A digital Workplace based on SharePoint – or: the success story of Sharespace

3. April 2018 Stefan Gohr Culture, Microsoft, Teamwork, Workspace
The digital workplace solution Swisscom Sharespace has an exciting history. Looking for a modern digital workplace, Swisscom began working (in 2005) on a software solution that meets the requirements of a modern working environment and can raise employee productivity to a new level. Years later, Swisscom Sharespace has won the Microsoft Partner Awards 2017 and the product has been well received by the industry. Let`s call it a success story.

Journey since 2005

The Sharespace journey began at Swisscom back in 2005. At that time, nine different intranets based on seven different technologies were in use at the company, containing more than 50,000 pages of content in total. The intranets were all branded with the Swisscom logo, but the operating philosophies of the individual solutions could not have been more different.

This had a significant impact on the everyday work of Swisscom employees. For instance, as no company-wide search function existed employees often failed to find the relevant information in their searches. The go-ahead was therefore given to develop a new, consolidated intranet solution: A digital workplace based on SharePoint.

Development of a digital workplace based on Microsoft SharePoint

The project started with a comprehensive evaluation of CMS systems, including heavyweights in the field, such as Open Text, Adobe, Day and of course SharePoint. SharePoint 2007 did not offer the best CMS features, yet it was SharePoint that prevailed at Swisscom. Why?

The vision of developing a digital workplace at Swisscom began more than 10 years ago – moving from the electronic company newsletter and top-down distribution of corporate communications to a modern, interactive workplace of the future.

SharePoint offers search-based dashboards for live data, creating the technical basis for the implementation of a personalised homepage in the enterprise environment.

The new intranet based on SharePoint 2007 went live at Swisscom at the end of 2008. The Swisscom project team had added social features missing from SharePoint 2007, such as comments, ratings and likes, via Swisscom’s own intranet Framework (as Sharespace was initially known) and successfully completed one of Switzerland’s largest intranet migration projects.

Numerous migrations to updated versions of SharePoint followed and functional improvements were implemented continuously. Many companies in Switzerland were interested in Swisscom’s award-winning intranet and wanted to implement the same solution for their own employees; thus, in 2011, Sharespace was born.

Successful introduction within the company

The first version of the product developed for customers was easy to install and was not dependent on Swisscom back-end systems. In 2014, Swisscom Collaboration was introduced based on SharePoint 2013. It was finally here! The digital workspace for 20,000 Swisscom employees was a reality.

Every Swisscom employee would now be able to set up their own project, topic and OU areas in order to start projects, without IT support. Documents could also be stored efficiently and edited by different users. The digital workplace was met with a positive response from the Swisscom community. The introduction was so successful that within two years more than 80% of Swisscom employees stored their documents only on the intranet.

Some 800 to 1,000 new virtual workspaces are now created every month, and several terabytes of new Office documents are stored on the Swisscom intranet each year. Swisscom has reinvented its working culture with the Work Smart community and successfully introduced it for 20,000 employees. The Work Smart community is part of the Swisscom working culture and has already trained more than 2,000 Collab Specialists at Swisscom. Today, many customers book Swisscom Work Smart coaches to promote their own culture change.

100% cloud-enabled architecture

With Azure, Office 365 and SharePoint Online, Microsoft has made great advances in its cloud services. Swisscom, therefore, decided to set up a new cloud-enabled architecture. Many millions of lines of new server-side C# code were rewritten as client-side JavaScript code by the product team founded in 2015. The popular core functions of the Swisscom intranet, which had proven themselves over many years with 20,000 employees, were, of course, included again and supplemented with innovative new functions. This solution should enable employees not only to consume information and provide bottom-up feedback but also to find all the documents and information needed in their daily work.

SharePoint already offered considerable strengths in terms of document management functions, Office integration and collaboration. The SharePoint CMS was selected based on its potential for the digital workplace.

Personalised intranet for all employees

From the first version of the Swisscom intranet, there was a focus on consistent personalisation to ensure that employees see the information that is most relevant to their role, team, location or topic on the start page.

New product versions in three-week cycles

The product team now uses an agile development process (scrum) to create new product versions in three-week cycles. Sharespace has gained a smart merger that can automatically combine customer-specific configurations and configuration of new functions. This enables Sharespace updates to be installed in just a few minutes, updating customer intranet platforms with new functionalities – a milestone compared with the months-long SharePoint migration projects of the past.

In addition to 100% cloud-enabled architecture, Sharespace offers improved separation between business data and business logic, so SharePoint databases are not code-based and can be migrated between SharePoint servers and the cloud more easily. Thus, Swisscom Sharespace offers flexibility in the choice of operating platform.

Whether data is hosted on-premises, at the Swisscom data centre or in the public Azure cloud (Office 365), Sharespace adapts to company-specific IT strategies and is always the right choice for CIOs.