ABB Sweden uses Projectplace as a social hub and nerve centre for crisis communication

“We use Projectplace on PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones via apps and a normal web interface,” says Mats Granström. “This guarantees us a practical way of keeping the crisis team together and ensures that everyone has the information required to fix the problem.”

Puff! Just like that, the network dies. Everyone knows how quickly frustration spreads through an organisation when problems are encountered with IT systems. Not to mention the amount of value that is at stake. For ABB rapid action is vital in the event of its IT systems being disrupted.

“If an important IS/IT system goes down, it can mean a drop in production worth millions of Swedish kronor,” says Mats Granström, IS Information Manager at ABB Sweden’s CIO Office in Västerås.

One of Sweden’s largest companies – with business-critical IT systems

ABB of Sweden is a leading supplier of products and systems for power transmission, as well as process and industrial automation. The company has large centres of operation in Västerås, with around 4,200 employees, and Ludvika, where approximately 2,700 people are employed, as well as 10 or so other production sites.

Mats Granström and his colleagues are responsible for nationwide IS/IT for all of ABB’s divisions in Sweden. In keeping with current thinking, ABB has chosen to outsource development and operation, which means having numerous partners who are partly responsible for the operation of a host of different systems.

“Add to this potential problem the fact that if our own internal networks are down, crisis communication via the intranet is of absolutely no use to us,” observes Mats.

Communication and teamwork in crisis situations

This, among other considerations, prompted ABB to develop its own tool ABB IWP (ABB Incident Work Place) within Projectplace. The purpose of IWP is to create a shared workspace, or operational hub, for all the parties that must work together to resolve an incident.

“We had two keywords in mind when designing IWP that were more important than any others,” explains Mats.

“First and foremost ‘security’. Information that is disseminated to various stakeholders through IWP is ABB’s internal data, which must not leak beyond the team working to resolve the incident in question. Our second keyword was ‘simplicity’. The crisis team comprises 10 or so people, and with external participants, including consultants and specialists for example, in excess of 30 people may use IWP in the event of a major incident. It has to be easy to use.”

Requirements: easy to use – but also powerful and social

At the same time, the tool has to be powerful enough to enable those involved to coordinate their efforts effectively and implement the work needed to resolve the incident.

“Our solution is to use Projectplace as a foundation, but to employ IWP as a template over Projectplace, treating each incident as a separate project,” explains Mats.

“When an incident occurs, we call in the experts, employees and consultants we believe can rectify the problem. Initially, only a fraction of the total functionality available to us in Projectplace will be revealed. Thus, the ‘start threshold’ is set very low.

“On discovering an incident, the most important thing to do is to communicate and share information, both internally within the crisis team and externally.

“We are able to share the necessary documents via Projectplace, everything from log files from systems and PowerPoint presentations to phone books and manuals.”

Collaboration through Projectplace – when IT systems fail

An important consideration for ABB in developing its IWP tool within Projectplace is access to a solution that is entirely independent of ABB’s ‘normal’ infrastructure. This may, of course, possibly be the reason for the crisis in question.

“We use Projectplace on PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones via apps and a normal web interface,” says Mats Granström. “This guarantees us a practical way of keeping the crisis team together and ensures that everyone has the information required to fix the problem.”

Mats and his team also considered other solutions, but their most important requirements of ‘security’ and ‘simplicity’ led them to choose Projectplace.

“It is difficult for us to calculate an ROI because each incident is different. One thing we do know, however, is that the quicker we can clear up an incident, the less money ABB loses as a result of production stoppages. That is why this solution is so vital,” concludes Mats.