Ditching Windows and desktop for Google and mobility: The Woolworths story

In April 2013, Woolworths migrated to Google Apps and Chrome. The migration was part of a larger transformation program at Woolworths Limited.

The move was part of a strategy to use technology to promote greater collaboration, productivity and effectiveness. Rolling out Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Talk to 26,000 staff.

The aim – to ensure staff could experience the productive and collaborative benefits of being able to work from any device, anywhere.

I caught up with Deon Ludick, Program Director at Woolworths Limited, to gain insight on how this is working operationally and get an update on results to date. He explained:

“We started moving the collaboration suite through Google Apps and vigorously adopted it as the solution; the docs, the mail, the calendar, the share drive, the Google drive, the social media.  The second part was moving desktop into the Citrix environment. It allows us to be device-agnostic and choose whatever hardware we want to give our staff. We gave people Chrome OS because of its simplicity to manage. It’s a secured device, so it doesn’t have the same threats that you have with the classic Microsoft operating system right now.”

“Our vision is to have an environment that keeps itself up to date; that’s the big advantage we’re getting through this whole program.”

Increasing productivity through software

Woolworths adopted the software as a service stack in the cloud, specifically around Google’s full collaboration suite. It’s their cloud – they just leverage the applications. Key areas driving productivity include:

  • Co-authoring documents – A key area where the team has seen success; also the most popular with employees.
  • Video conferencing- Features like Hangouts have eliminated the need for many face to face meetings, saving time commuting around busy cities and easing the ability to interact.
  • Forms – Woolworths never had a particularly great form solution, the Google Forms app both produces a slick looking form, and grafts all the responses in one place, which has saved the team time.
  • Mobility – One of the key metrics of the program is around flexibility. As the platform is up in the cloud, it can be on anybody’s device. You can start a mail on your PC then continue with your phone, or at home; whichever suits on any device. The software service is up in the cloud in the data centre and you get the continuity regardless of the device.
  • Social – There are 25,000 email accounts on the Google platform. Additionally, we’ve given our 175,000 store and distribution centre workers a Google Plus login because these workers don’t have email. As an organisation we all collaborate now on Google Plus. There are also Google sites and Google Drive for filling out forms and accessing the network.

Driving mobility

The software is the service in the cloud, which in turn unlocks mobility. Deon highlighted the potential this brings for the retail giant:

“Our position is unique because we’re not locked onto a device. It makes you completely device-agnostic and Google does a fantastic job to have a tablet or mobile version, or a browser version.

“We’ve chosen to move off our legacy desktop environment too; the current focus is moving away from a PC environment and towards a Chrome OS environment.

“To achieve that, our legacy Windows environment has moved onto a Citrix solution. It’s a HTML5 Citrix solution, which is unique to Woolworths. We don’t care what device you use – if you’ve got a Chrome browser and an internet connection, you can work on that device.

“The classic workstation in enterprise is now completely mobile. My favourite example of this is when I had to approve leave while flying to New Zealand and the plane had Wi-Fi. I logged in to our Citrix environment mid-flight, accessed the right system through our intranet and confirmed the approval. That’s the kind of mobility we have now.”


The target at Woolworths is to be in a transformation program instead of just an enablement.  Engagement metrics have allowed the team to track progress at different stages of the rollout program.

“Our first measure and benefit is engagement. We ask our users, especially during the software Google adoption, point blank: ‘Are you feeling proud of the organisation using this latest technology?’ The same people were asked that question three times: two weeks after migration, then four months, and then eight months into the journey,” Deon explained.

“Each time the answer would increase – there’s been an increase of ten per cent already of employees agreeing they are enjoying their job more. Our results in collaboration are also up 20 per cent and efficiency ratings are up almost 30 per cent.

We’re also measuring flexibility; the amount of people logging on from home is up 30 per cent. ”

Rolling out the hardware

For the next phase, Woolworths will begin rolling out 8,000 Google Chrome OS devices to replace Microsoft Windows desktop computers – believed to be the largest such deployment in the world.

“The aim for the next six months is to complete the rollout. The thing with desktop applications is the fragmentation and the granularity; everybody’s got a little nuance, uses something slightly differently. It’s a very detailed job as we won’t be rolling out generic devices to everybody. The technology is ready, but the next big step is adoption. We pride ourselves on change management, so the next six months will only be a success when people adopt the technology and are more productive.”

The program will continue to run the same surveys as with the Google rollout; this time for the device rollout stage of the program to make sure people have accepted the change with the same pride and extra productivity as when they moved to the Google platform.

Change management will continue to play a big role, by using a staged approached, and there’s confidence in this new phase:

“The software as a service key was actually not complicated. Going into the cloud, the Google platform was quite straightforward as they already had half a billion people using the solution.  That allowed us to dedicate a lot of time to change management, using a lot of our resources – we feel we’ve done a pretty good job. Those learnings will now be used when rolling out the more technical solution – devices. Change management is the magic here, not the technology. “

Hear more on the Woolworths story from Matt Chamley, Head of Infrastructure at Woolworths Ltd during www.enterprisemobilitysummit.com.au.

Capitalising on the North West Rail Link Investment for greater good in Sydney

There’s no doubt the North West Rail Link is a game changer for the prosperity of people in Sydney; specifically North Western Sydney. Its operation will fundamentally change travel patterns and accessibility arrangements.

In addition, Badgerys Creek is going to be an enormous boost for Western Sydney and a catalyst for substantial investment in road and rail transport infrastructure.

So how are these pockets of infrastructure going to come together and unleash benefits to the whole of Sydney? I recently caught up with Tom Gellibrand, Deputy Project Director at North West Rail Link, to gain some insight on the greater impact of transport investment.


Tom and his team are responsible for the integration of the new rapid transit network into the wider transport network.

“We are identifying the best way of integrating the North West Rail Link into other modes.

“We’re working with agencies in government to make sure that our service is integrated with all transport modes. We’re working with Roads and Maritime Servicesand road improvements are going to be integrated with our service – they will complement each other.

“In the physical dimension, our designs accommodate for bikes, pedestrians, taxis, buses, commuter car parking – all connecting together at a precinct level.

“We’ve got a modal hierarchy for our precincts which puts the pedestrians first, then cyclists, buses, taxis, tap and ride, and commuter car parking.”

Overcoming obstacles

To release the highest value benefit from the project, all stations, precinct areas and adjoining urban development will be linked into stations to provide long term benefits – a task which Tom explains has a few key challenges:

“At a physical level, that means how and where you’re actually constructing the roads and creating those links. From the planning side, it’s looking at land use and activating precincts with commercial activities. That will make them destinations onto themselves.

“It’s going really well, but it is invariably a challenge, because we’re a transport provider and will need to work with other organisations responsible for land use planning.”

“We can build the train line and run the train at a a reliably high frequency, but we have to make sure that the urban form and future development capitalises on that investment. It’s one of our critical success factors.”

In addition to urban regeneration, the project will also be accommodate the government’s plans to hit the growth in housing and employment objective:

“The railway line itself traverses a number of really key centres including Rouse Hill, Norwest Business Park, Castle Hill, Epping, Macquarie Uni, Macquarie Park down to Chatswood.

“The level of service is going to increase the attractiveness of these centres for people to work in. In terms of future growth in employment; it’s highly likely that the centres will become increasingly attractive for people to invest in.

“We expect a significant increase in the growth or housing and employment along the North West Rail Link.”

The project is on track to have all major contracts signed by the end of 2014. The next tangible milestone for the community will be the commencement of the tunnel boring machines in late 2014.

Hear more from Tom and the the Key players involved in Sydney’s infrastructure future during NSW infrastructure in September.

Free Blended Learning Webinar: It’s question time.

Watching one of those television debates recently, an idea popped into my head. The thought of having  industry experts answering the hot questions from their peers struck a bit of an intrigue chord.

Shortly after, I started working on our Blended Learning event. I’ve always been a big fan of our eduction portfolio – the pace of change is rapid and it’s pretty inspiring to see the fundamentals of teaching and learning transform.

So that’s how the Blended Learning 2014 Webinar was born. It’s pretty straight forward, it’s free to watch and get involved, and we’ll do the hard work by providing an awesome expert panel.

And here it is… Be sure to register and get involved, we’ve had over 300 registrants so far and we’re getting pretty excited:

Ahead of the 3rd Annual Blended Learning Summit we’ve gathered a few of our speakers, leading experts on blended learning practices, to discuss some of the most pertinent topics when it comes to implementing, transitioning and executing a flexible learning program.

We’ll also be taking your questions to be answered during the webinar so if you have a burning question be sure to let us know.

The webinar will be held on 16 July 2014 from 12-1PM (Eastern Standard Time)

What topics will be discussed in the webinar? (15 min each)

  • Implementing flexible learning
  • Managing the change
  • Putting it into practice
  • Q&A

Register for the free Blended Learning Webinar
You will be able to submit your questions upon registering

Our expert webinar panel:

Associate Professor Angela Carbone
Director, Distinguished National Senior Teaching Fellow, Education Excellence
Monash University
Gilly Salmon
Pro Vice-Chancellor, Learning Transformations
Swinburne University of Technology
Cathy Gunn
‎Deputy Director and Head of the eLearning Group, CLeaR
The University of Auckland