Headquartered in Cologne, rhenag Rheinische Energie AG is one of Germany’s longest-serving public utility companies. The company that began constructing state-of-the-art infrastructure as early as 1872 has since developed into a modern regional supplier and national collaboration partner for municipal utilities. Aligning 145 years of tradition with the dynamic innovation of a forward-facing energy provider requires daily operations to run with extreme efficiency. And in 2020, the company was planning to up it all a notch. In order to optimise intra-departmental workflows as well as collaboration across departments and the rhenag core group of companies, the organisation had planned to install a collaboration solution to enable online meetings, file sharing and secure remote work.
For the project that Bechtle won through a public call for bids, the IT systems integrator wanted to first modernise rhenag’s IT service subsidiary, GkD (Gesellschaft für kommunale Dienstleistungen mbH), before rolling out the new collaboration solution to another GkD parent, the energy and service provider Energieversorgung Mittelrhein AG (evm), and eventually implementing it at rhenag at the end of 2020.
Then came the COVID-19 lockdown and shook up the timeline. Employees had to be able to connect through Microsoft Teams from home—and fast. But as a provider of critical national infrastructure, rhenag’s data security and undisrupted operations are of utmost importance.
The good news was that Bechtle had already implemented a secure collaboration solution using Microsoft Teams as part of a proof of concept design at GkD and evm, meaning the IT experts were already familiar with the technical framework, firewalls, internet breakouts, etc. Drawing on Microsoft best practices, they were hence able to deliver the required, secure collaboration solution in a very short space of time, and thus enable 550 employees to work together from home. To this end, Bechtle implemented Microsoft Azure AD and Microsoft Azure AD Connect, knowing all the devils in the detail from the previous work done at the two other companies. In addition, Bechtle installed Microsoft Office 365 E3 and Microsoft Teams to enable rhenag’s employees to collaborate directly—even on their mobile devices when working from home.
Strong security keeps data safe and sound, including Microsoft Azure’s multi-factor authentication, which requires workers to enter their user name and password, plus a one-time PIN that is generated on their mobile phones to verify their identities upon each login. A container on the employees’ smartphones that has been deployed through a mobile device manager makes sure all data travels in compliance with company policies. For instance, this allows admins to prevent employees from making screenshots or downloading files from SharePoint.
In a matter of just weeks, Bechtle empowered rhenag’s employees to collaborate remotely with the required speed, efficiency and security, including video conferences with dozens of participants all joining from their desks at home. This has enabled rhenag to safeguard operations despite stay-at-home guidelines under the impression of the coronavirus. Employees are even able to socialise as they would in the office thanks to video chats. And this was just a first step. rhenag is planning to migrate Exchange to the cloud and implement SharePoint online soon so remote workers can connect as needed and employees can continue to choose to work from home in the future.