In 1941, entrepreneur and inventor Villum Kann Rasmussen came up with an idea that would transform dark attics into livable spaces full of daylight and fresh air: He patented his first roof window in 1942. The distinctive name for his company described the key benefits of his solution: VE for ventilation and LUX for light. And the VELUX Group was born. Within a few decades, Rasmussen and his team had opened roofs all over Europe and North America.
Headquartered in Hørsholm, Denmark, just outside Copenhagen, the company now has 27 manufacturing sites in 10 countries, sales operations in 40 countries, and an extensive distribution network. It employs 11,500 people worldwide.
The VELUX brand is synonymous with functional, high-quality roof windows and modular skylights (so much so that consumers often use the brand name generically). The VELUX Group is committed to creating healthier environments by bringing nature into buildings and homes all over the world. “A workplace with daylight and fresh air helps people thrive, and our products create bright, healthy, energy-efficient places to live, work, learn, and play,” according to Ingrid Reumert, Vice President, Global Communications, Sustainability & Public Affairs.
“That some people don’t even spend a full hour in nature during a day deeply concerns us, especially as we know that a connection to the natural environment has knock-on benefits on people’s overall well-being,” says Peter Foldbjerg, Senior Manager of Daylight, Energy, and Indoor Climate at VELUX Group. “It’s therefore crucial that we find ways to let nature back into our daily lives.”
Accomplishing this mission requires great employees; and excellent communication and collaboration between them. The VELUX Group has great employees in abundance, and it’s using Microsoft 365 to help them achieve more by communicating and collaborating more effectively—on any device.
Achieve more with a modern, intelligent intranet
When the VELUX Group started this journey, it already had an intranet: VELUX One, based on an older version of SharePoint, with a lot of custom code. (The name VELUX One reflected the company’s globalization at the time.) In addition, the company is successfully using Yammer and Microsoft Teams to engage employees in the workplace.
More recently, the VELUX Group outgrew its intranet because the older version of SharePoint no longer supported its mission. “Support for mobile pages was limited, a key requirement for the company moving forward, and creating fresh, modern pages using up-to-date web technology wasn’t possible,” according to Harris Medović, Enterprise Solutions Architect at the VELUX Group. Also, the company knew it could improve search and integration with Yammer and Teams.
The company required a new, intelligent intranet to support the collaboration and communication the company and its people really needed to innovate. Reumert says, “The first part of our journey was to have the intranet underpin our global journey. Now, the second step, is increasing effectiveness.
And the VELUX Group knows that to attract and retain great employees, they need to more fully engage them. So, they designed the company’s new intranet, VELUX One 2.0, to achieve a single, carefully worded objective:
Elevate VELUX One to a modern communication platform that helps everyone achieve more in their workday.
The VELUX Group chose to build its intelligent intranet on Microsoft 365 by using SharePoint Online, Yammer, and Microsoft Stream. Medović says, “SharePoint Online was the logical choice for VELUX One. It offers strong integration with the rest of Microsoft 365 and better search capabilities. Because it mostly provides what we need out of the box, it also greatly reduces our reliance on custom code.”
Include everyone with a mobile-first experience
Reumert says, “We’re founded on an engineering and innovative mindset. The engineering culture is part of our value set, so employees are empowered and expected to try new things and be experimental in how they do their tasks.” For that to work, they need to connect to the global community. So, getting everyone involved in the company’s mission is a key tenant of VELUX One.
However, an internal analysis revealed that only half of the company’s employees—and none of its production employees—could access the intranet. When the VELUX Group built its original intranet, the company wasn’t ready to give production employees access to it. Generally, they don’t use PCs at work and the company doesn’t provide them with company phones.
But now, “more and more production employees have personal smartphones and are willing to use them for work, and millennials demand modern, flexible digital workspaces,” says Christian Skjæran, Digital Workplace Advisor at the VELUX Group.
For the reboot, the VELUX Group wanted an intelligent intranet that offered new ways to work, including a mobile-first experience to give first-line employees intranet access. From the front office to the factory floor, everyone should have access to VELUX One. “In order to be digital front runners, and to make a difference for our employees, they should have access to our intranet from their mobile devices in the exact same way they would access their social media,” notes Reumert.
So, the VELUX Group uses the Yammer, Teams, Stream, and SharePoint mobile apps to provide everyone—including deskless workers in production and logistics—quick access to news, search, pages, and other resources.
Drive engagement and employee satisfaction
“We need production employees to use our digital workplace to increase engagement and employee satisfaction,” says Line Møller Roland, Senior Communications Advisor, Global Communications, Sustainability & Public Affairs at the VELUX Group. “They have great ideas and want to contribute, so we need to provide a way for them to do that.”
The VELUX Group knows that just giving everyone access to VELUX One isn’t enough, however. There’s more to it in a multinational company, where people from different cultures and languages come together to fulfill the company’s mission to create bright and healthy spaces for people to live, work, learn, and play. While Medović speaks five languages, most people don’t. Therefore, he says, the VELUX Group understands that “it must balance corporate communications—as a source of truth—against content that local sales and production companies create.”
A large part of that responsibility falls on community managers. Community managers comprise a global, distributed network of more than 120 people who create the content that employees see on the intranet and on Yammer. They reflect the VELUX Group’s engineering culture. On the original intranet, they were locked into seven rigid templates that offered them no flexibility to influence the structure, navigation, or appearance of the pages they created. In sharp contrast, now, community managers use VELUX One to quickly create beautifully designed pages that include web parts, such as the image gallery, file viewer, and Stream.
During one of Skjæran’s content-creation demos, one community manager exclaimed, “Wow, that looks easy. Cool!”
That’s exactly the kind of feedback that Skjæran was hoping for.
Of course, he adds, “The VELUX Group enforces key governance via site designs, themes, and page designs, but community managers have a lot of freedom to influence what their content contains and how it looks.”
But making it easy to create beautiful, well-designed content is only the first step for VELUX Group.
The second? Targeting and localizing the content so employees have a place to go for the information most relevant to them. To achieve that, the company makes a SharePoint communication site for each location. In turn, each communication site connects to the Locations hub site. The Locations hub site provides a common navigation structure, look, feel, and search across all the communication sites. It also aggregates news and activities from each communication site onto the home page. Now employees can find relevant content on delightfully crafted communication sites, and, if they desire, they can expand their visibility into the rest of the company by looking at the hub sites.
While the VELUX Group has only recently introduced these engagement-boosting capabilities to its intranet, the company has relied on Yammer for dialogue and some content for several years. That hasn’t changed. “Yammer remains a key place for dialogue and content,” Skjæran says.
In fact, the VELUX Group better promotes content in Yammer and other channels, such as Teams and Outlook, by using SharePoint features such as news link, news promotion, and news digest.
Deliver better, more effective digital experiences
A recurring theme across all VELUX One’s innovations is to deliver better digital experiences for every employee. In keeping with the VELUX Group’s emphasis on attractive yet functional product design, the company crafted an eye-catching intranet that gives employees vastly improved experiences. Skjæran says, “We started VELUX One as a minimal viable product that’s good enough to launch and build upon going forward.”
For Reumert, however, providing better digital experiences also implies expanding the digital workplace with new capabilities more quickly. She says, “The reason for us to work with Microsoft 365 is really to create coherence across all the digital tools, and for us to continue to be at the forefront of digitalization so we can adopt new tools as they come along.”
Medović says, “We get new capabilities without the extra cost of—or months waiting on—developers because we chose an evergreen solution like SharePoint Online. We’re basically using SharePoint as an out-of-the-box solution where most things regarding setup can be done by super users or Microsoft 365 administrators.”
Skjæran continues, “We’ve mostly liberated VELUX One from third-party developers and custom code, where small changes can take weeks and bigger changes can take months.” As a result, the VELUX Group gains more agility while saving money.
An intelligent intranet lights the way
The VELUX Group’s value proposition is brighter, healthier, and happier spaces in which to live, work, learn, and play. It helps the outside come in to light up dark indoor spaces and provide breathable, fresh air. It’s only fitting that its new intranet similarly lights up new ways for its employees to work, find local and engaging content, and have better digital experiences.
In October 2019—at an internal seminar in Budapest, Hungary for about 40 of the company’s community managers—VELUX Group presented its new intranet, VELUX One, to an eager crowd. Skjæran expects that 6,000 to 7,000 people will have access to their modern, intelligent intranet right away. “As we onboard more and more factories, we expect to get closer to the full potential of VELUX One—all 11,500 VELUX Group employees with access,” he says.
“An engineering and innovative company culture is vital to our success, and we’re using Microsoft 365 to help us build it,” concludes Skjæran.