E-mobility operator powers Sweden’s charging network with help from Microsoft 365
Since its founding in 2015, Bee Charging Solutions AB has rapidly built a major network of electric car charging points throughout Sweden—all from a small team based in Helsingborg. To keep up with its fast growth, the Bee team turned to Microsoft 365 for a simpler, more secure way to collaborate and communicate. Now the company is prepared to continue expanding, meet new opportunities, and ensure its data is safeguarded from a wide array of threats.
“Microsoft 365 gives us the tools and mental space to come up with new and creative ideas on how to make a difference in the lives of electrical vehicle owners”
– Martin Karlsson, Chief Digital Officer Bee Charging Solutions AB
Humble beginnings, rapid growth
In 2015, a four-person startup began building what would become the largest network of electric car charging points in Sweden. This startup, which became Bee Charging Solutions AB, began building a national network of charging stations that connected Sweden’s major cities—allowing the company to branch out into the growing industry with other products and services.
“We wanted to provide the charging where customers needed it, along the major highways and the routes that people use to drive from Copenhagen to Oslo to Stockholm,” says Morris Packer, Assistant to the Chief Digital Officer at Bee.
From day one, Bee enabled rapid growth by powering its workplace environment with cloud-based technologies such as Microsoft Office 365. “As a small startup, we wanted to minimize our technology investment,” says Packer. “We used Office 365 as the basis of our workplace environment. We didn’t install a single server, and we didn’t buy any hardware, except phones and laptops. We wanted to focus our investment on building as many chargers as possible.”
In 2016, government incentives for electric vehicles and partnerships with major car manufacturers connected a growing market of electric vehicle drivers directly with the expanding network of Bee charging stations. Then, in 2017, the company partnered with Volkswagen, and the German auto manufacturer began selling every one of its electric cars in Sweden with a Bee home charging station.
Within three years, Bee became a leading e-mobility provider in the country. As the company grew and the charging point network expanded to thousands of stations across Sweden, the Bee team needed to ramp up its workplace environment to match.
A diverse portfolio of devices – and people
Fast growth can put a lot of strain on a company’s’ infrastructure and processes, and Bee had grown seven times in four years. To keep its employees connected and help teams collaborate more effectively, Bee upgraded to Microsoft 365 and its modern workplace capabilities.
The Bee team is spread across southern Sweden, with project leaders often in the field. Now everybody in the company has anytime, anywhere access to Bee apps, data, and network—without device requirements—to accommodate everyone’s needs.
“Everybody knows how to use Microsoft 365. Everybody gets it—and that’s freeing time for innovation. They’re using the products in more and more advanced ways”
– Morris Packer, Assistant to the Chief Digital Officer Bee Charging Solutions AB
Employees at Bee use Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Online, and OneNote to share documents, take notes, and have discussions and move across the entire environment with ease. “In the old days, you could click around for 10 minutes and not find the document you were looking for,” says Martin Karlsson, Chief Digital Officer at Bee. “But with SharePoint Online, we can find the documents we need much more quickly.”
Alongside Microsoft 365, Bee also uses Power BI to get key insights to support its growth. “Understanding customer patterns is critical for our success,” says Packer. “We’re heavy users of Power BI, to see where, when, and how much people are charging—it definitely gives us a competitive advantage.”
Security for a complex network
Bee has also built a custom IoT environment in Microsoft Azure to connect and monitor the charging stations across the network. When a customer swipes their Bee card at a station, the station communicates with the company’s system to check the person’s credentials and account funds before allowing the car to charge.
This growing pool of cloud-processed data provided Bee with greater insight into its network but also introduced new risks. “Electric car drivers usually fill up at home, and then they charge on the road as they need to,” explains Packer. “So, because our charging points are all connected, we know a lot about our customers—where they’re charging their car, what time of day it is—we have highly sensitive customer data.”
To safeguard customer privacy and comply with GDPR, the company needs to protect all its network data. Bee now uses the security capabilities of Microsoft 365, including Azure Information Protection and Microsoft Intune device management, to help safeguard its data and apps from a wide array of threats—even when employees are accessing them remotely.
For Bee, the constant and automatic updates to the Microsoft 365 environment will be a key advantage as the company continues to grow.
“The continuous development of services, apps, and products means that we can always look for new opportunities,” says Packer. “And having everything in the same service and from the same provider is invaluable.”