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How a leading German publisher empowered its employees with a workplace of the future

Since its formation in 1947, the weekly German news publication Der Spiegel has led the way as one of Europe’s most influential magazines, famed for its investigative journalism and high-quality coverage.

Today, SPIEGEL-Verlag is looking internally to enable its employees to achieve their best work, with its Workplace of the Future initiative – a program that began, in part, based on the observation of employee work habits.

“For a long time, we’ve noted that our online workers expect to be able to work in a different way, like they do at home. They want to be supported by tools that are available where they are—and where they do their work doesn’t matter to them,” explains Jesper Doub, Publishing Director at SPIEGEL-Verlag. “At the same time, we wanted to offer a workspace familiar to a lot of our employees.”

Security meets flexibility
The publishing house’s main priorities were choosing a future-proof communication and collaboration solution to replace IBM Notes. The IT team narrowed down the options and presented SPIEGEL employees with a choice between Microsoft Office 365 and a solution from another leading cloud provider, before launching two parallel pilot projects.

While, according to Doub, “Both solutions were viable and were similarly well accepted by various user groups,” both solutions also needed to hold up to legal and data-protection standards. “This is vital to us,” Doub explains, “As we constantly view things with a critical eye because of our core skills of critical and investigative journalism here at SPIEGEL. It became clear that Microsoft offered much more mature data protection, which meant we benefited from a more solid legal foundation.” This was one of the most compelling reasons for adopting Office 365.

It became clear that Microsoft offered much more mature data protection, which meant we benefited from a more solid legal foundation

The flexibility of Office 365 also played a decisive role in its selection. Employees and editorial staff can share documents using OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online, while still having access to data stored in the on-premise IT infrastructure. “It’s very fluid, and one reason that we chose Office 365,” notes Doub. “I want our company workplaces to be as flexible as possible—at a great price point. Microsoft does just that.”

SPIEGEL-Verlag’s Office 365 enterprise plan allows employees to access Office apps on up to five devices – a vital asset given that increasingly, employees expect to see the same tools at work that they use every day in their personal lives.

SPIEGEL-BUILDING Atrium | Copyright DER SPIEGEL / Zooey Braun

A seamless transition
When rolling out Office 365, the publishing house worked with Microsoft Partner Network member Net at Work. “We began with a pilot project to proof the concept,” states Siegfried Kaup, Chief Executive Officer of Net at Work. “Then we migrated a few employees from the IT department, along with a pilot group of employees outside of IT. This allowed us to test performance and availability, and to ramp up our Help Desk and provisioning processes,” notes Kaup.

During this phase, a user training program was also developed. “Early on, we promoted the new workspace by, for example, using video clips on the intranet to show how it was going to make everyday tasks easier.” In addition, presentations showcasing the advantages of the new tools were also provided.

Once preparations were complete, the majority of SPIEGEL employees were migrated to Exchange Online, and IBM Notes was removed from service. “Thanks to guidance from Net at Work, we avoided many problems from the start,” explains Doub. “This professional preparation paid for itself.” At the same time, the publisher implemented Skype for Business, which gradually replaced IBM Sametime.

The next stage saw the IT team evaluate SharePoint Online, using a pilot to test what templates for team spaces could look like, with the ultimate aim of promoting self-organised work. “Employees should be able to find their way in Office 365 and not need to call IT to ask about a team site,” Doub says.

SPIEGEL building | Copyright DER SPIEGEL / Noshe

A workplace of the future
“We’re now in a position to offer our employees solutions that they had requested long ago, when we were not able to respond technically,” Doub summarises. “Office 365 will significantly change the way we do things, and how IT prepares workspaces.”

With Office 365, IT can now support self-organized work, bolstered by a bring-your-own-device option for the company. Employees now benefit from a cutting-edge workplace that they can even access on the road from a mobile device. Not only that, but employees can also enjoy the flexibility of signing into any computer while swapping desks, instead of having a rigid, assigned workplace structure.

By adopting technology to transform its workplace, while simultaneously fostering a positive culture, the publishing house has empowered its employees to achieve their maximum potential, allowing them to continue their industry-leading coverage.