Certis Belchim successfully merges two IT environments into one Microsoft 365 environment

Certis Belchim provides innovative crop protection solutions to farmers and growers worldwide and is the result of a merger between Certis Europe and Belchim Crop Protection.

RFP leads to collaboration with HSO

It will come as no surprise that a merger presents several IT-related challenges. For Certis Belchim, this was the reason to seek the assistance of HSO in merging two IT environments into a single Microsoft 365 environment, while minimizing the impact on end users.

Around 24 entities in Europe, the US, and Canada were involved in the merger. Oliver Schaapherder, Head of Digital Transformation, and Dimitri Spaenhoven, Lead IT Operations, were responsible for this complex task. Together with a project group consisting of the IT teams of both Certis and Belchim Crop Protection, they set to work selecting a partner who could help the new company Certis Belchim with the integration on a technical and functional level. "In early 2022, we issued an RFP, which resulted in two strong candidates," Oliver explains. "Eventually, we chose HSO based on a clear proposal, pragmatic plan of action, and positive discussions that instilled confidence in the project group. We started the project execution in March 2022."

Future-proof platform with Microsoft 365

To collaborate effectively, it was essential to bring the organization onto a single platform. A choice had to be made:

  1. Either Certis Belchim migrates to a completely new platform.
  2. Or the company continues within the existing environment of one of the two companies.

Oliver: "When you merge two companies, it is very important to involve all the experts from both companies, putting every fact on the table, in order to then make decisions based on rational considerations. This starting point was used by the project group as the basis for all decisions regarding the new IT solution. Together with HSO, we came to the conclusion that continuing to develop the existing Certis environment had the most added value for the business. In addition, the project group had set the goal of making the new environment future-proof by implementing the Microsoft 365 Security and Protection module (E5 license) and making the system ready for 24/7 MDR services."

The scope of the Microsoft 365 project

"Together with HSO, a concrete project plan was drawn up to work toward a single IT environment in the cloud, with great attention to the impact on end users," says Dimitri. "The goal was to create a secure working environment in which everyone can collaborate optimally regardless of time or location. In addition, the Azure Cloud Foundation was set up by HSO so that in the future we can migrate several servers from our on premises environments to the Azure cloud."

The project revolved around implementing a secure and modern workplace.

This allowed Certis Belchim to use advanced capabilities around identity, security and compliance in combination with Teams Telephony and, of course, Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive. The current laptops were also reset and integrated into the new Certis Belchim environment. These could then be issued securely and ready to use to end users. Furthermore, the company switched from Skype for Business to Teams Telephony. Finally, the security architecture was prepared to facilitate advanced security in the field of identities, devices, apps and security monitoring.

All in one environment

"In September 2022, our digital doors opened. But in reality, there were no doors, as all employees were immediately connected to the same Certis Belchim Microsoft 365 environment after the transformation of their laptops."

Dimitri Spaenhoven, Lead IT Operations at Certis Belchim

Focus on change and adoption

Oliver: "We invested a significant amount of time and energy in the adoption of the new working environment before, during, and after the project. We were closely involved in the migration process in Germany, France, and Belgium. However, we couldn't be present everywhere. Therefore, for the rollout in other countries, we chose to train a group of key users who provided intensive support to end users in their local language. By following a thorough training and communication protocol, everyone knew what needed to be done and how to handle unexpected issues, such as a crashed laptop."

"Employees who had experienced such migrations before gave positive feedback on our approach," Dimitri adds. "In those projects, the focus was more on the technical aspects and less on the end user. We heavily invested in the adoption process, which ultimately proved to be the key factor for a successful integration."

"We kept the ship well on course and completed the project on time and within budget."

Oliver Schaapherder Head of digital transformation at Certis Belchim

Effective collaboration for a secure, modern workplace

For several months now, the end users of Certis Belchim have been successfully working in the upgraded Microsoft 365 environment. This important foundation greatly encourages the intensification of collaboration among all colleagues from both companies.

"Together with HSO, we worked hard to achieve this integration, even during weekends and evenings," says Oliver. "Everything was executed according to plan, which is quite impressive considering the complexity. The key factors were good preparation, flexibility, and the commitment of HSO and our employees."

Oliver: "Initially, the plan was to transition the entire organization in a 'big bang' moment. However, we were soon asked to integrate some countries interim, as the merger process in those countries was completed earlier than the 'big bang' moment. This was not an easy task, as our Microsoft 365 environment was not ready. But the employees of HSO, along with the project group, successfully tackled the job, allowing many countries to start working together as one team on the Certis Belchim platform earlier than expected."

Dimitri: "It became apparent how important it is to properly train end users for a successful integration. Additionally, it was truly a pleasant and educational collaboration. Some consultants from HSO were junior or mid-level, and you could see them grow within the project. This personal development was evident on both sides. With this project, we have taken significant steps together towards a futureproof IT environment."

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