It's not so common in that industry, but for infra-specialist Leeuwenstein Group the choice was very clear: they wanted an ICT manager with responsibility for all ICT. So hardware, software and support. The self-willed Tim Heiland, the ICT manager, makes conscious choices to keep much of the organisation in his own hands. But with the best tools for specific purposes,' says Heiland. That's how we came to M-Files and premium partner GeONE for optimising our information management at project level. Haven't regretted it for a day yet...'
Leeuwenstein Group from Geldermalsen is a infrastructure specialist in the middle segment as they call it. 'Our compact and diverse composition allows us to serve a broad spectrum of clients,' Tim Heiland begins his story. Leeuwenstein Group is divided into five companies, all affiliated to the Van Doorn family: Van Doorn Geldermalsen, Signa Terra Dover Traffic, Ecoleon and IMS. Van Doorn ensures a clean and safe infrastructure, Signa Terra for urban and private green spaces, Dover Verkeer for the deployment of traffic measures, Ecoleon for making outdoor spaces more sustainable and IMS for fast and adequate solutions in case of calamities, damages and breakdowns. Heiland: 'An important part of our companies is that we share knowledge and expertise and strengthen each other at work. We do this by being innovative. In total, some 325 employees work at our family business. All five companies are in close contact with each other, partly because they are all part of the Van Doorn family businesses, and partly because they are mostly complementary work and services provided. Because of the family ties, there are short lines of communication. That makes working together very pleasant and also distinctive from working with 'ordinary' business partners.'
Clients for Leeuwenstein Group are central government institutions such as the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management, provinces and municipalities. All these different activities require maximum support and are mainly project-oriented. Heiland: 'This work requires great mobility and flexibility of people and equipment. If a calamity happens somewhere, such as a truck overturning and the load lying on the road, we are called in to sort things out. Then suddenly there is great dynamism. Traffic measures have to be taken, equipment has to go there to clean up and remove materials, the road surface may have to be repaired, people have to be available, in short, few of these things are immediately predictable, but many do occur regularly, so you can anticipate them. Especially with the experience we have.'
"Structuring information flows, with a flexible product that grows with you"
But that alone will not (always) get you there. Experience is good, information and knowledge sharing even better. For Heiland, it was a desire to bring more structure to the information flows between different companies. And like many things, he wanted to be able to manage that internally. 'Meanwhile, I have shown with my approach that it works. But then it is important to work with standards, with products and services that are flexible, that can move with developments in the market. That applies to all ICT facilities that Leeuwenstein Group uses. Users are demanding more and more these days and then I find it more pleasant to be able to pull the strings myself.'
But the right strings. Strings that don't break when you pull on them. Heiland: 'The construction and infrastructure world is quite traditional in a number of things. ICT is one of those things. You always have to show that it really works before you get permission to take another step. In recent years, I have been able to demonstrate that things are moving in the right direction with ICT developments and support within Leeuwenstein Group. The ultimate goal is to align the entire organisation as it were, to be able to take the next steps as a company with the right ICT support.'
Taking information management to the next level
Where there were still great opportunities, however, was information management and information accessibility around the many projects within the Leeuwenstein Group. Heiland's ambition was to take that to the next, higher level. 'We have grown by proving to be a reliable partner and delivering a good price-performance ratio. In addition, within civil engineering projects, contractors are increasingly being asked to take on the entire maintenance once a project has been completed. Such a maintenance obligation then generally applies for at least ten years. The (national) government then only assumes the role of client/director and does not carry out any other (or increasingly fewer) executive tasks. For the follow-up, the maintenance of the road or outdoor space, for example, we are then asked. However, it is quite a task to keep all the information around such a project together in an orderly manner for so long, to keep it accessible, to maintain the relationships and to manage all that. There are many different sources and various types of documents, including many technical documents, certifications, etc. These are often related to each other. This information used to be on network disks and then both the information and the relationship between documents, drawings, certifications, etc. cannot be found after a while. Moreover, ten years is quite a long time. During that period, it changes a lot of staff on the specific projects and we regularly work with externals. As a result, the management of and access to relevant information began to squeeze more and more.'
M-Files connects seamlessly
Heiland was looking for a solution that matched Leeuwenstein's needs and requirements with regard to accessing, managing and especially finding information. 'In doing so, we wanted information to be properly secured from unauthorised eyes. It is important information that should not be 'just' available for everyone to see or share.'
M-Files proved to be the solution that matched all those needs and requirements seamlessly, and premium partner GeONE was a good fit with Leeuwenstein Group's mindset and approach. Heiland: 'The intelligence in the software to easily manage information without compromising security and findability really appealed to me.' Actually, the plea was quickly settled. 'A list of EIM solutions was further narrowed down via a shortlist of Leeuwenstein's requirements and wishes and quickly brought M-Files into the spotlight,' says Heiland. 'One of the triggers was the General Data Protection Regulation. When we did this search about one-and-a-half, two years ago, M-Files turned out to be completely ready for it. Add to that the way M-Files handles information, the distinction between what information is and not where it is stored and the rights around the use of specific information and the choice for M-Files was quickly made.'
All related information above water
'With M-Files, users are much better able to find all relevant information. Take the example of the overturned truck and lost load: then there are established protocols on how to act, which other parties need to be informed and included in the process, what equipment is needed, what additional (technical) information about road/road surface/road barriers, what materials and machines we need to repair any damage to the road, what is needed to remove the load, etc. This involves a lot of, complex and often technical and interrelated information. You want those on the moment supreme not having to search all kinds of network drives, wondering about how someone would have named a specific document when storing it. That information needs to be available quickly, completely and up to date for the implementers who need to get to the scene of the incident as quickly as possible. With M-Files, we are able to consistently and consistently manage all that information and keep it in relation to each other, so that our people can get straight to work with it and share it (safely) with others involved. Other relevant information that could be related to such an incident also comes up immediately through the intelligence in M-Files, even if it is stored in other sources. Finally, with M-Files you always leave the way open for yourself to new developments. It is a consistent way of working and also very flexible.'
With M-Files, all information is available quickly, completely and up-to-date
Roll out further
The first phase of the project involved deploying M-Files to about 50 people. 'It is starting to take off well. Because we are doing the transition at an appropriate pace, it is not such a rigorous change for the users. You can now clearly see that people who are used to M-Files don't want anything else. By storing information in a smart and intelligent way at the front end as a user, you can take maximum advantage of it at the back end. The M-Files software is so intelligent that it makes its own connections between existing information. Information is now available (to those who have the rights to it) via all our platforms, that integration is very good. As an ICT department, we only use M-Files now, also to show others that it really works. We use the system for all our documents, including contracts with suppliers. This allows us to track, manage, check and consult agreements with suppliers much faster and more efficiently.'
M-Files fits right into the philosophy of how the user wants to work
'In the coming period, we will continue to roll out M-Files within Leeuwenstein Group to other function groups, such as HR, fleet management, etc., and so eventually around the entire organisation. The intelligence and integration capabilities of M-Files have allowed us to make great strides in information management. M-Files completely fits our philosophy of working the way the user wants and not making the user work the way we as ICT or management want. It is not about hard work, but to smart work. So with M-Files.'