Arvesta is Belgium’s largest full-service partner for farmers and horticulturalists, with a strong international network that continues to grow. The company supplies animal feed, agricultural and horticultural goods and services, machinery and flour, and runs 250 Aveve stores and three Eurotuin stores. With over 120 years’ experience and expertise, it advises the agricultural sector on smart farming, innovation and sustainable solutions, among other things.
Migration to Microsoft 365 simplifies innovation for Arvesta
Growth company Arvesta employs a buy-and-build strategy, which can be especially challenging for IT. Successive acquisitions had led to the organisation working with an increasing number of different applications, in particular for its internal and external communications. In order to unify the diverse email infrastructure, and improve data protection and collaborations with partners, the management team decided to switch to Microsoft 365. The pandemic and a complex cyber-attack resulted in Project Harmony taking longer than anticipated, but also underlined the importance of change management and digital security. De Cronos Groep’s expertise ensured the migration project ran seamlessly. Now, Arvesta wants to further concentrate its focus on low-code development to achieve even more gains in efficiency.
- Arvesta migrated from a large cloud collaboration suite to Microsoft 365
- All divisions are now working with the same software to communicate and share information
- This improves internal and external collaboration, which simplifies innovation
- 1200: Microsoft 365 accounts activated
- 7: months to migrate and train everyone
- 4: support workers provided 1200 individual training sessions via video
Innovation is driving growth company Arvesta forward: they are constantly adding new solutions, markets and acquisitions. In order to innovate, however, you need to be able to work together efficiently. And people within the organisation were using different communication systems, which made cooperating with external partners more complicated. Employees had opened up their drives to share files, but this ultimately led to difficulties in seeing who could access them, so something had to change.
‘We started getting complaints about the cloud-only suite we were using,’ says Lien Verschueren, Head of IT Operations at Arvesta. ‘People like having fully-fledged applications on their PC, and lots of our colleagues need to do complex calculations as part of their job – not just in accounting – where Microsoft Excel is still the main reference.’
Arvesta therefore contacted several organisations to supervise the switch to Microsoft 365, and they ultimately set sail with Nimbuz – a consultancy firm that is part of De Cronos Groep. Nimbuz offers a good combination of the group’s various competences, and is responsible for coordinating the approach and subprojects. Verschueren: ‘De Cronos Groep stood out in terms of technology, and their proposal immediately encompassed the right scope for us and was within budget. They’d clearly outlined the technical process for us already with a comprehensive roadmap – despite it being tricky to set out the best order for migrating all our mailboxes and applications because our various document sources and applications were all intertwined with each other. Nimbuz also paid close attention to adoption by end users.’
Pandemic accelerates migration
Nimbuz enlisted the help of fellow Cronos company The Flow, which brought in technical Microsoft 365 specialists and mail experts together with application and end-user adoption consultants. Arvesta also set up an internal team and steering committee. Together with The Flow, they launched the project at the start of 2020 – just before the coronavirus pandemic. This raised the question of whether it was a good time to set sail with such an integral project, but Arvesta actually decided to accelerate things instead – having to work from home made email management and remote collaboration even more important for the organisation.
Unfortunately, however, the project soon hit a stumbling block when it suffered a major cyber-attack in 2020. ‘We had to put the phased migration on hold briefly to defend the attack and add the necessary protection to our infrastructure. But this actually resulted in us improving our security further with better identity management, partly thanks to conditional access and Azure AD,’ explains Verschueren. Arvesta is also benefiting from improved device management and administration of its updates since the migration, which is even more important in the new organisation with more remote working.
Better control of applications and a low-code future
The Flow used Microsoft FastTrack to transfer files to SharePoint and OneDrive one by one, and a special migration tool – Quest – for the calendars and mailboxes. One of the main challenges was migrating applications that were connected in the previous cloud suite. According to the IT manager, people had been quite creative in the past. But Microsoft 365 has given Arvesta more control over these different applications now, and they’ve even discovered new applications included in the licence, such as Bookings and Whiteboard. They’re aiming to use more Microsoft Power Apps and low-code software development to glue small processes together next year.
With AODocs, Arvesta previously had a top layer above its cloud suite for sharing personal drives with colleagues. ‘But this always required approval, whereas colleagues can now build Team Workspaces themselves. The Flow also designed some good portals with SharePoint, which makes collaboration much smoother and more efficient now, and gives us more control.’
1200 individual support sessions
The migration started in February 2021 in an initial wave that continued until the summer, with the second and final wave taking place in September and October. To ensure that everyone could work properly with the new Microsoft 365 suite, Arvesta and The Flow together provided digital support sessions to each employee the day after their mailbox and file migrations.
The four-person support team allowed one hour per employee, resulting in 1200 individual sessions! Each team also included a support group with ambassadors for colleagues to ask questions, and they can still open tickets with the support desk today.
‘A major change such as this needs careful consideration and planning in advance, and adopting a phased approach like we did is of course a bit more expensive than a big bang, but the decision depends on how digitally mature your organisation is. Our management team was able to track the progress of the migration project on our customised dashboard,’ explains Verschueren.
A range of new applications
An Office migration involving 1200 licences during lockdown is no easy task. ‘But Cronos is one of the leading experts in Belgium in this regard. Not only can they bring a whole battery of specialists together, they’re also flexible and provide immediate feedback – even remotely,’ concludes Verschueren.
‘Nimbuz paid careful attention to the end-user experience.’
‘Colleagues can build Teams workspaces themselves now. The Flow also designed several document portals with SharePoint, which makes collaboration much smoother and more efficient, and gives us more control.’
Lien Verschueren, Head of IT Operations at Arvesta