration at Continental literally depends on harmon.ie. " - Juergen Hagg

Reaping harmon.ie's Benefits

harmon.ie has been fully deployed to more than 60,000 information workers. Benefits include:

  • Collaboration enablement – harmon.ie is a key component of the enabling framework of Continental's new network culture, providing tools to facilitate document collaboration and enterprise-wide information sharing.
  • SharePoint end user adoption – For Continental employees new to SharePoint, harmon.ie will remove barriers to adoption by eliminating complex SharePoint navigation and allowing users to stay within the familiar e-mail interface instead of toggling between application windows.
  • Cross-platform compatibility – harmon.ie's ability to deliver an integrated user experience across Lotus Notes and SharePoint is enabling Continental to mix messaging and collaboration components without having to migrate to a single vendor strategy.
  • Compliance with content management requirements – Without harmon.ie, Continental users would be unable to move e-mailed project documents and correspondence to SharePoint, violating information management policies the company established to help build a more collaborative work environment.
  • Reduced email attachment volume – Continental projects a 60% reduction in email storage needs – saving 300 GB of space per day for 80,000 users – through harmon.ie's strategy of replacing document attachments with links embedded in emails.