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GHD accelerates digital transformation to ensure business continuity

During 2019, global professional services company GHD set out the blueprint for its new agile technology program of works. Key to that is leveraging digital technologies to transform the way its 10,000+ people work and pioneering approaches that will digitally transform project delivery and business services.

At the time, it was the global enterprise’s response to shifting client expectations and the desire to support an agile, nimble workforce. By early 2020 it was clear that the groundwork that the company had performed would prove a critical support to business continuity as COVID-19 took hold.

The company has been able to leverage the strong working partnerships it has forged with both Microsoft and Autodesk to accelerate its digital transformation and support its people as they work remotely.

With Microsoft 365 as its core productivity platform, and a strategy to shift away from on premises solutions to cloud-based platforms GHD had already migrated mailboxes to the cloud and was planning to deploy Teams across the enterprise by mid-year.

The rapid impact of COVID-19 and the need to continue delivering for clients by supporting employees working from their homes accelerated that deployment. GHD pulled out all the stops so that 10,000+ global employees could switch over to Teams in less than a week.

New world of work

GHD delivers a broad range of professional services to clients across the world in multiple sectors including energy and resources, transport, water, environment, as well as property and buildings. Global revenues in 2019 topped AU$2.2 billion. The company’s relatively new global digital and advisory businesses are also growing strongly.

According to GHD Chief Information Officer Elizabeth Harper; “We had commenced work on this digital transformation and had the Office 365 foundations in place. As COVID 19 emerged we initially compressed our deployment plan from a few months to a few weeks, but in those early days of COVID 19, things were rapidly changing. Our response to this was to go for it. We effectively deployed Teams to our 10,000 + people, overnight, so we could enable them to continue to support their clients – but most importantly, stay safe and well.”

Harper adds that GHD executives have also been able to use Teams as a crisis management platform allowing them to communicate and make decisions rapidly in response to the unfolding situation.

To support employees through the change, GHD leveraged Microsoft FastTrack’s pre-prepared, go-live support materials as a skeleton change management communication customised for its specific needs and for teams of employees around the world.

Prior to rolling out Teams GHD was using a combination of tools including WebEx, Zoom, Jabber and SharePoint. The company had an existing relationship with Microsoft.  With the additional integrated solutions that Microsoft offered under the E5 licence it made sense to adopt and rapidly deploy ATP Defender, Teams, and BI solutions across the global organisation.

In the middle of March 90 per cent of GHD people were working from GHD offices. Within one week, 100 per cent were working, successfully from home.

For those GHD people who relocated to take up new positions in the organisation during this time, with the various restrictions in place around the world, their new start didn’t look and feel how they imagined it. Without being able to be with their new teams and meet them face to face, Microsoft Teams has become central to everything. It is their primary way to reach out and meet with colleagues.

Dr Kerry Neil began her new role as Regional General Manager South Australia in April. This meant a move from Queensland. Dr Neil says “While I was unable to meet my team in person when I started my new role, Teams provided a great platform through which I was able to reach out and meet the team virtually. By setting up Teams meetings and hosting Events I was still able to use those first weeks to let my team  know I was there, ready to support and provide leadership.”

To ensure GHD employees have rapid access to the tools they need most, GHD prioritised the roll out of Teams online meetings and audio conferencing. The company has continued to use its SharePoint on premise solution to host information and documents, but in the future plans to create Teams workspaces that ensure all information is available from a secure central location.

According to Harper;

Under normal circumstances we would have deployed Teams much more slowly. But these are not normal circumstances and what this has proven is that Teams can be deployed fast, it will be adopted quickly and it does deliver rapid benefits across the organisation allowing us to ensure business continuity and deliver exceptional value for clients.

Global sensitivities

The breadth of GHD’s global client list means that employees are regularly working on projects with national critical impact. These are often highly sensitive, confidential projects in areas including defence, water, new and alternative energy sources such as renewables and geothermal. The sensitive nature of the work means clients want data associated with their projects to remain in their home country.

Steve Somerville, GHD chief technology officer says; “Among the critical factors we needed to consider was the requirement for security and resilience, but also the ability to retain data locally.

“We have deployed Windows Defender ATP to lift our overall security posture, and Microsoft Azure’s multi-geography capability means that we are able to ensure that client data remains resident in their home countries.”

We’re focused on supporting our customers during these difficult times. For more information on how we can help your business, please see our dedicated webpage and report on Supporting Resilient Operations. We’ll be updating these resources regularly as the situation evolves.