Digitalisation is in full swing at Deutsche Bahn. From trains to control, from booking to permanent way design – technological progress is fuelling greater efficiency throughout the Group. So the time is ripe to bring the software on employees’ computers up to date: Office 365 will significantly enhance digital collaboration within the Group.
Today, many employees who do not have an office computer cannot access mails or work on documents because these are accessible only via a complex infrastructure. Office 365 provides several lean packages that enable e-mails and documents to be processed even without an office computer. The functions provided cover a wide range of requirements: from simply sending and receiving e-mails right through to work environments offering virtually unlimited cloud storage for documents and files.
This means that the new software delivers the basis for flexible digital working. Thanks to cloud technologies, employees can even use their familiar work environment while on the move – all they need is an internet connection, eliminating the need for VPN. In addition, data is safeguarded by the latest security and encryption technologies. The aim is to enhance collaboration within the DB Group, thus providing all employees with a modern digital solution for exchanging data, knowledge and documents.
Big effort, big effect
Unlike changes to private users’ system, where usually only one computer is affected, at Deutsche Bahn just over 200,000 computers have to be equipped with Office 365, almost half of them at the subsidiaries DB Schenker and DB Arriva. And it is fairly obvious that this is not a task that can be completed overnight. “We’re updating around 2,000 computers a week. So it will take about two years in total before all employees can reap the benefits of Office 365,” explains Sabrina Diedrichs, who is responsible for the Office 365 project for DB Systel.
To ensure the migration goes off smoothly, just under two years ago, DB Systel, with the business units that use BKU, started gathering the requirements placed on office software to define the Office 365 functionalities deployed (BKU is the IT platform for DB’s office communication). This summer, the migration was extensively tested. More than 1,000 employees, mainly from DB Systel but also from DB Vertrieb and other corporate divisions, said they would be willing to use the new office software in a test phase.
Mass migration of the companies using BKU will kick off in autumn. The business units will be migrated step-by-step. Which business unit receives the new version first depends on various factors. At present, more than 1,000 different applications are deployed within the Group, and these must be checked for compatibility with Office 365. To date, IBM Notes was mainly used for communication and workflows. As this will be replaced by Microsoft Outlook, checks have to be performed at each business unit to determine the extent to which automated workflows must be adapted. In a first step, it will also be necessary to bring the encryption of outgoing mails from the proprietary Notes encryption up to the industry standard before the systems can interact smoothly, and processes will function across systems. For this reason, teams and departments that usually work together in day-to-day business will be migrated in a single step to avoid impacting collaboration unnecessarily during the transitional period.
As a result, however, it will be necessary in some cases to work in the existing system and Office 365 in parallel. “This will affect practical work,” confirms Rainer Hiller, who is responsible for project communication and change management. For example, employees who use Outlook for scheduling will be able to see the free times only of other Outlook users. To include “Notes colleagues” in a meeting, they will have to check those colleagues’ availability additionally in Notes. The actual meeting request can then be sent to both groups from Outlook. Multiple meetings via e-mail can also have unintended consequences due to the different logic of Notes and Outlook. In this case, users should send individual meeting requests, even though this entails more effort. Managers and their assistants will also be migrated together because activities such as deputising and using calendars will not work across two different systems. And, of course, employees will need time to get used to the new software.
Change in work culture
All of this shows that there is more to the initiative than just migrating to the new software. Work methods also have to be rethought during the migration. To enable employees to get down to work as quickly as possible, without having to spend time getting to grips with the software changes, a comprehensive accompanying program is planned. This will provide training on the new tools and on how to handle the changes, introducing employees to the many and varied new collaboration options offered by Office 365. Rainer Hiller neatly sums up the central questions: “How do we work together, how do we act in our team and how do we use the new tools available to us?”
In workshops, teams will, for example, define how they can work more efficiently using the central storage options, shared documents and newly created structures. Topics also include handling stored data: “Office 365 puts an end to document ownership. For individuals, this is a radical change that increases the risk of conflict within the team. These are change processes that will have to be moderated,” says Rainer Hiller. Rules that everyone on the respective team must adhere to will be developed jointly. How this can be implemented from a technical point of view will then be explained in a next step.
The community helps
In addition, DB Systel is providing a new IT support community (currently in German only) offering dedicated assistance. In this forum, which is managed by the IT help desk, users can find answers to FAQs about Office 365, ask their own questions and also help each other. This community has been well received and heavily used even in the pilot phase. When it is rolled out, a broad knowledge base will be available and many questions that come up will already have been answered.
Nothing now stands in the way of successful migration to Office 365. Employees can look forward to working with the very latest, constantly updated office software and to having a host of new collaboration options at their fingertips. And they can also look forward to taking the next step towards Work 4.0.