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CIO describes how he moved 125K workers to Office 365 in 6 months

Matt Kapko | Nov. 26, 2015
The CIO of Swiss power company ABB shared details with about its decision to ditch IBM Notes and move 125,000 workers to Office 365. The migration spotlighted important lessons for IT leaders about the scalability of enterprise tools and how innovation can drive staff productivity.

"I was very keen to move as many people out of more commoditized services into areas where they could support the business, and this seemed a good opportunity to do that," Tidd says. The migration went smoother than the CIO expected, the result of vigorous preparation by ABB and Microsoft, according to Tidd.

However, the company hit a few snags while moving data from its existing systems to the equivalents in Office 365. That data transfer to Office 365 required some heavy lifting, but Tidd says the challenge didn't impede the ultimate goal: to ensure employees were happy with the new collaboration and communication tools what would ultimately make them more effective and productive.

"In the early days there were a couple of things where people were getting used to just a different user interface and a different set of functionality, but the benefits of moving far outweighed any of the issues that we hit early on," says Tidd.

"CIOs should know that Office 365 deployments and transitions of this size are not just one-to-one technology replacements, but a fundamental cultural transformation of their organization," Spetter says.

As such, ABB's detailed preparation before the migration was critical, according to Tidd. That preparation entailed "significant training" for employs, including online sessions from Microsoft, as well as local workshops designed to familiarize employees with Office 365 features. ABB also maintained an open line of communication with Microsoft to answer specific questions from employees.

Looking back on the project, Tidd encourages his colleagues in IT not to fear the unknown or assume that all technology migrations will cause heart palpitations. "Even though we went into this to open up the collaboration and to provide a better user experience, I've just been pleasantly surprised at how good it's been for our users," he says.

Office 365 unlocks power in employee connections

The company's employees can now make more meaningful connections with colleagues and coworkers, which is "extremely important," Tidd says. Yammer, which lets workers find colleagues and see if they're available, and then start conversations, is particularly popular among ABB's employees, according to Tidd.

The ABB engineering teams today collaborate more and frequently seek advice from colleagues located in other countries, he says. Employees can now pull together virtual teams and work on particular projects or R&D tasks. Engineers and other technical talent frequently check in with these virtual teams, as well, according to Tidd.

"That kind of extended workflow — we simply couldn't work in that way before, so it's been a great step forward," he says. "Before, it was all a case of who you knew and who you're able to connect with, and all of a sudden the power of the connection has gone to another level."


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