Dassault Aviation designs and manufactures business jets and military aircraft. Headquartered near Paris, France, the company operates 11 sites and employs 8,000 personnel. Support services employees play a critical role by traveling across France and throughout the world to meet with colleagues and clients and to resolve complex technical issues. In a pilot scheme, the company deployed Microsoft® Office Communications Server 2007 to take advantage of integrated real-time communications including Web conferencing technology. Today, Dassault Aviation expects to reduce costs and increase efficiencies across the business. It will cut back on travel expenses when employees use Web conferencing. The company also expects employees to increase efficiency with faster decision making through Web conferencing, presence awareness, and instant messaging.
||With Office Communications Server 2007, Microsoft was able to deliver a collaboration technology that puts us at the forefront of our industry.
IT Project Team Leader
Dassault Aviation, headquartered in Saint-Cloud, France, designs and manufactures military aircraft and business jets. It employs 8,000 workers worldwide and divides its business into two regions: the United States and the rest of the world. All engineering and the majority of its manufacturing activities are based in France, with business jets completed in the United States.
In February 2007, the company launched the Falcon 7X executive jet. Technologically advanced, with a range of 5,590 nautical miles, the plane is one of the most fuel-efficient aircraft of its kind. Like most modern aircraft, and the rest of the Dassault Aviation fleet, the Falcon is manufactured and assembled across the company’s 11 sites. These are located throughout France from Seclin in the north to Istres and Biarritz in the south.
The company prides itself on the technology that supports the production of its aircraft, and the Falcon is a perfect example of how state-of-the-art manufacturing operates today. Designers used the latest virtual reality technology to visualize every one of the Falcon’s 50,000 component parts when they assembled the plane. Then some 1,500 engineers worldwide used a central database to perfect the design with such precision that there was no need to build a prototype—all the testing and life-cycle management was done in a virtual environment.
In short, Dassault Aviation is a leader in the aircraft industry when it comes to the development of new ways to work. For this reason, the company looked to improve the communication and collaboration technology used by engineers and support agents based at the Falcon Technical Center in Saint-Cloud. They frequently travel to meet clients for regular meetings to discuss maintenance and other issues.
Matthieu Willm, IT Project Team Leader at Dassault Aviation, says, “When engineers travel to see clients we want them to be able to communicate with other support staff in real time without leaving their own locations. And they have to be able to show exactly what is going on so that their colleagues in Saint-Cloud can make instant diagnoses, seeing faults in real time on-screen. It’s quicker, more efficient, and meets our own high standards of engineering collaboration.”
The company also wanted to reduce the cost of travel, especially between headquarters and the assembly plant in Merignac approximately 600 kilometers (372 miles) away. Says Wilm, “As long as they have a computer and an Internet connection, our engineers should be able to collaborate on projects with colleagues using Web conferencing technology wherever they are.”
Traditionally, Dassault Aviation has used Microsoft® software such as the Microsoft Office Outlook® 2003 messaging and collaboration client and Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 to help personnel collaborate.
At one stage, the company assessed Web conferencing solutions from competing vendors. “Most of them didn’t comply with our internal security policies,” comments Wilm. “These asked for a solution that delivered Web conferences on-premise, using our own internal servers.”
||The combination of presence awareness and instant messaging provided by Office Communications Server 2007 is great when we need to make time-sensitive decisions.
IT Project Team Leader
In the end, the answer was close to home. Dassault joined a Microsoft pilot program to deploy Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and client program Microsoft Office Communicator 2007.
Office Communications Server 2007 offers the following features:
- Presence awareness: This shows availability in real time. For instance, employees can see a colleague’s status in Office Communicator 2007 and other Microsoft Office applications and the best way to reach that person. In this case, if an offline user is available by e-mail, another user can use a simple drop-down menu to send that person an e-mail message through Office Outlook 2007.
- Enterprise instant messaging (IM): Users can take advantage of IM within a highly secure framework. Office Communications Server 2007 automatically encrypts all communication between the server and client.
- Web conferencing: Workers use voice, video, data, and text to create a virtual meeting through an end-to-end encrypted connection.
At the pilot’s beginning, Wilm began to work with Microsoft Services on deployment. “We took a low-risk approach at that stage,” Wilm says. The company restricted Office Communications Server 2007 to the Falcon Technical Center. It deployed Office Communicator 2007 and the Microsoft Office Live Meeting client on about 150 engineer and support staff workstations and on 15 portable computers. Users each received a headset and a webcam to plug into their machines for Web conferencing.
The company also created four dedicated Web conferencing rooms and tested the Microsoft RoundTable™ conferencing and collaboration device. The device appears like a normal speakerphone but contains a webcam that gives a 360-degree view of the room.
In trials, engineers who used virtual private networks set up Web conferences with client sites. At the time, they compared the quality of webcam images with digital photography. Furthermore, they measured the impact of different bandwidths on conference quality.
Presence awareness proved especially useful for traveling personnel because they could check the status of engineers before trying to contact them through IM. If a group discussion was required, personnel quickly launched Web conferences from their computers by using the same Office Communicator 2007 interface. “With the success of the pilot, we now plan to deploy Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator 2007 across the company during 2008,” says Wilm.
Dassault Aviation expects employees to increase efficiency by making decisions faster through conferencing, presence awareness, and instant messaging. It also expects to reduce costs as a result of the new collaboration and communication environment. It will save money when people use Web conferencing instead of traveling to meetings.
||People will be able to run detailed support projects long distance using the Web conferencing available with Office Communications Server 2007. They will no longer need to travel so much.
IT Project Team Leader
Web Conferencing Aids in Rapid Diagnoses
Dassault Aviation employees will use Web conferencing in an encrypted environment to collaborate better with colleagues and partners outside the corporate network. In practice, engineers will use portable computers to set up a conference with their colleagues from client sites.
Wilm says, “With Office Communicator 2007, engineers can have background files next to the image of an engine part up on screen. Everyone sees the same detailed information at the same time and can discuss relevant points, which gives us the best chance to make the right decisions quickly.”
As a result, they will be able to resolve issues in hours or even minutes instead of days spent waiting for digital images of mechanical issues. Wilm adds, “This value-adding service of Office Communications Server 2007 can play a role in winning business.”
The RoundTable devices will also support quick decision making. A 360-degree view of a conference room makes the Web conference experience much more effective. For instance, there are no interruptions as with other solutions that require people to realign webcams with different speakers.
Instant Communication Fixes Issues in Real Time
Engineers and support staff can collaborate wherever they are as long as they have a computer and an Internet connection. Critically, they can use presence awareness technology to determine the best way to contact a colleague: landline, mobile, e-mail, or IM. “With presence awareness, we’re more likely to contact the right person immediately, saving time,” comments Wilm. “Straightaway you know if anyone is going to be unavailable for a long period. So you contact someone else. It is invaluable when trying to set up meetings at short notice.”
IM is having a major impact. Designed for short text conversations, it is used for urgent responses. “With this collaborative tool, the support center agents are working together with the engineers to diagnose problems in real time,” says Wilm. “The combination of presence awareness and instant messaging provided by Office Communications Server 2007 is great when we need to make time-sensitive decisions. We’ve had very positive feedback from employees—they find that it takes a lot of the worry out of the communication process, especially when messages are urgent.”
Fewer Business Trips Cuts Costs
In the future, fewer engineers will have to travel between Saint-Cloud and Merignac to resolve technical issues. Wilm says, “People will be able to run detailed support projects long distance using the Web conferencing available with Office Communications Server 2007. They will no longer need to travel so much for face-to-face meetings.”
Company Gains Clear Development Path for Unified Communications
Because of the success of the trial, Dassault Aviation is looking for other areas where Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator 2007 can make a difference. The company now knows that unified communications delivers real business benefits.
Wilm says, “Compared to our previous experience with Web conferencing technology, Office Communications Server 2007 really adds value. Looking back on the trial, the ability to integrate our key business applications easily in a high-quality Web conference made the greatest impact.”
In 2008, the company plans to pilot Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Unified Messaging while it upgrades workstations across the company to the 2007 Microsoft Office system. Like many big businesses, the company sees itself moving to a unified communications infrastructure in the future. And its experience during the trial of Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator 2007 has given a good understanding of how Microsoft could be a partner in this move. Wilm states, “With Office Communications Server 2007, Microsoft was able to deliver a collaboration technology that puts us at the forefront of our industry.”
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Document published November 2007