The Swiss Council for Accident Prevention (bfu) works to improve safety in the fields of road traffic, leisure, and sport. Most of its 130 employees work in Berne, with the remainder in nine regional offices. All rely on e-mail, instant messaging (IM), and telephony for collaboration with one another and with external organizations. bfu deployed Microsoft® Office Communications Server 2007 and Exchange Server 2007 to provide these workloads to all employees. To expand the capabilities of its unified communications solution, bfu recently deployed Office Communications Server 2007 R2. Employees now enjoy audio conferencing capabilities along with voice, e-mail, IM, and Web conferencing. The added capabilities have enabled bfu to reduce travel, improve customer service, and consolidate IT systems. These benefits are expected to save the organization more than CHF90,000 (U.S.$76,000) a year.
The Swiss Council for Accident Prevention (bfu) is a private foundation that provides safety advice to local authorities, institutions, and individuals. bfu has 130 employees, the majority of whom work in the main office in Berne, Switzerland, while others are located in the foundation’s nine smaller offices covering Switzerland’s German, Italian, and French speaking regions.
bfu covers safety concerns related to roadways, sports venues, and housing, compiling statistics about accidents in these areas and then publishing safety recommendations related to road safety for schools, protective equipment for sports, and structural engineering. The foundation also runs a helpline that answers queries from companies and the public.
While the majority of the foundation’s workforce is office-based, 15 of its employees are engineers, psychologists, and consultants who conduct surveys at accident sites. Half of these employees work out of the Berne headquarters, while the others work from the regional offices.
In addition, bfu works with several partners at federal, cantonal, and local government levels, and also with national institutions, international research agencies, and trade organizations. These relationships are essential to collating and evaluating accurate data and to establishing safety guidelines for a variety of customers.
bfu has been an early adopter of unified communications technology. In 2004, it deployed a software-powered voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution based on e-phone, an IP-based software solution that integrates with Microsoft® Exchange Server 2003 e-mail messaging and collaboration software. With e-phone, employees could call colleagues simply by using the click-to-dial feature of the Microsoft Office Outlook® 2003 messaging and collaboration client and by speaking into a headset plugged into the USB port of the computer. Employees could manage both e-mail and voice calls on a single device.
In 2005, bfu deployed Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005, a unified communications environment that uses the Active Directory® service to integrate with the 2007 Microsoft Office system and the Windows Server® operating system. Employees could then use presence and instant messaging (IM) to determine colleagues’ availability and to communicate in real time.
Given the early interest in unified communications, bfu was quick to deploy Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 when it was released. bfu wanted to further consolidate its communications infrastructure by replacing e-phone. Office Communications Server 2007 is one of the cornerstones of unified communications solutions from Microsoft, providing instant messaging, presence, voice communications, as well as audio, video and Web conferencing. “When we heard about Office Communications Server 2007, we knew that it was the obvious next step to build on our existing investment,” says Peter Schönthal, Head of Information Technology at bfu. “We had already established a system by which employees could use their computers to make and receive voice calls. We wanted to consolidate this further by delivering all communication methods through a single application.”
In May 2007, Schönthal worked with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner webcall to deploy Office Communications Server 2007 and the Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 client. By May 2008, all 130 employees were using the solution for voice, IM, presence, and Web conferencing. bfu was then able to discontinue the use of the e-phone solution for phone calls. In addition, bfu currently has four federated partners and expects to increase this number to 10 in 2009. Federated companies have an agreement to exchange contact and presence information, which helps them to collaborate more easily
||Fifty percent of our users responded that they would use audio conferencing to avoid travel twice per month. This travel reduction will save the organization about CHF4,800 [U.S. $4,000] each month.
Head of Information Technology, bfu
Employees can use the Office Communicator 2007 interface to place or receive calls internally or to external numbers, in other words, both computer-to-computer and computer-to-telephone. Employees can also access e-mail, IM, and presence from within the same application. Integration with the company’s corporate directories, intranet, and customer relationship management (CRM) solution gives employees additional contact details and presence information. “We integrated Office Communications Server with our CRM solution so that it will show the information of the person calling and our employees can call customers directly without dialing a number,” explains Schönthal.
While the deployment of Office Communications Server 2007 was a success and users quickly adopted the new technology, bfu was excited when Microsoft announced Office Communications Server 2007 R2. It offered bfu the opportunity to continue to improve employees’ communications and continue to consolidate its communications infrastructure.
To gain early access to Office Communications Server 2007 R2, bfu joined Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) and worked with webcall to test and deploy the software. “webcall came onsite and worked with us using their experience from their own deployment,” explains Schönthal. “They helped us quickly resolve all of the issues that came up. We are very happy with our relationship.”
bfu designed an architecture that included a standard edition front-end server, an Edge server, and a Mediation server. Additional roles, such as a monitoring server, Web Access server, and Archiving server, were deployed as virtual servers using Windows Server 2008 featuring Hyper-V™ virtualization technology. bfu updated its existing servers, which were 64-bit capable, and did not need to purchase new hardware.
bfu tested and deployed the server-based audio conferencing capabilities in Office Communications Server 2007 R2. “We configured one access number for our audio conferences and setting it up was a snap,” notes Schönthal. “We also took advantage of the multiple language support and have our conferencing announcements available in German, French, and Italian.”
||It is much easier to share information with desktop sharing than by opening a separate session in Live Meeting, and our users are more likely to take advantage of it. Our help desk is already using it 10 times per day, which is about 25 percent of their calls.
||Peter Schönthal Head of Information Technology, bfu
Desktop sharing through the Office Communicator 2007 R2 client proved very popular during testing. With desktop sharing in Office Communicator, a participant in a conference in a chat or in a call can display his or her entire computer desktop to the other participants, without using Microsoft Office Live Meeting. “It is much easier to share information with desktop sharing than by opening a separate session in Live Meeting, and our users are more likely to take advantage of it,” explains Schönthal. “Our help desk is already using it 10 times per day, which is about 25 percent of their calls.”
Of the new voice capabilities, bfu has the most immediate need for the Communicator Attendant Console and the Team Calling functions.
- Communicator Attendant Console is an intuitive, integrated call management application that facilitates accurate and rapid call handling and routing for business professionals. bfu uses the attendant console as a replacement for the e-phone attendant functions.
- Team Calling enables users to add contacts to a call-forwarding list and designate when their phone calls will ring through to these contacts. Schönthal estimates that 70 percent of the teams at bfu will implement the Team Calling feature because they already used this feature with e-phone.
When testing Office Communicator Mobile 3.0 software, bfu was impressed with the improved speed and battery life. The organization now plans to inform the users where they can get the software to install it themselves. Schönthal estimates that 25 percent of users will take advantage of the mobile capabilities.
bfu moved quickly to get Office Communications Server 2007 R2 into production, even before the official product release. “After testing in the lab, we put the solution into production with 10 IT users. We had no issues, so we quickly added 15 more users, including our receptionists so that we could shut down the e-phone system,” explains Schönthal. “Everything worked really well. Within a month, we had deployed the solution to everybody.”
bfu spent a few weeks testing the beta software, but it estimates that the deployment could have been completed in about two days. The total cost for the deployment was approximately CHF38,000 (U.S.$32,000). This cost included hardware, software, deployment, user migration, and testing. bfu reduced costs by reusing existing hardware and by maintaining Microsoft Software Assurance on its licenses.
|Figure 1. Cash Flow Diagram. |
Employees now have a single, intuitive interface for initiating and receiving voice calls, e-mail messages, and IM exchanges. bfu expects to receive annual benefits of CHF90,000 (U.S.$76,000). These benefits will come from a combination of reduced travel, which results in both time and cost savings, and reduced IT management costs. The organization expects the project to pay for itself in five months and produce a return on investment of 220 percent. See Figure 1 for a cash flow chart.
Conferencing Reduces Travel
“Fifty percent of our users responded that they would use audio conferencing to avoid travel twice per month,” explains Schönthal. “This travel reduction will save the organization about CHF4,800 each month. In addition, employees will gain an additional four hours a month that they currently spend travelling.” The time saved can be used for other productive activities and to help employees maintain a better balance between their work and personal lives.
“We will also be able to include more people in meetings. For instance, our staff in Ticino doesn’t travel the six hours to Berne for monthly team meetings,” explains Schönthal. “It will now be easy to attend just by calling in. If they are at their computers, they can join using Live Meeting as well.”
Voice Capabilities Save Costs and Improve Service
bfu deployed the Communicator Attendant Console to its receptionists and decommissioned the remaining e-phone servers that previously supported this function. “We didn’t have any software costs using e-phone, but we now have the time benefit because we no longer have to maintain the solution,” notes Schönthal. “We spent about five hours a month maintaining the servers and infrastructure so that we could save about CHF1,000 per month.”
Continues Schönthal, “Beyond the cost savings, the receptionists are better able to forward incoming calls because they know who is available and who is not. Customers can be served better and faster.”
Using the Team Calling function in Office Communications Server 2007 R2, bfu can improve customer service by enabling subject matter experts to forward their calls when they are out. “One of our teams is a group of engineers who support home architects. An architect may get an engineer’s number from our Web site and call them directly. If the engineer is out, they have to wait for an answer, but Team Calling will enable the call to be forwarded to an available engineer,” explains Schönthal. “The teams will set this up and maintain it on their own so it doesn’t require additional IT time.”
bfu employees also report a significant improvement in voice quality on calls outside of the network. Users are now comfortable using Office Communicator 2007 to conduct radio interviews, whereas they previously used their mobile phones.
Employees Stay in Touch with Communicator Mobile
Employees now have one seamless experience wherever they are—through their portable computers, via the Web on another computer, or by using Windows Mobile®–powered smartphones running Office Communicator Mobile. “Communicator Mobile 3.0 is a lot faster than previous versions, and the battery lasts longer. About 50 percent of our users use Windows Mobile smartphones, so we will get a lot of use from it,” explains Schönthal. “We have employees all over Switzerland who go into the community to do consulting. With Communicator Mobile, they can use presence to find a subject matter expert in the main office and get questions answered right away.”
With Office Communications Server 2007 R2, bfu is taking another step toward consolidating all communications into one solution. Employees have one user interface for all of their communications needs and can select the method that best fits the task they are performing.
Reduced IT Management Costs
“There are advantages to Communications Server for the IT team too,” says Schönthal. “We can customize the solution according to the role of each user—so we can allow someone to use IM but not to send data files, for example. And we also have the reassurance that all information is encrypted, including internal voice calls.”
When bfu hires a new employee, the IT team can start the employee’s e-mail, IM, and telephony services by entering one set of data into Active Directory. This creates a time saving of around 50 percent compared to before the Communications Server solution was deployed, according to Schönthal. “With the Siemens HiCom PBX system, we had to enter employee data twice—once in the IT infrastructure and once in the telephony system. Now, all details for each user are in a single address book in a single location.”
Likewise, altering an employee’s details, such as surname, takes less than a minute. Says Schönthal: “With the HiCom system, it cost more than U.S.$80 to change the display name on a telephone. Now, it costs nothing.”
With Office Communications Server 2007 R2, bfu is realizing the full potential of its original move from a PBX system to a VoIP-based system. “Communications Server is already saving us time and reducing costs through consolidated management, as well as improving the way we collaborate with one another and with our customers—all through a one-week deployment process. This solution gives us the ability to communicate in a way that is more sophisticated, and yet simpler.”
Microsoft Office System
The Microsoft Office system is the business world’s chosen environment for information work, providing the programs, servers, and services that help you succeed by transforming information into impact.
For more information about the Microsoft Office system, go to:
For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in the United States or (905) 568-9641 in Canada. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
For more information about webcall products and services, call +41 (44) 325 6633 or visit the Web site at:
For more information about The Swiss Council for Accident Prevention (bfu) products and services, call +41 31 390 22 22 or visit the Web site at: