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Veolia: Reinventing workflows to boost sustainability, supported by Google Cloud and ServiceNow

About Veolia

Veolia Group provides access to water, waste, and energy resources for millions of people across 52 countries and develops sustainable solutions to preserve and replenish these resources across communities and industries.

Industries: Utilities
Location: France

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About ServiceNow

ServiceNow helps enterprises take advantage of the cloud by automating task-intensive IT processes using digital workflows and employee service portals.

Veolia Group adopts an intelligent workflow to support operations across the 52 countries where it operates, empowering employees to solve business problems faster with technological solutions.

Google Cloud results

  • Speeds up new application development from six months to one
  • Unites hundreds of siloed databases into one serverless, scalable data lake in BigQuery
  • Empowers employees with a self-serve approach to technology with a serverless architecture available anywhere in the world
  • Frees up time from project managers and developers by automating task-intensive layers in their communication process
  • Enables the development of solutions on App Engine without added costs or operational toil

Streamlines critical IT work across 52 countries

Communities and industries all over the world have one thing in common: a fundamental need to access water and energy and dispose of waste. They may not always realize it, but for this, many of them rely on Veolia Group, a global leader in optimized resource management with sustainability at its core. Veolia Group designs and provides water, waste, and energy management solutions to municipalities and businesses in 52 countries. In 2018 alone, the Group managed wastewater treatment in 2,667 locations, converted 49 million metric tons of waste into new materials and energy, and supplied 43 million people with waste collection services. “Resourcefulness comes first for us,” says Antoine Castex, Cloud Solutions Architect at Veolia Group. “Because, as we say every day at the office: any kind of waste presents a problem to the environment. And we have that same mindset when it comes to IT.”

“Because we see any kind of waste as a problem, it’s important for us that we adopt a highly resourceful digital strategy. We chose Google Cloud as a partner because it gives us one solution that addresses all our complex needs, rather than many complex solutions that can be wasteful.”

Antoine Castex, Product Manager, Veolia Group

United by a mission to resource the world sustainably, Veolia Group is a global organization of more than 171,000 employees operating from dozens of individual profit centers spread around the globe. Traditionally, the size and reach of the company has posed a dilemma for its IT roadmap. Martin Black, Head of IT Service Management Center of Excellence at Veolia Group explains: “One challenge a large organization like Veolia Group faces when it comes to its development environment is deciding: do we take a centralized top-down approach, or do we decentralize everything? With centralization, you get governance and control, but you could also introduce bottlenecks and layers. And if everything is decentralized, you could have chaos because you can’t control costs, or keep consistency, and there are no economies of scale.”

To solve this puzzle, Veolia Group found inspiration in its own sustainability motto: “create once, then copy and adapt to reuse many times” and decided to adopt one unified and innovative workflow by partnering with Google Cloud and ServiceNow.

“Because we see any kind of waste as a problem, it’s important for us that we adopt a highly resourceful digital strategy. We chose Google Cloud as a partner because it gives us one solution that addresses all our complex needs, rather than many complex solutions that can be wasteful,” says Antoine.

Enabling agility while inspiring global collaboration

To be able to better support the delivery of its services across the world, Veolia Group’s global headquarters, in France, decided to start by literally uniting them: consolidating its separate databases spread across different countries into one unified and serverless data lake on BigQuery.

“There were hundreds of data solutions in each business unit before the move to BigQuery,” says Martin, who shares that the migration started in 2019. All companies that Veolia had acquired before then have already been integrated in the group’s new data lake, while the migration is ongoing for new companies being acquired more recently.

After establishing BigQuery as its unified point of truth, Veolia Group tasked Antoine’s team with the mission to empower the Group’s multiple project managers around the world to start using the new tools available to them on Google Cloud.

“I soon started receiving multiple requests a day from different Veolia offices who wanted to build new applications on Google Cloud,” Antoine says. “So we had to quickly establish some parameters for the business to operate with all compliance and security controls in place and in an organized way,” he explains. To enable a simple and fast way for the organization’s different offices to collaborate more closely, and take full advantage of their new serverless architecture, Veolia Group turned to ServiceNow’s IT Operations Management (ITOM) solution to establish an intelligent digital workflow across the globe.

“The majority of the applications we develop are using Google Cloud serverless solutions. We run proofs of concept as soon as new applications are requested, and deploy them within a month anywhere in the world. Previously, it would have taken us at least six months to get to this stage.”

Antoine Castex, Cloud Solutions Architect, Veolia Group

Solving business problems faster with an intelligent workflow

“Our world changes very quickly,” says Martin, “so for developers, working in an agile way is key. And for that, they need to be able to understand what users need quickly, and be able to get feedback seamlessly. Our approach uses the best of the service management platform as layers to deliver this kind of agile and federated environment,” he explains. Using Google Cloud as the environment on which to develop solutions, Veolia Group gets support from ServiceNow to add a lightweight engagement layer on this environment that eliminates unnecessary steps in the process of communication between developers and users with automation. As a result, it speeds up the delivery of technological solutions developed in house.

“IT operations can be a labor-intensive process. Establishing an intelligent digital workflow means bringing more transparency and simplicity for users in this process. The goal is for developers to focus on what they need to build and for users to focus on the business problem they are trying to solve,” says Martin. “In practice, this means enabling users to self-serve by giving them one single and simple point of engagement when they need support,” he adds.

Using this approach, Veolia Group has standardized the process for users all over the world to send project requests to developers. “Sending all requests for building new applications through a common layer makes it easier to provide governance, standards, and security,” says Martin. “And from an IT perspective, it also enables agility because standardizing processes means we can ‘build once, deploy many times,’” Antoine adds.

One way this new system is benefiting users at Veolia Group is by giving product owners more visibility over their own resources. Using automation to simplify communication and orchestrate Google Cloud tools, ITOM gathers data for monitoring all applications being built on Google Cloud and notifies product owners if the costs of deploying it are exceeding their expectations, so they can promptly decide how to proceed.

The new standardized workflow is also already resulting in business solutions being delivered faster on the ground, all over the world. Veolia Group’s water management business unit has started using data for predictive maintenance, for example. “Agile technology and agile workflows isn’t just about developers, it can have a direct impact on all business processes. With better data, predictive analysis, and faster access to both, employees can understand how long a pump will last and replace it before it breaks,” says Martin.

“We’re saving a lot of time just from automating more management processes that streamline the interactions between users and Google Cloud. Previously, it could take two days for requesters just to request a kickoff. Now, it’s instant,” says Martin. “For developers and engineers, it might have taken say, 15 minutes to create a project, set up the governance, and set up the notifications. If you do that more than 100 times a month, that’s a considerable time-saving efficiency.”

“Since we established this new workflow with Google Cloud and ServiceNow, all feedback has been positive. We have created 600 projects within the first year and all our IT operations are visibly faster and flowing great.”

Antoine Castex, Product Manager, Veolia Group

Building agility with simple and scalable technology

Another way that Veolia Group is enabling more agility is by reducing the effort needed to build software, with a “copy and adapt” approach: its team of 60 developers based in the Group’s global headquarters builds solutions on the Google Cloud environment that are aligned with the organization’s guidelines and yet flexible enough for business units anywhere in the world to copy and adapt to their own use cases. This is being done at scale, using App Engine.

“We discovered App Engine back in 2012, and since then it remains one of my favourite solutions, because it’s simple to use, scalable, and costs zero to manage and deploy configurations,” says Antoine. “The majority of the applications we develop are using Google Cloud serverless solutions. We run proofs of concept as soon as new applications are requested and deploy them within a month anywhere in the world. Previously, it would have taken us at least six months to get to this stage,” he says.

As the Google Cloud expert at Veolia Group, Antoine also shares that his initial concerns about proposing a completely new workflow to be rolled out globally have now disappeared: “People can be reluctant to change. But since we established this new workflow with Google Cloud and ServiceNow, all feedback has been positive. We have created 600 projects within the first year, and all our IT operations are visibly faster and flowing great,” says Antoine. “We look forward to continuing on this path of working in a more agile and collaborative way, so that we can keep delivering smart water, waste, and energy solutions to communities around the world,” he concludes.

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Veolia

Veolia Group provides access to water, waste, and energy resources for millions of people across 52 countries and develops sustainable solutions to preserve and replenish these resources across communities and industries.

Industries: Utilities
Location: France

About ServiceNow

ServiceNow helps enterprises take advantage of the cloud by automating task-intensive IT processes using digital workflows and employee service portals.