When a nation’s capital depends on a critical public utility to keep the lights on, upgrading key support systems leaves no margin for error. Hydro Ottawa confronted the perfect storm of migrating to a new work productivity platform on the same day COVID-19 forced the shutdown of many of their office buildings. With expertise provided by SADA, Hydro Ottawa was able to make strategic decisions fast, successfully migrate to Google Workspace, and deliver for its customers.
As an electric utility wholly owned by the City of Ottawa, Hydro Ottawa is a leader in smart energy, having been named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers ten times. The company operates three subsidiaries: Hydro Ottawa Limited, which distributes electricity across the nation’s capital; Portage Power, which generates 128 megawatts of clean renewable energy annually; and Envari, which offers large-scale sustainable energy solutions for businesses, governments, and utilities.
In 2020, against the backdrop of a global pandemic, ensuring safe, reliable, and affordable electricity across the entirety of Hydro Ottawa’s customer base assumed even greater importance. Under the extraordinary circumstances presented by COVID-19, the company accelerated the implementation of its Digital Strategy Plan to improve customer support and enhance the employee experience.
The main business challenge Hydro Ottawa faced was an aging, on-premises Microsoft Office suite. Its lack of state-of-the-art communications technologies and need for employees to work mostly on site made it a mismatch for Hydro Ottawa’s Digital Strategy Plan.
“A key principle of our strategy was to provide communication and productivity tools that would allow employees to collaborate with their peers and have access to information anytime from anywhere,” said Mark Fernandes, Chief Information and Technology Officer at Hydro Ottawa. “We wanted to simplify our large, aging on-prem environment and move to a scalable solution in the cloud.”
Hydro Ottawa also wanted to future-proof themselves from technology silos and economic disruption. “We needed a platform that would bring our email documentation management, rate application workflows, and collaboration features like Meet and Chat, all under one umbrella,” said Sarah Green, Director of IT Planning and Programs at Hydro Ottawa. “For example, we had a proliferation of licensed platforms for video conferencing, including GoToMeeting, Skype, WebEx, and Zoom, and costs were starting to balloon.”
Cybersecurity is also critically important to Hydro Ottawa. Fernandes and his team placed special emphasis on researching technology that was feature rich in enabling a secure environment and would provide automated controls to prevent and manage risk.
After reviewing competing platforms, Hydro Ottawa chose to migrate their on-premises Microsoft Office environment to Google Workspace, a suite of productivity and collaboration tools, for its high level of integration and continuous development. Their internal change management group partnered with SADA, a three-time Google Cloud Reseller Partner of the Year, to provide live training, proper configuration, accurate provisioning, and establishment of best practices. The team got to work, rolling out Google Workspace and mobile device management systems to its 700 employees, including office staff and field workers.
The Google Workspace implementation took place in three phases. The large migration of productivity tools, including Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides, started with (1) core IT users, followed by (2) early adopters, and concluded with (3) the go-live of the rest of the organization.
Just when the overall rollout plan was being solidified, COVID-19 forced the closure of Hydro Ottawa’s offices. “The evening of the shutdown we deployed Chat and Meet to all users, and we began using it the very next day,” said Green. “This ensured business continuity in an unparalleled time. I don’t even know how you would put a dollar value on that.”
During this time of uncertainty, the Hydro Ottawa change management team leaned on SADA’s support for the transition to Google Workspace. The cloud migration experts offered a steadying influence for the platform shift.
“SADA came to the table, calmed our nerves, and delivered throughout the rollout. The support that SADA provided during the training sessions was second to none. They were able to take some of our more reluctant users, answer their questions, demonstrate how they could use Google Workspace’s tools, and move them through the change process.”Sarah Green | Director of IT Planning and Programs at Hydro Ottawa
Hydro Ottawa has also been able to achieve sustained efficiency gains for records retention and document administration. “Google Vault and its archiving capabilities have made it easier and more cost-effective to manage and retrieve archival data,” said Green. “We have consistently seen a 50% reduction in the hours required for strategic planning and reporting, especially with our rate application process and several other internal processes since implementation of Google Workspace, with an AODocs third-party integration for our document and records management system.”
Security gains have also been impressive.
“As one of the main gateways for cyber attack within an enterprise, phishing entices users to click on fraudulent links. Therefore, we regularly monitor, track, and test for this activity. After deploying Google Workspace, we saw a 2,000% decrease in simulated phishing link clickthroughs. Literally, the graph went all the way down and has stayed flat.”Mark Fernandes | Chief Information and Technology Officer at Hydro Ottawa
Gmail uses AI and built-in controls to assist users in making sure that they don’t click on malicious links. “Gmail’s phishing tools and the concomitant reduction in email fraud has been a big win for us–a really big win,” said Fernandes.
Overall, as a result of working with SADA, Hydro Ottawa has been able to:
- Migrate 700 employees from on-prem Microsoft Office to Google Workspace
- Reduce the hours required for strategic planning and reporting by 50%
- Decrease simulated phishing link clickthroughs by 2,000%
- Improve operational efficiencies in managing and retrieving archival data
- Establish configurations to allow ongoing lifecycle management
There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that the lights come on at the flip of a switch. For Hydro Ottawa, switching to Google Workspace, even in the midst of a pandemic, proved powerful for their customer commitment.