Leonhard Weiss

Leonhard Weiss Builds Bridges to SharePoint using harmon.ie

Organization

Leonhard Weiss is one of the largest family-run construction companies in Germany. Founded in 1900 as a railroad builder, Leonhard Weiss today is active in all sectors of construction, including street and utility network construction, civil engineering and turnkey construction, and rail infrastructure construction. The company, based in Göppingen/Satteldorf (Baden-Württemberg), has more than 4,000 employees and sales of over €1 billion in 2014.

“harmon.ie makes the entire process of document handling easier for the employee, so that use of the SharePoint server has increased massively.” – IT Division Manager Atilla Kücük

The Challenge

As it manages large construction projects, Leonhard Weiss depends on e-mail to send enormous numbers of documents to various employees, suppliers and customers. Smooth operations at building sites throughout Europe depend on the constant exchange of these documents.

As IT Division Manager Atilla Kücük outlines: "Our employees continuously work with approximately 900 templates in order to correctly handle construction site application procedures, from set-up to handling instructions. This is why enormous volumes of e-mail traffic build up every day." Communication via e-mail was undoubtedly practical for employees, but the majority of these email ‘documents’ ended up in local inboxes and PST files. Central storage on file servers had no clear standards and was not consistently used. The growing document chaos had become a headache for management.

In an attempt to automate and standardize the filing and storage of these documents, the company adopted Microsoft SharePoint several years ago under the ePOS project name. The company created a portal to serve as a central access point for all business processes, including SAP. The most important objective was to change the individual handling of data on unstructured file servers to teamwork based on an organized document management system. "Our company is built on various, relatively independent, business segments – such as street and network construction, civil engineering and turnkey construction, and railroad infrastructure construction – all with different repositories for documents,” explains Kücük. “These were all to be merged into a central structure…SharePoint. " Metadata was to be used to describe and categorize documents clearly and independently from the filing structure. Employee self-service for the assignment of authorizations was another goal associated with the introduction of SharePoint. Access to documents could then be monitored for the first time – the users themselves managed the authorizations and were able to grant them to others.

But the SharePoint user interface made the transfer of e-mails and files to the server more difficult and created a document bottleneck. One of the main problems in the transition to any organized document management is that it often requires more work by users, i.e. ordinary storage and uploading now entails several additional steps. Previously, users were able to handle all their own work with company documents using the familiar Outlook client, but now the SharePoint portal created an additional interface. Even uploading documents proved to be more complicated because the new system required at least five keywords for the classification of each document. If that were not enough, one SharePoint feature proved to be particularly irritating: The upload dialog box allowed the user to select only one file at a time; the same process had to be repeated for each document, a tedious process when uploading multiple files.

The bottom line: few employees accepted and used the new system. Implementation proved so difficult that at one point the project seemed destined to fail.  

The Solution

Kücük needed a solution to get the project back on track and to increase employee motivation to use SharePoint. His IT team found it from harmon.ie, which offers a product to enable comprehensive SharePoint automation as an Outlook extension. harmon.ie removes almost all of the manual steps required to move documents among Outlook, SharePoint and the desktop. For example, a decision maker who receives a building site application by e-mail goes through the following simple process with harmon.ie:

  • The user gets the e-mail or attachment from the harmon.ie sidebar where all the relevant SharePoint folders are displayed as possible targets.
  • When the user drops the e-mail or an attached document into a folder, harmon.ie automatically attempts to supply appropriate metadata.
  • As a result, the file goes into the proper SharePoint library. This procedure also works with several simultaneously-selected documents.

With harmon.ie, the process of filing documents (of all kinds) closely corresponds the old procedure used for network drives, but now the process enables intelligent document management. Users can now upload large amounts of data to SharePoint with a few simple clicks. In addition, harmon.ie enables partially-automated indexing during document upload, an important consideration for consistent metadata management.

This simplification and automation of the process using harmon.ie removed the barriers to user acceptance. Today, a growing number of employees are convinced of the value of systematic document management; as such they are actively using the system. The availability and accessibility of information from different locations has also been much improved.

“harmon.ie makes the entire process of document handling easier for the employee, so that use of the SharePoint server has increased massively,” said Kücük.

hamon.ie enabled Leonhard Weiss to automate document processes to a high degree, enhancing SharePoint as a team platform. It eliminated obstacles to employee productivity and helped establish consistent central document and project management.

Future Plans

Leonhard Weiss plans to automate more processes. SharePoint will be developed as a central information and application portal, with comprehensive SAP integration. Wireless communication will also play an increasingly important role. In collaboration with harmon.ie, Leonhard Weiss is developing a solution to more quickly and easily integrate the increasing volumes of smartphone photos from daily construction projects into the central document management system.