Logo Vroon

Vroon is an international shipping company, operating from headquarters in Breda, the Netherlands, with management companies in Den Helder, Genoa, Aberdeen, Singapore and Manila. The company employs around 3,000 professionals worldwide, including approximately 300 in its offices. Vroon deploys its fleet of 130 vessels in the offshore market and for the deepsea transportation of dry cargo, bitumen, cars, livestock and more. Last year, Ictivity supported the global company in realising its ambitions on various fronts.
Vroon medewerkers

“A scalable, standardised and effective IT platform, as an enabler for the ‘Vroon as a Platform’ growth strategy.”

Looking to the cloud
As part of its future strategy, Vroon intends to continue optimising its fleet, supplementing its own ships with vessels under third-party management contracts. To make this possible, a ‘Vroon as a Platform’ strategy was developed, with IT forming an important component. This prompted a requirement within Vroon for a scalable, standardised and effective IT platform. As Rob Frenks, Group ICT Manager, says: “We wanted to make a seamless transition to the cloud, providing a better user experience for our employees.”

According to ICT Infrastructure Manager Wesley Vandamme, “With the knowledge that Vroon’s systems and servers would reach end-of-life by 2020 and looking at our future goals, it was clear that this would be a good time to implement a cloud-first strategy, especially since the underlying cloud technology had matured rapidly.”

“This was the perfect time for us to transition to the cloud.”

User first
After a tendering procedure, Vroon selected Ictivity to handle its cloud migration. The project included migrating all business applications to Microsoft Azure (including managed services for the entire Azure environment) and deploying a new, modern IT workspace based on Office365, Omnia and Microsoft Intune for mobile device and application management. Ictivity came up with an impressive technical implementation plan, Vandamme recalls. “But, perhaps even more importantly, Ictivity’s proposal set aside a significant amount of time for proper end-user adoption and training. After all, this process would involve a whole new way of working for our colleagues. With this in mind, Ictivity’s motto – ‘user-based computing’ – immediately appealed to us.”

Sharing documents just got much easier
Vroon Omnia WorkspaceNitin Chopra took on responsibility as Project Manager for Vroon, with the project christened Project Velum. “Thanks to Ictivity’s Omnia Portal solution, finding information and sharing documents is now much easier. Employees can reach all the information and data they need in one central location, without having to open many different applications. With the constraints of the coronavirus pandemic meaning more colleagues were working from home, we also accelerated implementation of Microsoft Teams. This has definitely been a big factor in facilitating contact and cooperation between our locations around the world, and with external parties.”

“Finding and sharing information and documents just got much easier.”

Leading up to implementation, a study was conducted to gain insight into the types of users and working styles within Vroon. One of the components was an employee questionnaire, with easier ways to share documents being flagged up as an important improvement. Rob Frenks adds, “We did not have sufficient options for this in the old situation, especially for sharing files with other departments or external contacts. Employees would often resort to e-mailing large documents or use external file-sharing tools, such as WeTransfer. We were keen to get rid of such workarounds.”

What’s in it for them?
After wrapping up the technical implementation, the vital adoption phase followed. Chopra, “The speed and ability with which your users start feeling at home with new technology has a direct impact on your business, especially if you’re making a change of this scale. You must involve your employees in all the changes from the outset and make clear what’s in it for them. When people see how new technology can simplify their work, it becomes a lot easier to overcome possible resistance or scepticism.”

“You must include employees in all the changes from the outset.”

Aiming to ensure a smooth adoption process, 17 ambassadors were appointed within Vroon. As Chopra explains, “The ambassadors, who came from across the business and had no specific ICT background, were trained by Ictivity and helped support their own teams during the roll-out. This worked extremely well. What also helped were the constant information updates from our project team, e.g. What is the current status of the project? And what changes are coming next?”

Available day and night
Vroon schipThe online training courses provided by Ictivity, plus additional mini-training sessions that focused on eight specific sub-topics, helped tremendously during the adoption phase, Chopra continues. “And another bonus that certainly should not go unmentioned is the e-Coach facilitated by Ictivity, which was available day and night for all functional user questions. That ‘day and night’ can be taken quite literally,” adds Rob Frenks. “We are an international company, working in multiple time zones. In those first few days after the go-live, Ictivity’s e-Coach was available from 02.00 hours onwards to handle questions from our colleagues in Asia. It demonstrates Ictivity’s huge commitment and flexibility; they go to great lengths to make a project a success.”

“Ictivity’s e-coach was available day and night. Literally.”

Senior trainer Robbert Robben was closely involved in the adoption and communication programme on behalf of Ictivity. “How do you get all these employees, from Breda to Manila, to embrace a new way of working? A carefully crafted adoption and communication programme is crucial for the success of a project of this magnitude, especially during the current pandemic. In addition to the services that have already been discussed, the Knowledge Hub should not be forgotten. This online learning portal provides Vroon employees 24/7 access to microlearning modules with instruction materials, reference books and other information, for use during training courses or for self-study. I am pleased that, due in no small part to the excellent cooperation between Vroon and Ictivity, we were able to steer this large-scale transition in the right direction, not just for the company itself, but also from the users’ perspective.”

Great cultural fit
All in all, Vroon and Ictivity had a great cultural fit, Rob Frenks notes. “Like our company, Ictivity has a flexible, solution-oriented, can-do mentality. We can be demanding and usually have a clear idea of the direction we want to head in. Ictivity was very quick in understanding this and moving along with us. What also appealed was their strong focus on the end user, not solely on the technology. Ictivity was also extremely keen on the ‘first-time-right’ principle. If there were any issues at all, Ictivity was always proactive and flexible in resolving them.”

“There was a great cultural fit.”

Ictivity was also always open to suggestions, Chopra confirms. “They did not impose their own ideas, adjusting the process as needed. Everything happened in mutual consultation.” Wesley Vandamme explains how the two partners worked together on the architecture documents for Microsoft Azure and Omnia, among others. “We held two or three workshops with all stakeholders for each document. This was done in full consultation and Ictivity always clearly explained why a particular choice was the best in their opinion. In this way, we arrived at the most optimal solution for each building block in the implementation.”

Vroon is a frontrunner in implementing Windows Virtual Desktop, Microsoft’s virtual workplace solution based on Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS). Ictivity proved flexible in this area as well, Vandamme says. “From our perspective at Vroon, we wanted to embrace this new workplace technology, but of course that entails a certain degree of risk. Ictivity was happy to take on the challenge with us.”

Challenging circumstances
Speaking for Ictivity, Project Manager Martijn Verhoeven also looks back on the project with satisfaction. “What I remember most about this project is the pleasant, close-knit cooperation. Our organisations fit well together in terms of culture. That made it possible for us to tell each other the blunt truth from time to time, without damaging our working relationship. This mindset, along with a flexible and transparent attitude, definitely helped us carry out this project under these challenging circumstances.”

Because, as Verhoeven explains, the project certainly was challenging. “Due to the Covid-19 crisis, we suddenly had to handle the entire process remotely. The scope was determined remotely, based on joint online workshops for each theme. At the same time, there was major pressure to get it done on time, as Vroon faced a firm cut-off date for the end of its data-centre contract. Through effective cooperation – via a joint project site on Microsoft Teams, weekly Teams meetings and by keeping track of all the actions in Planner – we achieved a great end result.”

The foundation is solid
With a fully-fledged, modern cloud workplace, offering users a great deal of convenience and freedom, Vroon is now set for the years to come, Rob Frenks says. “Thanks to this modern workplace and infrastructure, there is a solid foundation in place for the company’s future digital progress. The next step is the modernisation of our business applications based on the Dynamics 365 Eco system.”

“Working from a close partnership, we brought this project to a successful conclusion, during challenging times.”

Rob Frenks confirms that the abrupt emergence of the coronavirus situation led to an intense start of the project. “Due to the circumstances, we ended up hardly seeing each other live at all. Even so, working from a close partnership, we succeeded in bringing this project to a successful conclusion. Now we are focused on expanding that partnership, starting with Ictivity’s managed services. We also recently started using the Ictivity-developed 1.5 Metres App, which allows employees to reserve a safe workplace in the office. It’s a good example of how we seek out ongoing innovation together.”

Vroon hoofdkantoor