Customer Story

Holtzbrinck Publishing Group: Stimulating innovation through collaboration with Google Workspace

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Holtzbrinck Publishing Group empowers global employee collaboration with Google Workspace, streamlining the move toward a digital service-based future more responsive to the needs of readers and e-learners.

Google Cloud Results

Enables swift GDPR compliance globally

• Powers real-time collaboration across teams and companies for 4,700 employees around the world
• Facilitates remote work during COVID-19 within days, connecting employees with virtual social activities
• Streamlines onboarding and departure processes, saving time and creating cost transparency
• Improves services through customer feedback, compiling insights with Google Docs and Google Meet
• Strengthens customer relationships, reshaping products as digital services with Google Cloud

“It wasn’t a question of moving to the cloud or not, but how to do so globally in a controllable way. We chose Google Workspace because it is truly a cloud-born solution, developed for the cloud rather than adapted to it, which tends to be the case with other options.” -- Harald Greiner, Vice President IT, Technology & Sourcing, Holtzbrinck Publishing Group

In a rapidly changing media landscape, there is no longer a clear definition of what it means to be a reader. Great works of literature can now be enjoyed on a smartphone, news delivered directly to people’s screens, and textbooks are giving way to interactive learning platforms.

This transition towards a digital future has its challenges: print media is declining in sales, pushing advertisers to more lucrative online sources. On the screens of their readers, books are now competing with countless, more instantly-gratifying alternatives. The redefinition of the reader, however, brings opportunities as well.

Established in Germany in 1948, the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group is a media giant with strong roots in the traditional book publishing industry, but it’s just as active on the digital frontier. The media giant’s portfolio of 400 companies around the world includes Springer Nature, the world’s largest academic book publisher, and Macmillan, one of the big five English-language publishing companies. The list of Holtzbrinck-published authors ranges from Nobel Prize winners such as Ernest Hemingway and Alice Munro to contemporary hit novelists such as Nora Roberts and Ken Follett.

With its holding arm Holtzbrinck Digital, the company invests in innovative businesses in sectors such as digital science and e-learning. “In today’s media landscape, we are competing with all services on all devices,” says Harald Greiner, Vice President IT, Technology & Sourcing. “Every minute a reader spends on any of them is a minute not spent on our books and platforms. That’s what the competition is like in the industry today.”

In order to respond to this ever-increasing amount of competing services and shifting consumer habits, Holtzbrinck embarked on a digital transformation program to streamline operations across its extensive portfolio. Employees were already using individual tools, but the company needed a clear strategy.

“It wasn’t a question of moving to the cloud or not, but how to do so globally in a controllable way,” says Harald. “We chose Google Workspace because it is truly a cloud-born solution, developed for the cloud rather than adapted to it, which tends to be the case with other options.”

Driving progress with real-time collaboration

With support from CLOUDPILOTS, Holtzbrinck deployed Google Workspace to its entire workforce of 4,700 employees in 2016. Getting documents manually from one person or team to another used to be difficult and there was no effective system of tracking changes. With real-time collaboration on Google Drive, teams no longer manage projects with difficult to track email chains, making it much easier to oversee the lifecycle of tasks.

“The collaboration tools of Google Workspace have changed the way we work,” says Harald. “Our employees can join a meeting with Google Meet or access a document in Google Docs with a simple push of a button from wherever they are. When we work together on documents, we can easily keep track of changes.”

During the roll-out, word got around in Holtzbrinck’s divisions about the ease-of-use of the new cloud tools. “Some of our employees came to us, asking to be given these Google Workspace features as well, because they wanted to work as collaboratively and efficiently as their colleagues," Harald recalls.

As a publishing behemoth with an ever-changing portfolio, Holtzbrinck relies on Google Workspace both to integrate new companies into its sleek new collaborative cloud structure with ease, and to facilitate departures. “On premise, training new people meant worrying about how to connect them, and manually rearranging documents when people left the company was tedious,” says Harald. “Plus, it was difficult to even track maintenance costs. Now in the cloud, we simply have a set price per month, and because everything is pre-installed, all we need to train people is an internet connection.”

Rethinking data protection for quick GDPR compliance

“To comply with GDPR, we used Google Docs and Google Meet to go through the personal data settings of every single application in every company. After we finished, the project manager told me she had no idea how we would have been able to achieve that without Google Workspace.” -- Harald Greiner, Vice President IT, Technology & Sourcing, Holtzbrinck Publishing Group

Holtzbrinck’s extensive presence in Germany made GDPR compliance a top priority for the firm, requiring a holistic review of established data practices. Real-time collaboration across its multinational divisions on Google Workspace empowered its employees to tackle the colossal project in workable increments.

“To comply with GDPR, we used Google Docs and Google Sheets and Google Meet to go through the personal data settings of every single application in every company,” says Harald. In the past, a project of this scope would have required employees to travel and constantly exchange and update documents, creating a high potential for mistakes. “After we finished, the project manager told me she had no idea how we would have been able to achieve that without Google Workspace.”

Bridging the divide between companies and customers

Holtzbrinck’s move from traditional publishing into the digital service industry makes it ever more important to deliver functionality and usability tailored to customer needs. Striving for more proximity in an increasingly digital entertainment world, Holtzbrinck found its connecting platform in Google Workspace.

Today, many of the company’s divisions work jointly with customer groups, using Google Docs to share and compile experiences. “With our increasing focus on digital services, Google Workspace brings us closer to our customers, making us faster and more flexible,” says Harald. The new proximity to customers, enabled by Google Workspace, made Holtzbrinck’s internal organization more efficient as well.

Getting through COVID-19 with a head start

When businesses scrambled to adapt to the new realities of life and work in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Holtzbrinck had long laid the groundwork for company-wide remote collaboration. Because employees had access to documents and apps anytime, anywhere, productivity wasn’t strained by VPN bottlenecks or similar IT problems.

“When COVID-19 hit, we were able to ensure productive and secure remote work processes with Google Workspace within days,” says Harald. “Even for colleagues who always preferred phone calls over video conferences, tools such as Google Meet and Google Chat have become the natural choice by now..”

Google Workspace also helped the team support each other through the isolation by enabling social activities. “We organized virtual gatherings, such as pub quizzes, and even held our christmas parties on Google Workspace,” says Harald. “In a difficult time for everyone, these tools really helped us support our employees and stay connected.”

Moving towards a service-based future with big data tools

“Our main goal is to develop new services for our customers, and the foundation for that is data. This is where Google really shines: Providing tools to analyze big data, helping us use it to create new services for our customers.” -- Harald Greiner, Vice President IT, Technology & Sourcing, Holtzbrinck Publishing Group

For Holtzbrinck, switching to Google Workspace was just the beginning of a journey. Moving forward, the company’s transition toward digital services will deepen the collaboration with Google, expanding to areas such as big data and microservices. “Our main goal is to develop new services for our customers, and the foundation for that is data,” says Harald. “This is where Google really shines: Providing tools to analyze big data, helping us use it to keep readers engaged with new features and make our platforms stand out.”

This process has already begun in divisions throughout the diverse company portfolio that are transforming with Google Cloud. Springer Nature has started to move parts of its data warehouse to Google BigQuery and its applications from its on-prem data centers into Google Cloud. Using Google Kubernetes Engine, Holtzbrinck has also simplified the ebook delivery process.

With its roster of Nobel Prize winning and best selling authors in the traditional world of book publishing, Holtzbrinck is proud of its past, but also confident about its future. Despite the challenges of a fast-changing media industry, the company’s core mission remains unchanged: fostering a culture of reading.

Working with Google, Holtzbrinck meets the needs of a 21st century readership in a supportive and exciting environment. “It has been a really good journey so far,” says Harald. “It’s a pleasure to work with both Google and CLOUDPILOTS. It really feels more like a family, which makes the transformation fun. And given that we are in the media and entertainment business, it’s important to have fun.”

*Google Workspace was formerly known as G Suite prior to Oct. 6, 2020.

Google Cloud Premier Partner

About CLOUDPILOTS

CLOUDPILOTS is a German software and consulting company, which has been a Google Cloud Premier Partner since 2017. It is a subsidiary of the TIMETOACT GROUP.