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Willemen limits costs and raises productivity by using the Cloud

Construction company uses cloud-based mobility tool Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium and Microsoft Intune to increase productivity.

The challenge

With more reliable mobile gear that is easy to manage and with easier access to the applications in both the workplace and the Cloud, employees now have an efficient and mobile working environment at their disposal. Not only did it raise their productivity, it also limited their costs.  

With more reliable mobile gear that is easy to manage and with easier access to the applications in both the workplace and the Cloud, employees now have an efficient and mobile working environment at their disposal. Not only did it raise their productivity, it also limited their costs.

Lowering failure costs has always been a priority of the Belgian construction company Willemen Groep. Gaining more control over these type of costs and increasing their overall mobility has been the main motivation behind their transition to cloud-based services.

Willemen Groep cares a great deal about respecting the budget and finishing their projects within the deadline. The Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite allows them to limit exceedances by avoiding miscommunications and a lack of data access. Thanks to reliable mobile equipment, easy access to their applications and a cloud based working environment their productivity went up while their costs steadily decreased.

We even coined a term for it: “failure costs”. Limiting these costs has always been a priority for Willemen Groep. “Between 8 and 15 percent of the total budget is used to fix unnecessary mistakes we encounter during a project” said Kris Mampaey, the IT-director of Willemen Groep. “We know that failure costs often originate from bad communication or outdated data we receive on the construction site. That’s why it has become our top priority to find the best technology, so our employees have the right data at their disposal whenever they need. That’s one of the reasons why we’re subscribed to the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite.”

During the first phase Willemen used the cloud-based services Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium and Microsoft Intune. These tools allowed them to solve the problems they experienced with identity- and access management. Later on in 2015 the company rolled out a solution for file- and data protection using Microsoft Azure Rights Management.

Strong pillars for productivity

Willemen teamed up with its Belgian IT-partner Spikes to develop mobile apps. Besides that, the company also ordered cloud-based services that increased their productivity within Microsoft Office 365. These two initiatives laid a foundation for increased mobility and productivity. The Spikes team suggested the Enterprise Mobility Suite as their next step. “Employees use Office 365 to gain access to shared files, updated project files, gear deliveries and contracts”, Mampaey says. “And they use our mobile apps to complete certain tasks while they’re on the road. To make this possible however, we needed a better identity- and access policy for our SaaS-resources (Software as a Service). This policy needed to be accompanied with increased security and better management of the smartphones (and their data) that were being used outside of the corporate network. Well, the Enterprise Mobility Suite made all of that possible within one profitable package.”

Minimal costs

The construction company uses Azure Active Directory Premium as a cloud-based register that manages identity profiles and access to SaaS-applications. And because Azure Active Directory Premium is synchronized with the Windows Server 2012 R2 Active Directory-solution in the datacenter, the IT staff receives a uniform solution for identity- and access management. Meanwhile the employees can proceed with just a single “log-in” for solutions on site and for SaaS-applications. “When a user logs into our new mobile Invoice app, that we developed together with Spikes, we can now rest assured that this person has the required authorizations.” Mampaey says. “Thanks to the Enterprise Mobility Suit we know that every mobile app we launch will add value to our business. The Invoice app streamlines our invoicing process and is based on a 3-person-authentication system. These people all have the app installed on their phone, which allows them to approve an invoice anywhere and at any time. This method pushed back payment cycles from 60 to 30 days. This strengthened our position and allowed us to get better discounts from our suppliers.”

They also developed the Tools app, an application that simplifies ordering gear. In the past supervisors called the logistics department to pass on their order. This approach often resulted in tools being delivered at the wrong address, so Willemen set out to reduce this failure cost by applying innovation. “Nowadays we manage all our gear related orders via the Tools app. Supervisors can confirm the time and place of the delivery. This helped us push back failure costs and it sped up the general process”, Mampaey clarifies.

Expanding from workplace scenarios to global business

To create mobile workplace scenarios you need a lot of well managed and secure mobile IT equipment, as well as smartphones. Willemen uses Intune for this purpose. This service contains a crew portal that grants employees access to their deices and the approved SaaS applications. Intune gets synced with their current installation, Microsoft System Center 2012 R2, so the IT-team receives a fully integrated management solution. The company also uses Intune as a way to support its activities in the growing markets of Central- and Eastern Europe, Afrika and the Middle East. “Microsoft Intune is an essential part of our international expansion plan. We use it to support our operations from a distance and to remotely update our security- and control systems”, Mampaey continues. “Our employees that work abroad no longer have to bring in their laptops or devices for maintenance and support. They can just connect to the internet and choose, to some extent, when they want to update their system.

A modern workplace

However, it’s not just about remote support. Willemen knows that an increasing amount of employees want’s to use a wide variety of different tools to be productive. And they would prefer permanent access to those tools as well. “It’s hard to find enough civil- and industrial engineers”, Mampaey says. “With the Enterprise Mobility Suite we can offer our staff a workplace that meets their need for permanent connectivity. They can access their data whenever they like and we are able to provide a BYOD-option (bring your own device). This allows them to choose which device they would like to bring to work.”

Ensuring data protection

Willemen Groep is eager to apply the functions of Azure Rights Management to protect their confidential information. This would come in handy during collaborations with competitors. “Working together with another contractor helps limit risks and offers the customer a team that has different specialties”, Mampaey explains. “We will use Azure Rights Management to share nothing but the required data. The program will allow us to secure our data via file protection. We’ll be able to prevent certain files from being printed, shared or copied. We truly assume that by the end of 2015 every element of the Enterprise Mobility Suite will be used to it’s fullest extent.”

Willemen 250

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Willemen Groep offers clients in Belgium, Africa and the Middle East a wide variety of construction services. Their expertise spans from industrial- and civil engineering to residential projects and construction for both roads and utilities.

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