EPP implements System of Engagement for 200 external users from member parties, based on SharePoint and Office365

The EPP is the largest political organisation in Europe with over 70 member-parties from 40 countries, and is also the largest group in the European Parliament. The organisation needed a solution for streamlining its collaboration, more particularly the collective document-amending processes , involving 200 external member parties organised into several Working Groups. Spikes built a powerful SharePoint-based extranet, integrating almost all the components of the complete Office365-suite, resulting in a real System of Engagement.

Founded in 1976, the European People’s Party (EPP) is the political family of the centre-right, committed to a strong Europe based on a federal model that relies on the principle of subsidiarity.
Gonçalo Carriço, IT Administrator at EPP, explains what makes the organisation different from traditional companies: “Our production does not involve goods or services, but information: an asset which, in a political environment, is extremely important.”
Standardisation of IT architecture for information-management
As Gonçalo Carriço realized soon after joining EPP two years ago, the existing IT infrastructure was failing to match EPP’s information-sharing needs: “As a strategic asset at EPP, information has to meet three criteria: it has to be organised, secured and available everywhere. We needed to look for a uniform IT-platform that would serve the whole organisation’s information needs.”
Hybrid architecture
A market study soon led to Microsoft Office365 as the platform that would offer the best fit for the needs of EPP. The platform would be deployed as a hybrid cloud/on-premise architecture.
“Outsourcing a part of the solution to the cloud would allow us, as an IT Department, to focus more on our key challenge: taking care of organising and sharing information. We knew exactly where we wanted to go with Office365. The problem, however, was how to get there. When Spikes was recommended to us as the right Partner for assisting us with the deployment of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and for integrating it with SharePoint, we grabbed the opportunity with both hands”, Gonçalo Carriço explained.
Managing collective amendment processes
Working Groups on topics such as European Policy, Economic and Social Policy, Climate Change and Energy are the backbone of the EPP’s political work. Representatives from the EPP member parties develop common positions and strategies on major policy areas and submit specific recommendations for final approval. A Working Group can be given a specific mandate to draft documents for meetings of EPP leaders, but can also be responsible for organising conferences, roundtable discussions and other important events.
“In the past, e-mail was the preferred tool for exchanging documents to be amended between users. Logically, after a few interchanges, it became difficult to know which version was the right one”, Gonçalo Carriço said.
A new SharePoint-based solution had to serve two purposes. First, it needed to serve as a platform for making organised content easily available to everyone within the organisation. Second, as an Extranet, SharePoint would help 200 external users from member-parties to collaborate on document approval flows and to streamline agendas and tasks.
Gonçalo Carriço: “Our challenge was to provide efficient management of the
collective document-amending processes, often involving hundreds of outside users. We wanted to track the source of each document amendment and to manage the amendment acceptance or rejection process, while making sure that everyone had access to the latest version of each document.”
200 SharePoint users
After some discussions in order to define clear policies and guidelines, an agreement was reached to go live, based on a mock-up proposed by Spikes.
Spikes implemented several SharePoint sites which serves as the major collaboration environments for Working Groups at EPP. A particularly clear and inviting homepage offers users access to the dates and agendas of their past and future meetings, working documents, tasks, conversations, and so on and so forth.
Building a system of engagement with Office365
Apart from its SharePoint activity, EPP is also a heavy user of almost all of the
Office 365 -suite components. SkyDrive Pro - integrated with SharePoint - offers ‘any time, any place’ access to documents on smartphones and Microsoft Surface tablets, including automatic versioning and recovery of lost documents. Yammer serves as the main collaborative communication tool between internal and external users, while Lync is the preferred video-conferencing solution.
To make the Microsoft story complete, the IT Department also relies on Windows Intune as a cloud-based IT management solution for managing and secure client computers and mobile devices.
“For an organisation with a small IT team like EPP, Office365 is a blessing: all the components are available to build a System of Engagement with external users with minimal IT management effort. As our IT-partner, Spikes have been a positive surprise to us. They quickly understood our issues and really know how users behave.”