Google Cloud Results
Deploys new software anywhere with only a phone call
• Deploys Google Workspace simultaneously to users over 10 locations, with 98% staff uptake on the first day
• Cuts meeting preparation dramatically with collaboration on Slides and reliable Google Meet meetings
• Decommissions on-premises servers, freeing up human and hardware resources
• Saves up to R500,000 that would have been spent on a hardware refresh
By creating secure messaging solutions for companies in South Africa, Tradebridge has become one of the country’s leading mid-size businesses. A multifaceted organization, Tradebridge consists of three distinct branches. The oldest, Healthbridge, specializes in providing software and support for healthcare providers. SureSwipe facilitates debit and credit card payments to small, medium, and micro-enterprise (SMME) clients, while the third component, DCM Group, provides financial wellness solutions, helping people restructure and resolve problematic debt. Uniting all three divisions is an emphasis on security, efficiency, and availability, principles Tradebridge aspires to in its internal processes, as much as in its products.
“Across our businesses, cloud is a major disruptor,” says Eli Atie, CEO at Tradebridge. “We see a clear opportunity to move away from thick clients and desktop applications to the cloud. But to underline that shift, we need to walk the talk, showing that we don’t just recommend cloud solutions, we use them ourselves.”
Tradebridge began investigating cloud options, looking for a solution with the right, reliable collaboration tools to create a dynamic organization, focused on future development.
“Cloud collaboration delivers a way of working, thinking, and operating that fundamentally accelerates and enhances the things we feel are important,” says Eli. “Whether it’s innovation or creating value for clients, Google Workspace is a facilitator, helping us achieve cultural change within our organization.”
Deploying new offices with only a phone call
“Now, because Google Workspace works through a browser on any device, we roll out tools remotely. For a group of employees that live on mines, all it took to migrate them was a telephone call.” - Elize Neethling, Head of Central Information Management Systems, Tradebridge
In industries disrupted by cloud computing, companies using cloud solutions for internal communications can send a strong message to potential clients. Tradebridge is an organization split across three divisions and a shared services component, with employees dispersed across 10 core and satellite offices, as well as in remote locations throughout the country. On-premises email servers connected the company, and although Tradebridge kept excellent maintenance standards for its infrastructure, the hardware proved vulnerable to fluctuations in the local power grid. An even greater concern was the pace of wider technological developments, which began to increase pressure for change.
“Staff would ask themselves ‘Why is my home smarter than my office? Why is it easier for me to communicate on my smartphone than it is for me to get a contract signed while I'm at a client?’” says Luis da Silva, managing director at Healthbridge. “That prompted us to look at how we could become more mobile and simple. In my private life, without the support of any IT department, I can lose my phone, buy a new one, log in, and have my whole profile ready for me minutes later. But if I lost my work laptop while travelling, it might take weeks to purchase and replace it. That kind of disconnect highlighted the urgent need for a new approach.”
To make that happen, Tradebridge partnered with Opennetworks to migrate to Google Workspace. “We worked very closely with Opennetworks from the beginning,” says Eli. “On top of their training programs and technical expertise, they were natural collaborators.”
“Tradebridge’s previous IT system was extremely well run, but it was implemented to the limit,” recalls Hywel Glyn-Jones, CEO at Opennetworks. “But the moment Google Workspace tools went live, Tradebridge carried out the fastest adoption we've ever seen. There was an immediate, strong understanding of what the tools could do.”
On the day Tradebridge went live, 98 percent of its employees logged in to their new accounts. “Early adopters wore their Google t-shirts to work the day we went live, so people could go to them for advice,” recalls Elize Neethling, Head of Central Information Management Systems at Tradebridge. “But when they arrived in the workplace, they weren’t alone, more than half of the company was wearing the t-shirts. The uptake was energetic, with people walking around helping each other. It was amazing.”
“The first company meeting we did with Slides came together from scratch in just 24 hours, with five different contributors. The speed of collaboration is incredible.” - Luis da Silva, Managing Director, Tradebridge
For Elize and her IT team, the simplicity of management tools on Google Workspace drastically reduces their maintenance and administrative burden. “A group of five people including myself can administer the whole Google Workspace platform, when previously we needed to hire experts,” says Elize. “Out of the box, Google Workspace includes everything we need in terms of security, with features such as 2-Step Verification that other platforms charged extra for. Now we can roll out security with a single, simple console: we click, and everybody has to comply. It's the way it should be.”
Confident that Gmail is available anywhere, Elize’s team has decommissioned on-premises servers, rounding off an exceptionally easy deployment process. “In the past, installing new software meant users at a remote offices would need to courier their machines to us so that we could install the software, then courier it back,” says Elize. “In the meantime, those users would have no computers to work with. Even though the actual update would take approximately half an hour, the courier could take five days. With 15 users in remote locations and 20 in satellite offices, this was a significant loss of productive time. Now, because Google Workspace works through a browser on any device, we roll out tools remotely. For a group of employees that live on mines, all it took to migrate them was a telephone call.”
Making meetings more effective
A key concern for Tradebridge is to streamline its long decision-making processes with enhanced collaboration and shorter, more efficient meetings. Thanks to managers using Google Meet to message teams, the company now has fewer meetings. When they do take place, however, the whole process is transformed, as Luis explains:
“Previously, somebody would first need to create slides and get them lined up. Then, the night before the meeting, I would review those and send them to a team to get them ready on the right machine. In the morning, I might wake up with new ideas, make changes, and email them through, sometimes more than once. Then, I’d have to hope that by the time I got into the office my latest version would be ready on the machine. Half an hour ahead of the meeting, someone would stabilize communication and video by doing extensive tests and test calls to all of the participants. Then we would sit in the meeting using a messenger app on our phones to stay in touch in case the system went down, which it usually did if more than seven people tried to connect.”
“Google Workspace is a catalyst for cultural change. The tools open you up to the possibility that there are new, totally different ways of doing things. When it’s so easy to do, everyone begins to collaborate.” - Eli Atie, CEO, Tradebridge
As a result, meetings were stressful, requiring extensive support and resources. Now, by switching to Google Meet and Slides, much of that stress is eliminated. “We just send out a link to a Google Meet, people turn up, you open the presentation in Slides, which you’ve worked on and modified directly, and that’s it,” says Luis. “We have had no stability issues with Google Meet. The first company meeting we did with Slides came together from scratch in just 24 hours, with five different contributors. The speed of collaboration is incredible. One of our data scientists tested a presentation on Slides internally with colleagues, and we could make comments on each slide as he went through it, giving detailed, real-time feedback.”
Combining Google Meet with Docs, Sheets, and Slides means Tradebridge teams can get to work while meetings are still in progress. “Right in the meeting we can start thrashing around ideas and sketching out thoughts together,” says Eli. “These tools enable a more dynamic, experimental culture, where we start sharing views at an earlier stage. Ultimately, I expect that to enable us to bring products to market faster.”
A catalyst for cultural change
Now Tradebridge is looking to deploy Chromebooks throughout the company. “In the near future, we will arrive at work with no laptop, grab a machine, open it up, log in, and get to work,” says Elize. “Hardware will be far easier to manage and distribute, saving time and resources.” The company is investigating other Google Cloud options, too, reassured by HIPAA-compliant systems that could be applied to healthcare and other sensitive information.
“Google Workspace is a catalyst for cultural change,” says Eli. “The tools open you up to the possibility that there are new, totally different ways of doing things. When it’s so easy to do, everyone begins to collaborate. Google Workspace has that balance really well worked out.”
*Google Workspace was formerly known as G Suite prior to Oct. 6, 2020.