Reimagining the virtual office for ProRail
reduction in upgrade costs
more efficient data analysis
of remote workers relocated to the cloud
July 20, 2021


ProRail is the entity that takes care of maintenance of the national railway network infrastructure, traffic control and the allocating rail capacity. Working in collaboration with transport carriers and government ProRail ensure a hassle-free commute and transportation of goods across the Netherlands.


ProRail office employees were forced to work from home as a result of the COVID19 lockdown which posed new challenged for collaboration and connections formed in an office workspace. They developed a team which focused on improving employee morale, called ‘Moodbusters’.

As one of the first ‘Moodbusters’ projects, ProRail wanted to create a space where colleagues could meet so approached Rapid Circle to create a visual digital model of “The Inkpot” – the head office of ProRail.

We were excited about the new challenge and set about determining whether it was technically possible.


ProRail moved easily to work from home as office workers were set up to work remotely – working from laptops and access to most systems. Microsoft Teams quickly became the new normal for business collaboration.

“Moving to a work from home model went well,” says Richard. “But we missed the face-to-face connection. People who work at ProRail are a family – our social bond is very strong, and we missed the day-to-day informal interactions.”


There are several commercial off the shelf solutions, but ProRail wanted one that was tailored to their community and company culture.

“We all have a real connection with the building, so I wanted to bring that back. In my view, the Digital Inkpot had to become truly unique for ProRail and with such a generic platform you stray from that vision.”

Richard works as a game designer at ProRail, where he simulates complex problems with game formats to improve processes and collaboration within the company. He created the concept of The Digital Inkpot, a digital map or 3D model of the building in which colleagues could ‘walk around’ as avatars. That way it would immediately be clear to everyone who was online, and it would be easier to meet each other.

The product had to be something unique but rolled out quickly and at a low cost. After all, it was a solution to a very current problem, so there was no time for a long development process. A decision was made that the app had to be built within Teams environment.

“We created four areas of focus to maximise functionality; user management, security, hosting and deployment.” says Richard. “But we found that some things couldn’t be done. For example, we dropped the idea of avatars at an early stage. Creating the floor plan was something that had never been done in Teams and there were limitations with the design agency we worked with. The people at Rapid Circle ended up contacting Microsoft with the question: is this actually possible?”

Although they had never seen anything like it at Microsoft – the answer was yes – though there were a few limitations!

“We were able to realise a large part of the original idea. What was technically impossible or became difficult, we adapted or left in place once we had people using the app.”


“The Digital Inkpot brings people together and it provides social cohesion. I think that is a great result.”

Two Rapid Circle developers created The Digital Inkpot. It sits within the Teams environment, as an app. Users click on an icon, and enter through the ‘reception’ from here you can contact other colleagues who are online and, in the app, or walk further into the digital building, where you will find a corridor with several rooms.

Each room has its own theme and represent a unique Teams channels which guides the functionality for the rooms, conversations etc. For example, there are rooms where you can discuss the latest gadgets, exchange recipes or play games.

image 22
image 23

The graphical representations of the Digital Inkpot used a frame within Teams. This ensured that the app ran entirely within Teams, and used all the advantages that go with it, bit was personalised to ProRail and met the original brief.

With a lead time of three months, of which a total of approximately 6 weeks of actual construction time, the project was completed in record time.

“Rapid Circle were immediately 100% on board with the idea and achieved results very quickly – the collaboration just went really well. The developers themselves were also very enthusiastic because it was a different project than they were used to. That really helped to get it done quickly.”


Appeal to flexibility

The quick rollout of the Digital Inkpot was possible due to the flexibility of people within the organisation and from senior management. The project team were given the freedom to develop the concept in an agile way, without the overhead of project plans and progress reports.

Preliminary testing

Preliminary testing of the apps was conducted by the IT team on 750 employees across the business.

“Thanks to a phased rollout, we had everything under control.”

The Digital Inkpot was then launched across the company, and the app now has 6000 users. Users engaged with the app immediately – meeting within the app but also using it to make other arrangements to go for a walk or play games.

Onboarding everyone, and including external parties

In order to be successful, the Digital Inkpot had to be accessible to everyone at ProRail. ProRail work closely with many external providers and contractors, and having it sit within the Teams environment enabled them to access the app.

How do you assign a KPI to well-being?

The success of a project that focuses on the ‘soft’ side of the job is difficult to quantify.

How do ProRail’s results improve, because people are in better contact with each other? What do ProRail’s partners benefit from this? – Difficult questions, but for ProRail this wasn’t important.

“ProRail management feels responsible for the well-being of its employees and the concerns was of connection with the company and each other. You lose that team connection when you’re at home, behind your laptop, in Teams, you no longer feel it. We wanted that connection back, whilst we have the ability to measure how many are actively using the app the focus was on supporting our employees.

If the app takes colleagues out of their isolation, it has proven its worth.” says Richard and this project is an example of how innovation can be done right with real flexibility and agility.

The legacy of the Digital Inkpot project is much greater than just an online meeting place where colleagues can find each other. ProRail is an organisation where a lot of things go ‘by the book’, and this project is an example of how innovation can be done right with real flexibility and agility.

Richard states “It pays to give people the freedom and possibilities to work on a good idea. We were given a lot of freedom from management on this project – and it was a real success. It showed that it’s possible to quickly create something beautiful that adds a lot of value in a non-hierarchical way of management.”

As employees begin to migrate back to the office ProRail are determining what their new hybrid workplace will look like. The ‘physical’ Inkpot – the office building, is under renovation to include new collaboration tools and employees have more freedom to work from home.

Microsoft Teams and the Digital Inkpot will continue to play a key role in their digital collaboration. With the agile approach and Teams as a foundation, there are many more opportunities to improve collaboration and social interaction.

image 25
image 26

Related Success Stories

Handpicked content
We help you discover what's next


Let’s see how we can transform your organisation together

Book a discovery call

Book a discovery call

By clicking “Submit” you confirm you accept our Privacy Policy. This page is protected by reCAPTCHA and is subject to Google’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.