Occasionally a project comes along that you are extremely proud of – delivering a modern collaboration platform for an environmental leader. Porthos is a combined partnership between the Port of Rotterdam, EBN, Gasunie and specialises in the emerging field of carbon sequestration and storage. Porthos aims to store carbon dioxide in empty gas fields 3km under the North Sea, helping the Netherlands, Europe & the world meet climate goals.
Rapid Circle developed a modern collaboration environment & document management system that ensures that hundreds of people in a complex partnership always have the right version out of the thousand documents they use on a daily basis – helping the Netherlands achieve their climate goals!
This is a crucial matter to help reach the wider European climate goal. We talked about this matter with Margaretha Boxem, document control at Porthos, and Myrna Fraters, communication support worker at Porthos.
Portiva had worked with EBN (a stakeholder in Porthos) over many years and when looking for a Microsoft partner to help them achieve an effective collaboration & document management system turned to Rapid Circle to continue this relationship. Rapid Circle showed Porthos what was possible with a modern SharePoint & Teams solution.
THE COLLABORATION PUZZLE
Collaboration between many different parties (In addition to the three main stakeholders, the companies who will be delivering CO2 are also involved, just as many other subcontractors) is Porthos strength but it’s also a big challenge.
Myrna Fraters, Communication Support Worker at Porthos explains:
“The whole Porthos team has 130 employees – the core team consists of 40 fulltime employees, then there are several part-time employees, who are either casual or on contract. In addition to this, we utilise external parties that carry out technical specific projects and assignments.”
SAFE & SECURE
The most important documents that are shared within Porthos are technical drawings. This is predominantly an infrastructure heavy project – designing and building the infrastructure to safely capture and store CO2 under the sea pumped from the Port of Rotterdam. It is important that the most recent version of the drawings is accessible, in addition to security measures to restrict access to the right people as these are often confidential, competitively sensitive material and this needs to be respected and adhered to amongst the various contractors and parties.
Within Porthos there is an emphasis on security and separation to ensure the information stays in safe hands. These strict security measurements were difficult to achieve in the existing system because the three SharePoint environments of the main companies had to be used side by side. There had to be a central, secure document management system that could manage all documents, store the right metadata, had to have fine-grained version control and publication management.
The system had to support storage of notes, letters, emails, permits and other data to ensure business operations were auditable and traceable.
The Porthos & Rapid Circle team choose to utilise the EBN environment as a basis for the platform.
EBN already operated a secure and mature SharePoint Online implementation that had been well thought out and structured years ago. On that basis, Porthos set up their metadata structure and all workflows associated with the different management processes. A lot of error prone manual work could be automated in this way which significantly improved the process quality – reducing human intervention.
Rapid Circle operated in an advisory role across all stakeholders, guiding and assisting with implementation of the Porthos requirements inside of the EBN SharePoint environment, as well as understanding the manual processes that Porthos were undertaking.
LESS ERROR, MORE SPEED THANKS TO POWER AUTOMATE
Once the manual processes and procedures were mapped out, Rapid Circle were able to automate them. Features like; Reviewing, approving, versioning and archiving are all linked in the new platform as part of the workflow. This is to make sure every document goes through the right process and that the shared documents are the right version and are approved.
“With Power Automate, we can process hundreds of documents at the same time, that couldn’t be done manually before. Also, the error sensitivity is much lower when automated.”– Margaretha Boxem
Margaretha explains how it works:
“If 20 civil & infrastructure contractors all have to hand in 50 documents, you want to be able to see at once what the status of the document is and which version you need. Since we can now automatically generate a status list – we can see this instantly and we are also able to contact contractors if we missing some documents. This is critical for our infrastructure timeline that documents and received, audited and accepted by the Porthos team.”
SECURITY, VERSION CONTROL AND THE HUMAN FACTOR
As Rapid Circle utilise the EBN environment as a starting point, we inherited a secure and well-managed environment. The Porthos data was kept separate, with separate permissions and ownership – but would inherit some of the investments and capabilities that EBN had implemented such as making sure contractors & staff used multi-factor authentication and secure devices.
In addition, most security or data protection measures are human responsibilities. Porthos staff traditionally sent large documents via email, which results in unmanaged distribution and lack of security (as well as a lack of version control). Moving to a new platform to manage this would increase security and provide relevant versioning and document control to Porthos staff.
Many Porthos employees were unfamiliar with the strict version control that was required for these complex and technical projects.
‘’They initial think it is difficult, while that’s not the case at all – so we made sure our internal staff had training on how to best operate and use the new platform,’’ says Margaretha.
External employees can also participate in these training sessions as its very important that they also know how to handle the systems and procedures – making sure Porthos kept data secure and compliant. For subcontractors, Porthos created extensive manuals on how to submit documents within the platform ensuring compliance.
KEEPING EVERYONE INFORMED
Building a new intranet was not the main goal of this project – but as work on the Document Management Platform progressed, there was a growing need for an Intranet for internal information and communication exchange.
“We already had a basic SharePoint environment where project news and links to useful project information was stored, but as the project and the team grew these pages got more crowded and less structured. Also working from home made the need for a real Intranet to make sure we were communicating relevant and timely updates to our staff & partners.
The new intranet looks beautiful, professional, and organised. We managed to organise the information by giving each topic their own page so you can find the information you need quicker. The page provides increased connection for the employees working from home and the ones who don’t work at Porthos full time to catch up and understand what we’ve been working on.”
The fact that the Porthos environment has been a guest of EBN’s SharePoint also presented limitations. Not everyone has a Porthos email address, and the online meeting environment was subject to EBN’s use of Microsoft Teams and it’s configuration. As Porthos continues to grow, the medium term plan is to migrate to their own private tenant but retain the Document Management System and collaboration area.
“We have limited insight into that, and we have not started working on it yet. The most important thing is that all the documents are in the right place and that they are in one environment for total collaboration to progress the Porthos project.’’ Margaretha says.
OUTCOME: LOOKING FORWARD
The implementation of a Document Management Platform was a success, with the platform being used across the business. With increased usage, the next stage is to address the demands for greater functionality from users.
Margaretha explains: “SharePoint’s search function is rather uhm… stubborn. We are looking for ways to improve the search function especially across different collections. Another point that still needs to be address is working with comments. Engineering firms are still working with so called ‘comment sheets’ (These are Excel documents in which comment and explanations are included for each document). Finding which comment belongs to which document is still manual work. For example; this makes creating cover sheets for documents (which are necessary for archiving them) more time consuming than it needs to be”
”It has all the metadata we wanted,’’ says Margeretha. “But to be able to sort and group them better, we will need more metadata: To which department of the organisation does this belong to? Which discipline and sub-discipline are we talking? What kind of document is it? Then we can store everything in a way and place that everyone can always find it.”
Porthos continues to work with Rapid Circle to refine and improve the Document Management Platform, with new offerings like SharePoint Syntex and Viva Topics to make handling large amounts of information available, discernible and attributable a breeze.