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ABB grows internal collaboration through ‘social email’

Familiar interface increases uptake of Microsoft SharePoint

ABB, the power and automation technologies group, has adopted 'social email' software from harmon.ie as part of its effort to improve collaboration across the global business.

Prior to the implementation, ABB's employees would access on average six to nine platforms to get their work done. This required them to toggle between their IBM Lotus Notes email, various Microsoft Office applications, instant messenger service from Sametime, web-based applications such as SAP and file servers including eRoom, Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 and Lotus Notes team rooms.

"These context switches waste time and interrupt their focus, impacting every aspect of our business, from sales and marketing to engineering and R&D," said Thomas David Jones, ABB project manager of group IS projects.

The company therefore decided to implement a technology from harmon.ie that would enable staff to reduce the number of platforms they need to access to do their work, by integrating SharePoint with Lotus Notes.

"harmon.ie closes one of the biggest IT gaps we've ever had at ABB. It's a great app that transforms the email client into a social and collaboration workspace," said Jones.

Instead of storing documents on their local hard drives and sharing them as email attachments, employees can now share a single, centralised copy of documents on SharePoint, alongside related emails.

Users can also use Sametime via their email to connect and collaborate with colleagues, and ABB said that they are also more ready to adopt SharePoint's social features because they are now convenient to use.

Overall adoption of SharePoint has also increased.

"Initial collections of harmon.ie and IIS logs indicate there's been significant increase in SharePoint adoption, both in terms of unique users accessing SharePoint and the number of team spaces deployed for project, departmental and regional work," Jones said.

The number of unique users of SharePoint has grown 43 percent at ABB, while the number of team spaces used has more than doubled. For example, the company's corporate R&D division has started to use team spaces to manage all their projects, up to 400 a year.

Being able to merge existing applications was a key factor for ABB's adoption of harmon.ie.

"ABB doesn't want to shock users with a 'rip and replace' strategy that replaces their familiar clients or IT environments with something new and unknown. We want people to experience a natural evolution of their familiar tools, with useful new features in an updated interface," said Jones.

ABB started rolling out harmon.ie to its 124,000 users in February. It aims to introduce additional collaborative tools to the business over the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, direct selling company Amway has managed to reduce email traffic at its company headquarters in Michigan by 42 percent after it installed harmon.ie's software.

Previously, the 6,000 staff at Amway's head office used their browser to access and share published documents on Windows SharePoint Server, but did not use SharePoint to co-author new documents. As a result, the company found that the employees emailed nearly 73,000 attachments a day.

"Most people live in email. More often than not, they resort to sending documents back and forth, because people think it's faster and easier to email a document than to switch contexts and deal with multiple browser windows.

"In fact, they lose a ton of time searching for the most current version of a document and merging input from several people," said Sandy Harvey, senior analyst of messaging and collaboration at Amway.

However, as ABB has also found, adopting harmon.ie has encouraged staff to increase their overall use of SharePoint.

The company deployed the software as a sidebar widget in the Lotus Notes 9.5.1 package, and in the first few months it helped to reduce the number of email attachments sent every day by 42 percent to an average 42,350.

"Our business users love having SharePoint access within email. The amount of time people save using a single, easy-to-use messaging and collaboration interface has been a huge advantage for our customers," Harvey added.

Amway has been using Harmon.ie since June 2010, and is now looking into rolling it out to its other offices around the world.


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