In 2012, the asset management firm launched the You! initiative; an internal initiative geared towards its New Ways of Working program. With "Bricks, Bytes & Behavior" as its core concepts, You! encompasses change in the areas of accommodation, technology and behaviors: how to work together, how to share knowledge, and how to use communication tools more effectively and efficiently.
As far as the technological aspect was concerned, Robeco faced an uphill struggle, with a relatively antiquated IT system currently in place. “The goal of New Ways of Working was to enable our people to work more efficiently, communicate, and collaborate at optimal levels. This proved nigh on impossible with our existing IT infrastructure, which consisted of Office XP, Lotus Notes and Windows XP. Our users weren’t especially happy with that environment,” comments Ton Ligtvoet, IT Development Manager and the member of the IT management team responsible for commissioning the "Workspace 2014" workplace program.
"With Office 365, place and time no longer represent restrictions."
Robeco employs more than 1600 people, and 1200 of them are already working with Office 365, not only within the Netherlands, but also at a number of sales offices in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. That makes Robeco the first of the major financial institutions to make the move to Office 365 on this sort of scale. “Because we’re among the first in financial services to start to work with this Microsoft solution, we did come up against a few unanticipated hurdles during the initial phases. These have since been overcome by Microsoft and Avanade but, looking back, we definitely learned from them,” says Johann Corlemeijer, Vice President of Technical Infrastructure at Avanade.
“One of Robeco’s challenges revolved around compliance and security regulations. In theory, Office 365 is a "one-size-fits-all" solution, meaning that each customer has the same functionality at their disposal. But Robeco is not just any customer. Compared with other customers, security requirements are more stringent and compliance specifications have to be fulfilled, as required by the regulator, De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB). Last November, this regulator removed a significant barrier to the use of Microsoft Office 365. In agreement with Dutch financial institutions such as Robeco, Microsoft incorporated a clause in this regard, which grants the DNB the right to investigation. As such, the DNB is entitled to conduct investigations into Robeco’s regulatory compliance within the Office 365 environment.” “This doesn’t mean that a financial institution is relieved of its duty to carry out a thorough risk analysis and risk assessment prior to introducing Office 365, whilst also observing the DNB rules on outsourcing,” adds Ligtvoet.
“The greatest advantage of Office 365 for us is the ability to have a single, modern environment that integrates mail, calendar and Office functionalities,” says Ligtvoet. “We now also have the tools available to share our knowledge and facilitate collaboration. And, as we predicted, costs have dropped. Microsoft automatically updates our Office 365 environment, adding new functionalities that our end users can enjoy instantaneously.”
Ligtvoet also lists ease of use, broad functionality, increased collaboration within his organization, and the option to use smartphones as additional benefits. ”Partly thanks to the introduction of webmail and the option of accessing mail, calendar, communication and collaboration functionalities via both business smartphones and personal devices, (primarily iPhones and iPads in Robeco’s case), we are improving basic IT support; be it at work and home, on a business or personal device.” Cost reductions formed a large part of the business case. Corlemeijer: “Large or small, one mailbox, 25,000 mailboxes or more, Office 365 is suited to any organization. Costly customization is no longer required, nor is maintenance and service; these are all taken care of by Microsoft. As a result, the Office 365 option is significantly less expensive than 'on premises' solutions on in-house servers.”