One hundred years ago, heating and refrigeration systems were new to the industrial world and a luxury for those who had them in their residences. Nowadays, consumers can control their thermostats from vacation thousands of miles from home, and residential and industrial buildings can regulate their own temperatures based on weather patterns. At the forefront of the digital transformation of heating, industrial, and refrigeration systems sits Viessmann, a hundred-year-old (and counting) company based in Allendorf (Eder), Germany.
Founded in 1917, Viessmann manufactures heating and cooling systems, including high-efficiency oil and gas-fired boilers, controls, domestic hot water tanks, solar systems, hydronic air handlers, district heating networks, and more. Their workforce of over 12,100 employees is headquartered in Allendorf, a rural town in northern Hesse, and brings in an revenue of 2.37 billion Euros per year (2017).
A few years ago, Professor Dr. Martin Viessmann and his son (now Co-CEO), Max, realized the importance of moving his company into the age of smart appliances, internet-of-things, and along with it, what he calls the age of effective collaboration across Viessmann’s business and operational teams. Externally, consumer trends for heating and cooling systems are moving towards greater efficiency and accessibility—whether they’re smarter systems that adjust based on weather trends or a remotely controlled thermostat system.
These shifts have all necessitated the digitalization of Viessmann’s appliances. Internally, with more and more employees using technology on the go, working remotely, or advancing in their careers, it’s important that systems and tools exist to facilitate collaboration on the go, knowledge transfer, and growing responsibilities. For Max, “Digital transformation is core to the company’s next hundred years.”
Responsible for planning and implementing the “future workplace” for Viessmann is Alexander Pöllmann, their Smart Office and Collaboration Manager, and his team. His role, created three years ago, is to ensure a smooth, organization-wide digital transformation of how all Viessmann employees work together.
New to the industry, but a self-described productivity nerd and technophile, Alex offers a fresh perspective on how to introduce new technologies to a traditional industry and create an environment where employees can easily connect, collaborate, and do more together. Alex and his teammates work closely with the executive team and across the company to understand how collaboration happens at Viessmann and to drive the process for selecting new technologies that the organization will use to usher in the digital age.
Viessmann’s focus on digital transformation is a current and ongoing process that applies to both their products and their company. For their products, this means incorporating smart tech and the internet of things into their roadmap. To stay ahead of the competition and lead their strategic partners, they’ve been developing integrations, mobile-friendly applications, and energy efficient solutions.
For example, their boilers now integrate with building management systems to make temperature regulation easy and they’ve expanded into alternative energy, such as solar, to focus on renewable resources and staying green.
Internally, a digital transformation of their products has prompted a huge cultural shift in how teams work together. As they have grown over the years, their team has become increasingly dispersed, and so has the information across the company. For example, the development team (that builds hardware and software to connect boilers with an app) is distributed across several different countries. As their team grew, they didn’t have a single source of truth.
Further, as they spread out to more locations, they needed a way to centralize information and collaborate across time zones. Without a source of truth and shared collaboration system for working across different locations, the team encountered trouble accessing necessary information, slowing down their development cycles.
“With Asana, the knowledge belongs to our organization and not just to the people who are creating it.”
In addition to a growing lack of accessibility to information, the software Viessmann depended upon was not user friendly. For example, programs could take up to several minutes to power up, which meant that managers were losing precious time every week just waiting for their technology to boot up. Employees struggled to adopt and actually use the tools. Not having user-friendly software was leading to losses in efficiency.
Mobility was also an issue: accessing work on the go and communicating with coworkers, no matter where they might be, has become more important as the business has grown. The development team, for example, needed technology they could take with them when they traveled. And other teams across the company needed technology that was not only mobile, but that partners or subsidiaries could access with nothing more than an internet connection.
These pain points all pointed towards a need for a digital transformation in how Viessmann was working in order to advance their products.
Recognizing that a digital transformation was necessary was the first step to making one happen. When he started working on bringing about change, Alex’s first step was to understand the organization’s needs in order to select the best software to meet them.
He analyzed the pain points people across the organization were feeling—lack of mobility, non user-friendly software, time spent tracking down information, limited possibilities to collaborate, and a high barrier to entry for partners or subsidiaries. He then explored solutions, settling on software and hardware that not only enables employees to work better together, but also helped Viessmann develop better products, faster.
Because teams at Viessmann vary so widely in their day to day work, choosing solutions that suited people across the organization was a challenge. Viessmann chose G Suite and Asana as the main parts of their operating software. G Suite acts as a central hub for files (Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides), communication (Gmail, Hangouts Chat, Hangouts Meet), and scheduling (Google Calendar), and teams rely on Asana to keep everything in one place. For Alex, Asana serves three key needs of the growing organization:
Finally, the software isn’t restricted to use on corporate or non corporate devices, allowing employees to access both G Suite and Asana from anywhere with any device at any time. Instead of waiting several minutes for a full client to turn on, now all employees can access information quickly on the web and spend more time doing the work that matters to the company’s bottom line, like supporting their reports or testing hardware and software. Running software that works on multiple devices has made knowledge transfer much easier for the team, both from one device to another and between employees.
“One of the biggest benefits to our company has been having user-friendly software that can be used from any place, at any time, from any device.”
Viessmann is rolling out Asana company-wide to over 2,500 employees over the next few months. To date, they've seen an impact in three areas: IT, R&D, and reporting.
Viessmann’s IT team uses Asana to track sprints: Using Boards, the IT team tracks how their migrations are going. They’ll map out the work to be done during a sprint, assign it out to each employee, and check in weekly.
Viessmann’s R&D team uses Asana to manage the product development process: To track the flow of testing services, the R&D team uses Asana to track the stage of each product in testing. For example, once a device has been tested, the task representing it will move to the next stage, then on to testing, and so forth.
Viessmann’s executives rely on reports for a high-level overview of what’s happening across the company: When executives need to know specific details about a project, they’ll assign the key stakeholder a task. Then, using Progress view, the key stakeholder can easily share an update.
Just as heating and cooling systems have gone from a luxury to a necessity in our everyday lives, so has digital transformation for companies like Viessmann. Keeping both products and employees connected digitally is essential to the success of the organization as it grows. This is why a digital transformation is so central to Viessmann’s success, and why tools such as Asana and G Suite will help catapult them into the next era of digital products and collaboration.
Using Asana wall-to-wall has been crucial in helping Hack Reactor scale. As Hack Reactor CEO Tony Phillips puts it, ”We’ve cut our operations costs in half because we’re able to execute more efficiently with the processes we’ve set up in Asana.“ And as costs go down, the quality class experience—and the post graduation experience— goes up. Graduates from Hack Reactor are hired at a 98% rate.