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QBE’s rapid rollout of collaboration platform supports 15,000+ global employees

Insurance companies understand risk – it’s their everyday currency. They also understand the pay-offs that come from tackling risk intelligently. 

For QBE Insurance that insight prompted its well-orchestrated international change management program to transition more than 15,000 people to Microsoft Teams and transform the way staff communicate and collaborate around the world. 

QBE’s strategic roadmap meant the initiative commenced in 2019 and completed Q1 2020 to align with planned Skype & 3rd party conferencing depreciation at end of Q1 CY2020 and was therefore well placed to help QBE address the workplace challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It now has the communications and collaboration systems in place to support staff working remotely and to underpin its business continuity plans. 

The business community migration started in the US in January 2020 and was completed in early March 2020. In all, 15,402 people transitioned to Teams, with 12,000 active daily users.  

Ahead of the transition, everyone in QBE was contacted directly to let them know about Teams – more than 1,600 people attended specialised half hour structured training and everyone received three reminder notes in the week leading up to their switchover. 

This primed the company for a rapid and successful transition says Scott Paterson, QBE’s global workplace services portfolio manager, who is based in the UK and led the change management program.  

We managed to migrate North America in seven working days, Europe in nine working days, Asia was one event and then Australia in 10 working days. We really condensed that to limit the in-region impact. 

“Where we are right now in the midst of COVID-19, we’re busy with our business continuity plan. Leaders throughout the company have recognised the role that Teams offers. We are in a fantastic position now with everybody having Teams, allowing people to communicate and collaborate,” says Paterson. 

By first transitioning the 300 people in QBE’s Technology Services group in Q3 CY2019, QBE was able to pilot both the technology and its change management approach.  

The deep understanding of how Teams worked then allowed the change management team to:

Structure it’s communications and training program to minimise risk and optimise impact;

– Set up staff competitions to encourage employee engagement about the planned change, and also survey staff about their change experience after they had been transitioned – which allows the change management team to tweak the approach to make the experience for the next tranche of transitioning users even better; and

– Work with idividuals to ensure the transition to the new system was as seamless as possible

Minimise risk, optimise impact 

As an insurance company, we’re typically quite risk averse,” says Paterson who was focused on designing the change management program to avoid any sort of service disruption. 

“Our North American region went first, and we migrated them over a couple of weeks. So roughly about 500600 people every evening. We would migrate them and then we’d have floor walkers on that site knowing exactly who’s been migrated the night before and ready to go around and make sure everything was okay. We then just simply rinsed and repeated that for North America, for all the sites, then in Europe for all of our sites, and then in Asia and then in Australia,” says Paterson. 

Working from home general

In all, 15,402 users migrated to Teams with native audio enabled and usage is surging.  

Since starting the transition and prior to COVID-19 BCP measures, organic growth within Teams was unprecedented. Teams Chat messages leapt 3,000 per cent, Teams audio calls have risen 2,500 per cent and Teams Meetings have increased by more than 2,000 per cent. Since COVID-19 measures have been introduced with Working from Home etc., Teams usage has increased dramatically even more, and without any issue to the end users or the stability of service.  

Paterson says; 

People are using Teams for chats and meetings. We’re also seeing audio calls and video calls increase quite dramatically as well. Everyone was ready to use Teams to carry on their roles within the organisation and we haven’t witnessed any service disruption since switching to a Working from Home / remote model relating to collaboration or team communication

What he is particularly pleased about is that the “migration itself was pretty much a non- event, which being in charge of migration is exactly what you want to see. We had next to no disruption. We had no executive or manager level escalations. We had nobody without service, and our incident demand, which we target between five and 10 per cent rise in incidents through any migration event, was just over 1 per cent, which is just off the scale.”

With robust technology foundations in place QBE is now preparing to transition employees to activity-based working once the COVID-19 crisis abates. “We know it’s a huge culture shift and we know we need to take people on that journey to exploit Teams more, to exploit Office 365 more, to exploit OneDrive more. Consumption is not Adoption – we understand that and will work to adopt more” says Paterson.

QBE’s journey doesn’t stop here, the company is actively engaged in the Microsoft Teams Insiders Program and reaping the rewards from this collaboration with the 3×3 video feed, raise hands and pop-out chat features coming into General Availability to further enhance the product offering’.

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.