To confront our current climate crisis, the structures and cities of tomorrow must be built with environmentally friendly strategies and designs today. Eiffage, headquartered in Vélizy-Villacoublay, France, is a global leader in creating and implementing low-carbon strategies to meet the worldwide demand for sustainable cities and infrastructure.
The company’s 70,400 employees in 50 countries work together to engineer and build amazing green structures, such as the Millau Viaduct, the Eole line of the RER rail network in Paris, and the largest solar power plant in Europe. In fact, Eiffage carries out approximately 100,000 projects per year, working from 1,200 sites in France alone.
But Eiffage Chairman and CEO Benoît de Ruffray saw that Eiffage itself lacked an essential piece of infrastructure: a bridge to span the gap between offices and work sites, improving site management efficiency—a bridge in the form of an intelligent intranet. As Stéphane Rousseau, CIO of Eiffage says, “We need to give our employees the information they need to do their work—and doing that across so many sites is complicated. We’ve found Microsoft 365 tremendously useful. We can shape it to achieve our goals.”
Disrupting how construction works
The construction industry has traditionally been highly local, with job sites being effectively autonomous groups of local managers and workers. “Project managers and business managers are real entrepreneurs,” says Rousseau.
The paperwork that goes into setting all those jobs up, however, was done in offices that may not have been anywhere near the construction site. Rousseau says, “When you’re on a construction site, you’re on your own. You must deal with the teams that are currently on site, as well as suppliers and any constraints you encounter. It’s difficult to benefit from the back office’s help in terms of administration and management.” Eiffage’s existing intranet, built using SharePoint on-premises with a classic top-down corporate vision, primarily hosted corporate content. It didn’t really facilitate communication or offer access for mobile workers.
This was the state of things when de Ruffray was scheduled to visit several construction sites. What de Ruffray saw was site managers spending more time on their computers searching for information and communicating with the back office than interacting with their people. “Their mission isn’t to sort email but to manage their teams,” says de Ruffray. In fact, says Rousseau, “In the end, what was controlling site managers’ workday were their email inboxes—messages, notifications, queries. We really wanted to get out of this paradigm because email isn’t a management tool. We wanted to build a digital office based on Microsoft 365 that aggregates all this information and functionality.”
This insight led to the CEO empowering the IT, Collaboration and Communications, and Digital Communications groups to create a “digital office”—an intelligent intranet—that aggregates everything an employee needs—information, tasks, notifications, and tools. Says Rousseau, “It can be approving a purchase request or expense report, submitting an invoice, placing an order. Really, the digital office is the opposite of a traditional mailbox for our employees.”
Creating an interactive work environment
Eiffage wanted to create an interactive working environment: a sort of personal assistant. Rousseau gathered an intranet team that, using SharePoint Online, began to build a platform on which information was aligned with the company’s structure. That meant information would be relevant to each employee’s needs and location, not just general information distributed through traditional channels.
“The target at the beginning was to bring employees the elements that matter to them in a dashboard unique to them,” says Flavien Massoni, IT project manager at Eiffage. To reach that goal, the intranet team needed to bring each employee the tools and information he or she needs to work efficiently. Information from Microsoft 365 (e.g., tasks, project plans, calendar events) and internal information systems (e.g., invoices, vacation schedules, payroll information) became the source for much of the unique information the team wanted to put on employees’ home pages.
The result? Bureau Numérique, a completely different kind of personalized, accessible intranet.
“Simplicity is key for the construction trade. We need digital access that’s easy and fast,” says Deumié. With this employee-centric home page, each morning, a worker can organize his or her day based on priorities and access the tools needed to complete those tasks. Massoni adds, “For the younger employees whom Eiffage brings on—millennials, for example—we owe them an experience as simple as their favorite social network or app.” The home pages are also a way for Eiffage to promote its brand, an image of business productivity that has made Eiffage so successful.
In addition, through Microsoft 365, Eiffage’s power users have access to tools like PowerApps and Microsoft Flow. The entrepreneurial spirit that characterizes the company’s hundreds of site managers can then use them to create their own tools to do their jobs better and more efficiently.
Bringing Bureau Numérique to all employees
Before Bureau Numérique, nearly half of the company’s employees—its first-line workers—didn’t have access to the Eiffage intranet. “Now,” says Rousseau, “these 30,000 employees, through mobile tools, tablets, and smartphones, have access to the same level of information and to the same features as office employees without having to sit at a desk or open a computer.”
But it’s not just the access, it’s the breadth of information, processes, and documents these workers have access to that differentiates Bureau Numérique from the old way of doing business. And that directly affects what happens at job sites.
“Before Bureau Numérique, on my smartphone, I could only access my email. Now I have access to everything I need,” says one employee. And, because everything a site manager needs is on his or her home page, site managers no longer have to spend valuable time digging through email and talking to their central office to track down reports, contracts, shipping manifests, and schematics. As one site manager notes, “I was happy to see that my company chose to adopt a reliable solution that meets my needs. I’ll gain valuable time for sure.”
Massoni goes further: “With a digital desktop based on SharePoint, we really have a virtual assistant that’s available anywhere at any time. For example, I don’t always have the same device on hand. I have my smartphone when I’m in transit or my laptop while I’m at my desk. At home, I’ll be on my tablet. The experience is the same.”
The mobility and agility that Microsoft 365 brings have been of huge value to Eiffage. Deumié says, “We’ve saved a lot of time and money because most of what we needed was already in Microsoft 365. We focused on usability, which for me as a communicator, a marketer, is essential. We didn’t have to waste time on the technology.”
The new level of connection that Bureau Numérique brings also means greater opportunities for collaboration. First-line workers can contribute ideas and communicate with colleagues, while site managers, architects, and designers can share their experience and techniques to better future projects.
Building the digital world of tomorrow
Bureau Numérique is constantly evolving, with employees providing feedback and the intranet team rolling out new features as they become available. Eiffage’s goal is to create a SharePoint hub site for each physical project site. Massoni says, “With Microsoft 365, its more and more automatic. Start a new project, structure the team, assemble the information and documentation you need, handle any crisis. We open a new workspace and use the available tools.”
Adoption of the new intranet and the tools it showcases has been high, which was extremely important to Rousseau and his team. “With Microsoft 365, we could develop pretty, employee-friendly apps in a context that our employees would find familiar. That, for us, was essential. Microsoft 365 is a nice development platform, but it’s also great in terms of employee experience,” says Rousseau.
As part of the ongoing Bureau Numérique rollout, the team plans to provide a kiosk, called Eiffage Connexion, for every work site that gives first-line employees access to that project-specific SharePoint hub site, no mobile device necessary. Now, everyone can access information—an important accomplishment for company leadership.
Perhaps the biggest win for Bureau Numérique is how it has changed the way people at Eiffage work. Efficiency has improved, and paper use has been significantly reduced—important to an ecofriendly company like Eiffage. In addition, site managers can more easily communicate schedule and shift changes with their team members, which, before, could be challenging.
As de Ruffray notes, when desktop apps first appeared, they created separation between the office and the construction site. Without networks and mobile devices, all the upfront work had to be done in the office. Now, with digital and mobile technologies, management and first-line workers can be in the same place, virtually speaking. Changes in technology have broken down the barrier between site and office in ways that hadn’t been possible before. Notes de Ruffray, “Our goal is to invent the future with a human perspective by creating the sustainable cities of tomorrow. The collaboration and communication we have gained by using Microsoft 365 are helping us meet that goal.”
Bureau Numérique, Eiffage’s intelligent intranet, then, doesn’t function solely as an internal bridge: Its efficiency buttresses the company’s mission of sustainability in construction, engineering, and design. Notes Rousseau, “Microsoft 365 is enabling us to bring the ancestral methods used in construction into the digital world of tomorrow.”