Project Manager at Alpiq
Wherever you go in Europe, there’s a good chance that Alpiq InTec Group was involved at some point in your day.
Founded in 1999 and a wholly owned subsidiary of Alpiq Holding, the Swiss firm is active in the areas of building technology, facility management, transport technology, energy supply technology, process automation, energy efficiency consulting and e-mobility. The group focuses its activities on Switzerland and northern Italy, and – in the area of transport technology – on Europe as a whole.
Alpiq InTec is a complex business with many moving parts, the management of which is a monumental challenge. Employees have to track vast amounts of data associated with individual projects: documents, email correspondence, scanned images and so forth. Every project has its own set of data that must be kept on hand so managers can call it up whenever needed.
Adding complexity, Alpiq InTec’s offices are scattered across Europe in Switzerland, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, and the Netherlands, and it is consequently managing projects around the continent. This gave rise to an array of decentralized data storage methods as employees created individual silos for the information they needed to work with. Documents were being stored via web-based services or on drives located across different desks – and thus across different countries.
The immediate potential liabilities of such an arrangement are obvious: It compromised the ability of Alpiq InTec’s project managers to efficiently gather all the data and documents needed to oversee their work. This is crucial, as there is extensive internal collaboration within projects and the related documents are frequently updated. There is also no visibility for the data beyond the individual user, and a lack of information governance.
The initial response was to implement SharePoint to provide the structure that was clearly needed for effective project document management. But that came with its own challenges. First of all, Alpiq InTec’s employees found it hard to adopt SharePoint, even after they received training for it, and that led to an adoption challenge.
“Adoption is a known problem,” said the project manager at Alpiq InTec. “Tools like Dropbox end up getting used just because it’s easy to drop and share files.”
Plus, there was SharePoint’s inability to handle emails or automatically incorporate all the necessary metadata, both of which were crucial elements of project management. This led to employees not using metadata.
“We basically use this metadata to match documents to a certain process step,” said the manager. “Since people are not very familiar with the process stages, they are not going to use it.”
So SharePoint could not deliver on the promise of its value, even when employees used it.
In order to bring its document and email storage, data sharing, and project management into a single ecosystem, Alpiq InTec turned to a solution that included harmon.ie and Nintex. Nintex provided behind-the-scenes automation of workflow processes related to documents, while harmon.ie made it possible for typical business workers to classify, upload and find those documents.
The immediate impact of implementing harmon.ie’s “one window, no pain” solution was a dramatic increase in the adoption of SharePoint. It now only takes two hours of training for Alpiq employees to understand how to use SharePoint with harmon.ie’s tools, and they begin using it right away.
“Once our employees understand the benefits of SharePoint, they are impressed by how much smoother harmon.ie makes the experience,” added another manager. “harmon.ie is the reason why I don’t think we are going to be very active in SharePoint. There is not much you can do with SharePoint that you can’t more easily do with harmon.ie.”
This is particularly critical for properly cataloging project documents. harmon.ie prompts users to fill in required metadata before it allows documents to be checked into SharePoint, ensuring that all stored documents will be easily found by project managers when needed.
“The harmon.ie metadata capabilities allow our employees to easily set the appropriate SharePoint metadata directly from harmon.ie,” said the project manager.
Alpiq InTec has completed its initial implementation of harmon.ie in its Zurich headquarters and expects adoption to grow to more than 1,000 workers in Switzerland, and then beyond to offices in Italy, Austria and other nations.
The first phase of the harmon.ie implementation has worked so well for Alpiq InTec's project document management that the company is now looking at using it to solve other metadata and email challenges company-wide. The end goal is to create a true central repository for all critical information.