Customer Story

Mercer International: Enabling collaboration via Google Workspace and migrating 2K+ staff during COVID-19

Mercer International rolls out Google Workspace remotely across three continents, boosting productivity by making employees more independent of IT in a single, collaborative cloud ecosystem

Google Cloud Results

Boosting productivity, reducing email load by 30%

• Driving a culture of creativity by giving employees more independence from IT with Google Workspace
• Harmonizing IT infrastructure, connecting previously isolated mills on 3 continents with a collaborative cloud environment
• Simplifying global collaboration, making up-to-date information readily available via Google Drive and the Google Sites-hosted intranet
• Reduces travel costs by 30%, helping Mercer International to continue shrinking its carbon footprint
• Gives employees a comfortable and familiar way to work digitally and access data, whether they’re on-site or home-based

Healthy forests are ambassadors of a healthy planet. They filter pollution out of our drinking water and provide wildlife habitat for diverse fauna, including threatened and endangered species. Their beauty is indispensable. But forests also provide critical economic benefits to communities around the world.

Although wood is a renewable resource, its availability is limited. As one of humanity’s oldest industries, forestry needs to reconcile our need for wood as a resource with our fight for a more sustainable planet. Vancouver-based forest products company Mercer International steps up to this responsibility by creating sustainable forestry practices around the world.

As a global producer of renewable bio-products, such as wood pulp for use in tissues, paper, or hygiene products, Mercer International operates facilities in North America, Europe, and Australia. But while the company’s strategically located mills are spread across the planet, they’re all connected by their mission of sustainability. To make this connection felt by each employee and foster world-wide collaboration, Mercer International decided to implement Google Workspace across the company in 2019.

Starting from a shared mission of sustainability

“Our mills used to be isolated, each with their own infrastructure. To increase productivity, connect our employees, and save money, we decided to create a unified infrastructure with Google Workspace.” -- Uwe Schmidt, Head of IT-PMO & Change Management, Mercer International

“Our mills used to be isolated, each with their own IT infrastructure,” explains Uwe Schmidt, Head of IT-PMO & Change Management at Mercer International. “To increase productivity, connect our employees, and save money, we decided to create a unified infrastructure with Google Workspace.”

For Uwe and his team, a cloud provider is more than just a vendor, but a partner whose views and philosophy should reflect those of Mercer International. Because Google has a carbon footprint of zero, moving on-premises applications to the cloud helps reduce the company’s carbon footprint as well. “We’re trying to be as green as possible in everything we do, and although we’re developing into a globally connected digital company, a core value here at Mercer is sustainability,” says Uwe. “This value is very important to us, especially our CIO Christoph Grewe-Franze, who includes sustainability in every decision he makes. With Google Workspace, we found a solution that ticks both boxes, taking collaboration to a new level with a sustainability focus.”

Planting the seeds for global collaboration

At Mercer International, digital transformation is an evolution, not a revolution. To tackle the biggest challenge yet for the company’s IT department, they enlisted support from Devoteam, a go-to partner for businesses that want to push the envelope with people-focused digital transformation strategies. “There’s a fascinating tension between the centuries-old forestry industry and a state-of-the-art cloud setup,” says Devoteam’s Michael Herkens, Expert Director Google Cloud Consulting. “The slogan ‘Mercer Connected’ stands for the vision of a virtual IT organization, and represents our values, such as better connecting employees through digitization. With this in mind, we developed a road map to transform the company’s isolated mills into one connected ecosystem.”

Go-live was originally planned for June 2020, but pulled forward when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Three months ahead of schedule, Mercer International and Devoteam managed to roll out Google Workspace to the company’s 2,300 employees across three continents fully remotely. In training sessions via Google Meet, employees learned the ropes of the new ways of working, and the simplicity of the Google Workspace toolkit ensured quick adoption across the board.

“Changing the way we work not just sooner than planned, but 100% remotely was a huge challenge for us,” says Uwe. “Because Google Workspace is built from the ground up for digital collaboration, we made great strides quickly. Hundreds of employees could continue their work from the home office virtually without interruption, and that wouldn’t have been possible without Google Workspace.”

Reducing email floods, streamlining communication

“Google Drive is a driver of collaboration and productivity here at Mercer International, enabling us to implement global project drives quickly and streamline corporate communication.” -- Uwe Schmidt, Head of IT-PMO & Change Management, Mercer International

But at Mercer International, digital transformation isn’t just a COVID-19 measure, but a culture shift that’s here to stay. Today, all 2,300 employees have a Google Workspace account, leveraging the entire spectrum of collaboration features.

300 key employees use Google Chat to stay connected and share high-level ideas about improving the business. “We implemented two chats, one each for English-speaking and German-speaking employees,” says Uwe. “It’s an amazing way to collaborate immediately, without having to loop everyone into long email chains.”

For the emails that do need to be sent, Mercer International uses Gmail, but reducing the flood of emails by 30% is one major target of the digital transformation. Google Drive is a key tool to make information previously spread across email communication more widely available. “Google Drive is a driver of collaboration and productivity here at Mercer International, enabling us to implement global project drives quickly and streamline corporate communication,” says Uwe.

Saving time while protecting the corporate identity

Google Workspace has opened up numerous opportunities for the rapid digitization of processes throughout the company. In a large number of areas, Mercer employees use tools such as Google Forms to enter data faster, which saves a lot of time. And by creating templates for each legal entity within the included template gallery, it is possible for employees to easily select the right designs for each piece of corporate communication, helping to maintain and secure the corporate identity on a global level.

Using Google Sites, several Mercer sites have created local intranets to share key messages and organizational updates. “It used to be tricky to provide employees around the world with information that’s valid and up-to-date,” says Uwe. “Google Sites has been excellent for training purposes, and even crisis communication during the COVID-19 pandemic.” In 2021, Mercer hopes to launch its own global corporate intranet using Google Sites. “We looked into the cost of a global intranet with an external provider, which would have cost us per user per month. By mapping the same functionality with Google Workspace, we’ll be able to save thousands.”

Rooting productivity in employee independence

“Google Workspace has increased our productivity tremendously by making our workforce more independent of IT. Across the company, employees are leveraging these cloud tools to discover new possibilities, which is incredibly motivating.” -- Uwe Schmidt, Head of IT-PMO & Change Management, Mercer International

A more independent workforce has been one of the major achievements of Mercer International’s digital transformation with Google Workspace, and an important milestone to further establish its corporate culture. In the past, employees and teams were dependent on IT departments even for basic processes, which slowed things down and restricted employees’ creativity. “Instead of waiting a week to gain access to a file server via support tickets, our employees can get access within a minute,” says Uwe. “By giving our employees more control, Google Workspace strengthens cross-team collaboration and drives a culture of creativity.”

On this new, digital playground, it didn’t take long for employees to get creative on their own, using Google Workspace to simplify processes. The company’s HR team, for example, built a home office time tracking table with Google Slides and Google Form in a heartbeat, keeping productivity steady even in times of COVID-19. “Google Workspace has increased our productivity tremendously by making our workforce more independent of IT,” says Uwe. “Across the company, employees are leveraging these cloud tools to discover new possibilities, which is incredibly motivating.”

One Mercer, one mission, one cloud solution

Encouraged by the success of the journey so far, the team is constantly looking for ways to further utilize Google Workspace. To help employees stay connected in the cloud, the IT department is now considering Chrome Enterprise and just purchased a first batch of Chromebooks. But Mercer International’s ambitions don’t end there.

Having connected isolated mills across the world and unified communication and collaboration with Google Workspace, Mercer International and Devoteam are now looking to do the same with the company’s data silos, using Google Cloud. “With Google BigQuery, we’re planning to dissolve existing data silos to create one, world-wide Mercer data platform,” says Michael. To make big data available across the company, enabling teams to access, analyze, and visualize BigQuery data in Google Sheets, Mercer International will leverage the power of Connected Sheets.

Looking ahead, one of Mercer International’s next steps is a pilot project that will extract data from its SAP database, migrate it to Google Cloud, and create global reporting there using Connected Sheets on Google BigQuery. The pilot project is currently being tested with a company in Germany. Meanwhile, the company is more connected than ever before, which puts the spotlight on the forestry company’s crowning glory, its global workforce: “Everything we do, every success, depends on our employees,” says Uwe. “To deliver on our sustainability promise, we work in complex projects and facilities that require close cooperation between many talented members of our team from all over the world. Without them, this project would not have been successful - and Google Workspace helps us bring them all together.”

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

Deployment Partner (Google Workspace authorized reseller)

Devoteam

With more than 1,300 clients in 18+ countries, Devoteam is a global leader in innovative cloud technologies, driving digital transformation at enterprise scale.