Better IT Outage Communications Builds Performance At Leading Construction Company

Aecon bridge construction

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Aecon has been at the pinnacle of Canada’s construction and development industry for over a century. From famous landmarks like the CN Tower and Vancouver Sky Train, to theatres, hotels and critical infrastructure, Aecon has a rich history of building excellence.

The power behind this promise comes largely from their dedicated and talented workforce. Aecon prides themselves on providing an encouraging environment that challenges staff to excel. But with 3,500 staff in a range of different roles, working across multiple offices and remote sites, keeping staff informed with essential IT information is no easy task.

For James Hay, Client Services Manager, and colleague Stefanie Walsh, Service Delivery Lead, this was a key area of focus.

James explains, “We have a number of types of messages and scenarios that come up in our work weeks that require communication with our end users. It might be planning for scheduled maintenance when we know we're going to be taking systems down to make sure that people are prepared, or reactively when we're responding to an unplanned outage.”

These events have a huge potential impact on staff productivity. Any gaps in the internal communications process opens the door for business performance to be negatively affected.

Key Challenges

While email was the primary communication channel used by Aecon, it was found to be increasingly unreliable. The volume of emails sent made it hard for important messages to cut through the noise. Many staff had corporate emails filtered into their junk mail, meaning readership rates were very low.

Communicators also found that email systems lacked clear reporting on performance, so they simply didn’t know how effective the channel was, which messages resonated with staff and which didn’t.

“We were just sending all this information out into the void and who knows how it was working,” said James.

Faced with a growing need to send information quickly and effectively to all employees, emails were no longer going to cut it. “That is what led us down the road to SnapComms,” adds James. “We were trying to find ways to engage with our business users in a way that stands out more than an email.”


Having evaluated alternative channels, Aecon chose to introduce SnapComms to improve their company-wide IT communications. The need for strong, visual messaging with high impact led them to select both Desktop Tickers and Desktop Alerts.

Desktop tickers provide short, punchy updates of information via scrolling newsfeed-style text. Displayed across the bottom of employees’ screens, the channel is designed to deliver information at-a-glance without distracting staff.

Desktop alerts provide high visibility and maximum impact, getting employee attention for important messages. Critically for Aecon’s distributed workforce, this is equally effective on all desktop, laptop and mobile devices.


The SnapComms tools have been widely used by the IT team, with more departments likely to begin soon.

The primary use has been sending IT outage notifications. When planned upgrades to core systems are scheduled, an alert would be distributed to staff advising them of the situation. A follow-up would then be sent 10 minutes before the upgrade commenced, recommending staff save their work and close their applications.

“Things like that have been very well received,” confirms James. “Whereas an email is very easy to ignore, the pop-up comes up on your screen, so staff know ‘here comes that upgrade’.”

Recognizing that visual appeal is so important, James engaged their marketing team to design message templates so that they look professional, with “Aeconized” branding. The ability for custom themes to be created and applied made this simple to implement.

Compliance is another area where SnapComms has been used to improve communication cut-through. The IT team have a regular requirement to ensure staff adhere to the company technology usage guidelines. This code of conduct governs areas like misuse of company property, which employees must agree to on an annual basis.

This year SnapComms channels have been used to send this out and track employee acceptance, using the ‘I accept’ button at the bottom of the message. The ease of using the SnapComms tools has made the whole process more efficient. Stefanie believes that, “it’s so much easier than the old way we used to do it.”

The tracking capability has been especially welcomed. “That was great because it gave us a lot of metrics that we had previously not been able to have with the old system. When we do a campaign, we measure how many people are actually responding versus how many people are not engaging,” explains James.

To help achieve higher message relevance for staff, Aecon has made good use of the SnapComms targeting capability. Because it syncs perfectly with their staff directory, communicators have been able to set up, maintain and message different user groups without needing to update multiple lists – saving unnecessary double-handling.

“The fact that SnapComms very seamlessly integrates with active [staff] directory is fantastic because it means that we're not trying to maintain it in two systems,” says James. “The more systems you have to try and duplicate, the more inaccuracies you’re going to get. And that's one of the big things that I really like about SnapComms.”

The flexibility of the platform has generated interest from other departments as well. The Marketing Communications team are looking at digital newsletters as a channel for some of their communications. Mobile capability has appealed to the company safety group, who are investigating using SnapComms to deliver safety messages via tablets to staff working on construction sites.

James is enthusiastic about the possibilities for more widespread use in other areas of the business. “Now that we've been using it and having success with it, we're trying to go back to other business partners and encourage them to create and manage their own communications. You don't need to come through IT every time you want to send a blast.”


SnapComms has proved a success for Aecon, both in communication effectiveness and ease of use. “It's been great. The feedback we've received has been very positive,” says James.

“The templates are rigid enough that we can set something up that looks nice and professional and follows our communication style guidelines, but at the same time it's so easily customizable. Within 10 minutes we have something drafted up that looks and feels similar every time.”

Message reporting reflects how successful SnapComms has been compared to email. James confirms, “We looked at the numbers the other day and we were successful in reaching something like 99% of targeted employees.”

For a business where keeping staff in the loop is so critical, this has minimized an area of concern for Aecon and helped them further develop their strong employee relations. Now, for both their internal communications and construction projects, the sky’s the limit.

I've tremendously enjoyed SnapComms. It’s been a very useful tool for our group in terms of increasing our profile, increasing our professional services and projecting that to our core business. I've been extremely pleased with that.

James Hay Client Services Manager, Aecon

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