Keolis says bon voyage email, hello content collaboration

When email wasn't getting the job done anymore, Keolis turned to collaboration software and cashed in on the results.

ORLANDO - A transportation giant with more than a century in business found email was no longer the answer and overhauled its enterprise content collaboration.

Keolis Commuter Services, a Paris-based international transportation company with more than 55,000 employees worldwide, has been in business more than 100 years. The company's business is heavily based on requests for proposal (RFPs) and collaboration between individuals and business units across time zones.

Keolis has now embraced software as a service (SaaS) and more consumer-friendly technologies in part due to changes in the workforce, said Dirk Schniedermeier, CTO of Keolis Transit America Inc., the Los Angeles-based U.S. subsidiary of Keolis, during a session at the Gartner Digital Workplace Summit here this week.

"Consumers dictated the adoption of these technologies in the digital world," Schniedermeier said.

Keolis decided they needed a new collaboration tool after determining email didn't cut it anymore. This decision was sealed when the company's CEO attempted to send an email with a file attached related to an important RFP, but it kept getting bounced back because the file was too big.

"There are so many things wrong with just relying on email," Schniedermeier said. "It's not interactive and you don't have version control. It's an example of all the things gone wrong in a collaborating effort."

Keolis sought a collaboration platform secure enough for government clients and user-friendly for employees. It was also important to employ a platform that was both browser and operating system-agnostic, Schniedermeier said. The company settled on Huddle Inc., a London-based enterprise content collaboration provider.

If I feared the progress of cloud-based [products], that would be like a librarian fearing the Internet.
Dirk Schniedermeier, CTO, Keolis America

In 2014, Huddle's SaaS collaboration platform was instrumental in helping Keolis win a contract worth more than 700 million English pounds to operate the U.K.'s Docklands Light Railway system, together with partner Amey Plc, an infrastructure support company in the U.K. Business experts within different sectors and regions of the company, in addition to outside contractors, used Huddle to put together the winning bid. Users were very pleased with the interface, Schniedermeier said.

"We use [Huddle] as a central repository for progressively running that contract," he said, adding that government agencies involved in the contract are part of the Huddle collaboration.

Keolis faced a challenge around the Huddle implementation with integrating the product with its existing SharePoint environment, but Huddle provides an API that aids in that migration, Schniedermeier said.

Using SaaS products allows Keolis' IT and business units to work more closely together and permits IT to be seen less as gatekeepers and more as facilitators.

"For us, SaaS means hitting the ground running faster and that's reducing the load on the IT department," Schniedermeier said.

If Schniedermeier has advice for his IT brethren, it's to let go of the sense that moving from on-premises infrastructure or longtime business methods like email to SaaS and consumer-like forms of collaboration will result in IT losing control.

"As a CTO, if I feared the progress of cloud-based [products]; that would be like a librarian fearing the Internet," he said. "It's unstoppable and information is knowledge."

Other companies that provide similar enterprise tools to Huddle include Box Inc., Dropbox Inc., Amazon Zocalo, Google Drive and Microsoft's OneDrive for Business.

Jake O'Donnell is the news writer for and Search He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JakeODonnell_TT.

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