Reaching the globe with TVH

When TVH started out in 1969, they were a family business
reaching-the-globe-with-tvh

Reaching across the globe with TVH: the challenges a global company faces

When TVH started out in 1969, they were a family business that bought, sold, and repaired various kinds of machinery. Their main focus was set on lift trucks, on a local market in Belgium and its surrounding countries. Soon this focus would shift, with expansions across the entire globe. This expansion was reflected in their ever-growing workforce: while they had about one hundred employees at the start of the 1990’s, they entered the new millennium with over 400 people.

Slowly, TVH transformed into a global one-stop shop for Parts and Accessories for material handling, industrial and agricultural equipment. In 2019, TVH has over 6.700 employees working for the group all over the world (Find a career at TVH).

One of these 6.700 employees is Matthias Wiels, who is a Delivery Coach within the IT organisation of TVH. Among his many tasks, he has to make sure that the people making TVH’s software can do so as efficiently as possible. A task that’s easier said than done since TVH has a unique company structure.

Since TVH is in the middle of an interesting growth process, we much rather dedicate our people to our core business.

Divide (your company) and Conquer

“TVH is divided into two main groups: TVH Parts and TVH Equipment”, Matthias explains, “Up until a few years ago they shared a single IT department, but we decided to split that up for the sake of an easier workflow.” The two business units each have their own specializations: “TVH Equipment, outside Belgium, known under the brand mateco, which is the unit where I work, focuses on selling and renting out aerial lifts and work platforms.” TVH Equipment is active in over 18 countries, mostly in Europe, but also in countries like Mexico, Chile, and Panama.3

The business of TVH Equipment is divided into several activities. “Equipment’s main activity is renting out the machines. After each return, the machine needs to be checked for safety before it can be rented out again: Is the machine clean, the battery, or tank full, or does something need fixing? All of these fall under Service. Then there is Planning. That’s where we figure out how to get our products to our clients in the most efficient way possible. After the rental life-cycle of a machine, Sales come into play. To keep our fleet up-to-date, this stage is reached quite soon after first buying a machine. Machines we no longer rent out are put on our used equipment portal.

“There are of course other, smaller activities. Almost everyone comes into contact with Finance, but we also have a growing set of Digital activities. In the past, our clients would contact us via telephone or email. Now we are looking into ways to automate this. We’re also looking into machine learning to, for example, automatically handle the emails we receive.”

Getting the help you need

TVH’s complex business structure is mirrored somewhat in its IT department. “Per activity in our business, we have one or more IT teams working on it. When we split off from TVH Parts, we started using Jira and Confluence to stream our workflows. Rather than taking up the extra task of managing this toolset, we wanted to remain focused on the complexity of the core tasks our people face. That is why we decided at the same time to outsource the management.” A strong decision it turned out to be.

“We landed on Idalko’s Managed Services because someone we trust recommended them. We were specifically looking for a partner with a lot of experience with Atlassian products. A company that had already proven itself, that could offer strong support, with a positive SLA. But mostly, we needed a solution that gave us the freedom to host our own infrastructure. We put everything on Google Cloud, and have placed our Jira and Confluence installations in this environment as well. This way we keep full control of our set-up.”

By outsourcing the management of the Atlassian toolset, TVH Equipment gets all the flexibility and speed of service they need. Moreover, it helps them to install a different kind of culture in the company. “We wanted to make each team an administrator in Jira so that they can manage their own workflows. Ideally, this offers our teams a lot of freedom in how they work. If a team decides to work with a post-it board, they are able to do so immediately. When it comes to digital tools, we want to offer them this same freedom. Now, if a team decides to change something to their set-up, or wants to start up an automated testing flow, they are able to do so without having to wait for the go-ahead from management.”

“We were specifically looking for a partner with a lot of experience with Atlassian products.”

To start using Jira and Confluence, Matthias and his team had to migrate their old systems over to their Google Cloud setup. “Before migrating, we weren’t able to work the way we wanted to. Furthermore, our suite was unstable and there were too many plugins installed that significantly slowed down our system.”

Planning the move took far longer than the migration itself. “The biggest challenge was to extract the correct data from the old system. After that, it was simply a process of determining what we wanted to keep from the old system and what could be simplified.” Idalko helped them with all of these challenges. “We made the plan for this migration together. Then Idalko made a backup of our old system and worked out the best time for the actual migration. After all the planning and testing, the migration took only one night.”

The next global step

Now that TVH Equipment’s IT department no longer needs to worry about its toolset, it can start planning for the future. “As a company, we aim to be a global, united group, where local members still have the freedom to decide on a workflow. This is mirrored in the slogan ‘Think global, act local’.” This structure gives TVH a useful advantage: “We can react to the local market very quickly.”

However, from the IT perspective, the situation today is too complex. “We face the challenge of having about as many IT systems as countries we’re active in. The origin of this situation lies in the way TVH has grown in a specific country or has acquired businesses.” This is why TVH Equipment started a new initiative, Q.one, three years ago. “We want to connect all our different operational companies under one main type of workflow. Our goal is to equalize 85% of our business processes.”

TVH’s global reach is impressive, and they have many interesting changes planned for the future. By creating a more unified workflow between its many players, TVH is sure to grow even more. Matthias Wiels summarizes the role of managed services in this story: “In theory, we could train one of our own people to manage our installation. However, since TVH is in the middle of such an interesting growth process with very specific challenges, we much rather dedicate our people to our core business. Idalko’s managed services keep our hands free to lift our company to a higher level.”

Outsourcing the management of the Atlassian toolset gives all the flexibility and speed of service TVH needs.

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