In 2012, the asset manager launched the You! project, an initiative for implementing the ‘New World of Work’ at Robeco. With Bricks, Bytes & Behaviour as a foundation, the initiative covers changes in accommodation, technology and conduct, addressing questions
such as how people should work together, how to share knowledge, and how to make more efficient and effective use of communication resources.
In terms of technology, Robeco was working with an extremely outdated IT environment. ‘The goal of the initiative was to enable our people to work and communicate more efficiently, and to optimise cooperation – an impossible job with our existing IT infrastructure.
We were working with Office XP, Lotus Notes and Windows XP, an environment that our users weren’t exactly happy with,’ says Ton Ligtvoet, IT Development Manager and commissioner of the IT Management Team’s ‘Workspace 2014’ workstation programme.
The accompanying business case was designed to introduce innovations that would support the ‘New World of Work’ and reduce expenses. Ligtvoet: ‘We wanted a solution that would bring improvements to both users and the IT department, and that’s what Office
365 is. The advantage of its flexible licensing model is that the main costs are based on the number of users instead of the number of servers, storage units or licences. Now, you can never expect management costs to drop to zero, because components will always
need to be implemented into your own infrastructure to ensure compatibility with Office 365 as well as adequate security. Competencies are also required within the IT organisation that are different than before, although it is true that from now on our IT
department is able to concentrate more on the application of IT than on the IT itself. Our new toolset also puts us in a better position to facilitate communication, cooperation and knowledge-sharing, paving the way for significant productivity enhancements.
Another advantage offered by Office 365 is therefore also its improved user satisfaction.’
After paying reference visits to customers of Google and Microsoft, deciding on Office 365 was easy. ‘One of the key factors in our decision to go with Microsoft was the greater degree of compatibility between their technology and our requirements, wishes
and outlook. Another argument was the familiarity of many of our users with applications included in Office 365, such as Outlook Online.’
Ligtvoet argues that there were plenty of reasons for management wanting to introduce Office 365: ‘With benefits such as cost-effectiveness, user experience and an IT environment that is always up-to-date, convincing management took little effort. When making
the ultimate decision, however, other aspects played a much more important role, such as security, privacy, compliance and the requirements of the supervisory bodies. We worked very closely with Microsoft and our IT partner in these areas.’
Microsoft Certified Partner Avanade was chosen as the IT partner for the project. Ligtvoet: ‘Avanade has a lot of experience with Microsoft technology and BPOS (the forerunner of Office 365), and has already run countless projects in the field. Avanade’s
specialists know what’s what, and provide quality work.’ We have also worked closely with HP, our outsourcing partner for infrastructure, workspace management and the service desk.
Robeco employs around 1,600 people, 1,200 of whom are now working with Office 365: not only in the Netherlands, but also at a number of sales offices in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. This makes Robeco the first major financial institution to make the
transition to Office 365 on such a grand scale.
‘Because we are one of the first in the financial services industry to work with this Microsoft solution, we did meet with a few surprises in the beginning. Microsoft and Avanade have solved them now, I should add, but looking back they were certainly educational
experiences,’ says Johann Corlemeijer, Vice-President of technical infrastructure at Avanade. ‘One of the challenges faced by Robeco related to compliance and security regulations. In principle, Office 365 is a one-size-fits-all solution, with every customer
receiving the same functionality. But Robeco isn’t just any customer. Their security requirements are higher than those of other customers, and they also need to meet the compliance requirements as imposed by supervisory body De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB). In
November of last year, the DNB eliminated a major barrier to implementing Office 365 by Microsoft. As part of this development, Microsoft has included a clause in its agreement with Dutch financial institutions (including Robeco) granting the DNB inspection
rights. If desired, the DNB may therefore investigate whether Robeco is acting in line with compliance regulations in its Office 365 environment.’
‘This does not, however, relieve financial institutions of their obligation to perform thorough risk analyses and evaluations before taking the final decision to implement Office 365, with due observance of all of the DNB’s outsourcing regulations,’ Ligtvoet
A range of guarantees in the field of compliance and security are inbuilt into Office 365, including the categories of ‘legal hold’ and ‘device control’. Johann Corlemeijer explains: ‘Robeco employees can access their data anytime, anywhere and from any
device, provided the device they are using has been authorised. This type of functionality is what makes Office 365 the best solution for Robeco, not only from a technological perspective, but also from the user’s point of view.’ Through the Office 365 cloud,
users can access Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online. Robeco uses the first of these for email and calendars; SharePoint online replaces the intranet and allows users to share sites and documents with others.
‘The most significant benefit of Office 365 for us is that we now have a single environment that integrates email, calendar and Office functionalities,’ says Ligtvoet. ‘We now also have access to tools that facilitate knowledge-sharing and collaborative
working. Plus we have reduced costs to an extent fully in line with our expectations. One example is the fact that Microsoft updates our Office 365 environment automatically, and provides new functionalities that end-users can start using straight away.’
According to Ligtvoet, other advantages include user-friendliness, a wide range of functionalities, increased cooperation within the organisation, and smartphone possibilities. ‘Partly thanks to the introduction of webmail and the ability to access email,
calendar, communication and collaboration functionalities via both company smartphones and personal devices (only iPhones and iPads at Robeco for the time being), we can offer improved support for basic IT facilities both at home and on the go, including on
Cost reduction was a major part of the business case. Corlemeijer: ‘Office 365 is suitable for any organisation: big or small, one mailbox or 25,000, or even more. Expensive customisation is no longer necessary, and neither are maintenance or service – Microsoft
is taking care of that now. That’s what makes the Office 365 solution significantly cheaper than an on-premises solution on internal servers.’
Ligtvoet: ‘I can’t give any concrete figures or percentages on the cost reductions. What I can say is that the maintenance and operational costs of the Office 365 environment are considerably lower than those of the server environment we used to use. The
fact that Microsoft takes care of the management, security and updates saves us a lot of time and effort. And just as positive are the productivity improvements that Office 365 has ushered in. We didn’t include them in the business case and haven’t even quantified
them, but the results are good. Incidentally, in addition to the new IT environment, these results can also be attributed to implemented changes in accommodation and the manner in which our employees are dealing with the various modifications.’
In the near future, Robeco expects to further expand on the functionalities of Office 365. Ligtvoet: ‘Take integration of Lync with the office telephone system, for example. Lync is introducing a completely new way of communicating that goes far beyond making
calls, and which renders expensive telephone switchboards completely superfluous. And Microsoft also regularly releases new functionalities. We are always looking forward to new things they can do for us!’
Ligtvoet says that a range of financial institutions are now expressing great interest in Robeco’s Office 365 solution: ‘We are the pioneers, and now they want to know how we did it and what our experiences are. And our experience is positive; we have taken
the first few steps towards the New World of Work, and we prove to be heading in the right direction with Office 365.’
Office 365 is ideal for companies that need access to email, popular Office programmes, web conferencing and file sharing from any location.
A small monthly fee per user grants access to email and documents, however online creation, storage and editing of Office documents is also possible using web-based versions of the familiar Office software.
File sharing, web conferencing, intranet and a website – everything is included.
This reference is for informative purposes only. Microsoft offers no guarantees, either explicit or implicit, based on this text.