BMW Group

The BMW Group gears up for a future-facing workspace with Windows 10

The BMW Group is more than a manufacturer of premium automobiles and motorcycles and provider of mobility services. Since its founding in 1916 in Munich, still its worldwide headquarters, the BMW Group has focused on the consumer’s driving experience. It also has high standards for the experience of its 135,000 global employees. When the company wanted to shift from a traditional process-oriented workplace to a modern collaborative space, it migrated to Windows 10 to underscore its values of security and teamwork. Following a fast, seamless deployment, the global workers at the BMW Group benefit from a flexible, secure digital workspace that inspires their best work.

In an industry where disruption is a fact of life, the name “BMW” invokes consistently high ideals—quality, precision, and exquisite attention to detail. For the people who drive them, the BMW Group’s iconic cars are more than transportation. They are an experience. BMW Group executives know that maintaining excellence in today’s connected world means a new way of working: departing from a process-oriented style to a more agile, collaborative ethos. The company bases its economic success on long-term thinking and responsible action—focusing ecological and social sustainability at every level of operation, from the local to international levels. That means tooling up with technology to support more secure teamwork for a modern, globally distributed workforce. The BMW Group’s Windows as a service adoption is  a way to deploy, service, and update Windows 10 that aligns with its emphasis on security and a premium experience for users.

Gearing up for the future

Supporting technology for thousands of workers in more than 500 locations around the globe calls for sophisticated management. For Markus Boenisch, General Manager of Global Workspace at BMW Group, it’s a numbers game: 134,682 employees, 150,000 devices, 70,000 phones, some 500 locations—and the software and apps that keep everyone productive, from design engineers and researchers to salespeople. 

Innovation, aesthetics, and performance are at the center of the company’s culture. As its industry faces new challenges and the pressure of constant innovation, the BMW Group continually pushes the design envelope. It isn’t simply building cars. The company creates an experience for its customers. “We build our products around our customer,” says Boenisch. “The joy of driving one of our cars is everything. But it’s about also having technology on board that makes your driving and your travel experience more fulfilling and more successful. We value our employees too, and we aim to offer a rewarding experience in the workspace we provide for them.” 

The workforce that designs, builds, and sells the BMW Groups cars, motorbikes, and services is as diverse as it could possibly be. BMW Group Windows 10 Project Lead Bilal Khawaja explains: “Throughout the world, we support workers in factories, dealerships, and corporate offices. It’s everyone from financial services—including BMW Bank—to designers and engineers, production, sales, marketing, and developers in IT.” But job function only scratches the surface of that diversity. “Understanding cultural differences is key to working with our global team,” he adds. “And our staff includes every generation of workers, from teenagers in internships to people about to retire.” 

These disparate teams increasingly collaborate across geographies and time zones to produce cutting-edge automotive technology. The BMW Group knew that it needed tools to securely support that global, connected workforce, and its IT leaders saw what they were looking for with a migration to Windows 10. That was an easy decision. The BMW Group knew it could apply its innovation focus to deploy the operating system worldwide to reduce costs and friction.

Planning around multiple work styles and places

In early 2016, the company embarked on a substantial Windows 10 installation. As the BMW Group Windows 10 Project Lead, Khawaja created a strategy for deployment. Critical to that strategy were BMW Group colleagues across the planet, like Regional Operations Manager for Workspace (Americas region) Michael Alexander in Greenville, South Carolina, and Oliver Oberthuer, Munich-based Training Manager and product owner for the BMW Group’s collaborative project platform, DEON. He also worked with IT field staff, like Guenter Heumann, an IT Specialist supporting local sales in Munich. 

These and other colleagues represented strikingly different contingents. The salespeople Heumann supports work independently, relying on mobile devices as they work directly with customers in various locations. Alexander’s IT team in South Carolina supports technology users in offices and Firstline workers in factories. In that role, the US IT team members are both facilitators and users of the Windows 10 operating system they support. “They take advantage of all the features of the platform to do their jobs,” Alexander says. “As leaders in technology for our company, we adopted Windows 10 right out of the gate, then brought the business teams onboard.” 

Oberthuer works with an entirely different contingent: engineers designing new cars, IT development teams, purchasing, and production management. “We need highly visual, virtual workspaces for our cross-functional teams,” says Oberthuer. “Production and engineering people rely on 3D renderings as they work together—sometimes from multiple remote locations—to collaborate on problem-solving or creating radical new designs.” The company uses DEON, a visual collaboration platform that people working on complex projects use to see images, supporting documents, and tasks in a flexible, configurable workspace. Oberthuer felt that the app called for the generous screen real estate of a Microsoft Surface Hub.

In all of these scenarios, notes Boenisch, every person has an overarching requirement for the technology they use, regardless of job function. “We all just want to do our work without thinking about the tool we use to do it,” he says. “For us, a workspace is much more than just a desk and a computer. The core of our work style now is about collaboration and a shift to a high-tech environment. It’s about providing the capability to do excellent work with excellent products. That’s where Microsoft plays a vital role for us.” For Boenisch, security underlies every facet of the work his team does to keep BMW Group innovation moving ahead. “Our priority is securing information on every level,” he adds. “We protect our connected cars, and internally we keep data private, highly secure, and protected from cyberattacks. Security is at the core of everything we do.”

Driving creative teamwork with Surface devices

The BMW Group supports its workers with a “choose your own device” strategy, offering them Microsoft Surface, HP, or Apple devices to achieve a paperless office. Several specialized teams use devices from the Surface family. The sales team Heumann supports prefer lightweight, mobile-first Surface devices like Surface Laptop and Surface Pro, using a number of the recently deployed 3,750 units to outfit their team. 

Oberthuer, a psychologist, isn’t surprised that design teams have so completely embraced Surface Hub and Surface Pen. People naturally think in pictures, he explains. With the company’s DEON visual collaboration platform on large-screen Surface Hub devices, teams partner with each other from numerous disparate locations, writing on the screen and attaching virtual notes to interact with collaborators. “We use Surface Pen a lot. Our people use a mix of new technology and deeply seated human ways of communicating in real time using scribbles, sticky notes, PowerPoint, Excel, and the Microsoft Edge browser. And the first year we used DEON on the Surface Hubs in Munich, the people were absolutely blown away.”

Deploying across the globe with a user-centric approach

Deploying the operating system to so many users required a self-service approach. The BMW Group IT team built its own self-service tool for users to install Windows 10 at their convenience. The IT team adopted Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager to monitor and manage Windows 10.

Khawaja started deployment with BMW Group IT workers. At first, he thought that migration was probably a matter of giving people a timeline and instructions. But adoption wasn’t happening as quickly as he’d hoped. “That’s when I thought: how do we sell our products? People don’t want to hear about basic defensive capabilities as much as they want to hear about features. When we introduced our workers to the Windows 10 productivity features, we were surprised at how fast they adopted it.” Khawaja traveled to major BMW Group locations around the globe, showing users how to take advantage of search functions, virtual desktops, and more. He distributed “how-to” cards, shared videos, and delivered training sessions. “The excitement was obvious, and it was gratifying,” says Khawaja. He got positive feedback online, and usage figures overwhelmingly demonstrated adoption success.  

Penciling out: adding capability without adding infrastructure

The BMW Group sees a multitude of benefit from the Windows as a service model. Khawaja prizes the continual absorption of Microsoft innovation. He takes advantage of the Windows as a service deployment rings, phasing deployment in seven stages, starting with the IT department and moving to business user groups. This approach facilitates proactive problem-solving and early grassroots promotion of new capability. Not only are users more productive earlier, IT can deploy new solutions in dramatically less time than previous IT-directed deployments and upgrades using the ring model, forestalling issues as they arise and minimizing user disruption. Perhaps most significant, changing operating system versions and major upgrades doesn’t result in higher infrastructure costs. Total cost of ownership is reduced, because the rich security feature set inherent to Windows 10 reduces the need for third-party tools. The BMW Group IT uses Configuration Manager to manage devices and Windows 10 upgrades centrally, without investing in additional tools. “Now we have much greater capability than ever before,” says Khawaja. “And our infrastructure management costs have not increased.”

The new paradigm fits Boenisch’s vision for a seamlessly collaborative, highly secure modern workspace. From Khawaja’s perspective, the advantage is clear. “The Windows as a service model has completely changed the way IT works with users,” he says. “We are always there to support them. But now they have the flexibility and freedom to manage their own digital space.”

Find out more about the BMW Group on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

What I value is that Windows 10 is the foundation for our modern workplace transformation, and it will honor our commitment to a new way of working—new ways of collaborating, all while staying more secure.
Markus Boenisch, General Manager, Global Workspace BMW Group
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