In the global engineering, architecture, and consultancy company Ramboll, 16,000 colleagues have worked remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and this has changed the need for IT.
During the past 18 months, people around the world have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Several companies have had to close offices and find alternative ways of doing business. This was also the case for Ramboll, a global engineering, architecture, and consultancy company.
Thomas Angelius, CIO in Ramboll, shares his experiences from the time before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and the way services from the IT organization have been impacted by changed working conditions.
From +200 to 16,000
‘Offices’ Over Night
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, the work in Ramboll was centred around the +200 offices globally. Engineers would typically also occasionally work from home, but project work and client interactions were centred around the offices. That changed literally overnight as we had to start shutting down offices due to COVID restrictions in most countries.
employees’ digital understanding and appetite to collaborate virtually
The Global IT organisation had to quickly switch focus from enabling our colleagues to work in the corporate offices to instead working out of their individual home offices. By early focus and investment, we were able to ensure sufficient technical capacity to support this through VPN and other means. The number of VPN sessions increased tenfold due to the need among employees to use their CAD and other design tools as well as accessing centralised compute resources and enterprise applications from home.
Transitioning to working from home was not a clean-cut transition globally but happened more as a wave that swept across our offices as governments started applying restrictions. This allowed us to adjust and optimize our approach as we went along. During the first weeks with remote work, IT significantly upgraded the VPN and other network components to enhance the usere xperience and capacity. We also fast-forwarded moving some services to the cloud, ensuring easy access from home offices.
We are proud that we were able to ensure that all employees globally could work from home and that Ramboll production continued. The Ramboll employees felt well supported and in an internal survey, employees stated that they have been supported by a mature IT infrastructure and 8 out of 10 stated that they had access to all the information they needed when working from home.
Ramboll was already using virtual collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams to connect colleagues across offices, but these platforms of course became even more important as they were now the only way of interacting with close colleagues.
As a B2B company, we had the additional challenge that our clients were also transitioning to work from home, so we quickly had to mature our ways of interacting with clients virtually. This of course included standard meetings but also more interactive co-creating sessions. I think that the widespread feeling of a shared challenge due to the pandemic helped us in this process and we found that our clients were very open to try new ways of interacting.
In early 2020, just before the pandemic, Ramboll had launched a new global helpdesk model, transitioning to a remote support set-up from a more local support organisation. The change of support model could not have been timed better, as the remote set-up allowed us to support our colleagues also in their home offices.
We find that the pandemic has led to an increase in our employees’ digital understanding and appetite to collaborate virtually. In addition to using tools such as Teams and Yammer for knowledge sharing and engaging, we are increasingly using digital platforms for more demanding tasks such as co-creation sessions and kick-off workshops, even as offices are beginning to re-open.
A Hybrid Working Model Changes the Need for IT Tools and Services
Looking towards the future, we do not expect to return to our corporate offices in the same way as before the pandemic. Ramboll will in the future be working in a “hybrid” model, combining the virtues of traditional on-site office work with remote work. We know from internal surveys that our employees are interested in working more from home than they were before the pandemic. We also know that our B2B clients are also looking into hybrid working, allowing their employees to work from home. IT has a key role in ensuring that our technologies allow that our clients, no matter where they are located, can benefit from our world-class experts from across the globe. As a leading engineering, architecture, and consultancy company, we need to excel in enabling these new ways of working.
Enabling work in a hybrid model sets clear expectations for us in the IT function. We need to continue our focus on delivering great collaboration tools to be used by colleagues as well as with clients. We also need to ensure access to centralized applications and resources no matter the location. This will give increased focus on our infrastructure journey, finding the right balance of accessibility and cost, and balancing cloud vs on-premises technologies for both office documents and massive simulation solutions and files.
There is no doubt that the hybrid way of working and the new business opportunities and requirements coming out of that will impact the way we organize our IT landscape in the future, and we will continue to identify new learnings as we go along.
Ramboll is a global engineering, architecture, and consultancy company with a leading edge in creating sustainable cities and societies. Our 16,000 experts drive sustainable change within Buildings; Transport; Water; Environment & Health; Architecture and Landscape; Energy and Management Consulting. ramboll. Com