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Posted: 6/21/2010
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The CUF Group Chemicals Group Gives Employees Flexible Communications Tools, Cuts Business Costs

The CUF Group, based in Portugal, wanted to implement an innovative communications system to correspond with its new corporate identity and relocation of head office. The group deployed real-time communications solution Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2. Employees benefit from a more flexible workplace because they can now contact colleagues quickly wherever they are, while the business has cut the cost of traditional communications systems.

Business Needs
Founded in 1908, The CUF Group has not only grown to become one of the largest industrial groups across Spain and Portugal, but it is also the leading chemicals group in Portugal and maintains a widespread international presence. In 2005, a business restructuring process paved the way for a new corporate identity to reflect the group’s industrial heritage and commitment to innovation.

As part of this, the group sought to adopt a more strategic IT solution to provide users with a consistent, unified approach to communications. The opportunity arose to implement the system in 2009 when the group relocated its head office from Alverca to new premises in the Quinta da Fonte. Teresa Raminhos, Information Systems Manager, The CUF Group, says: “In the previous head office, we used a conventional solution with a digital telephone exchange and non-integrated communications systems.”

The group was keen to offer a more flexible, efficient environment to users, and also potentially reduce the business costs often associated with traditional solutions. Raminhos and her team recognized that a unified communications solution—which bridges the gap between telephony and computing—would help the organization deliver real-time messaging, voice, and conferencing to employees.

José Vieira, In-house Unified Communications Project Manager, The CUF Group, says: “We initially considered conventional voice-based systems. But that was before we became aware of Office Communications Server 2007 R2, a real-time communications solution.”

Solution
Office Communications Server 2007 delivers software-powered Voice over IP (VoIP)—the routing of voice over a data network—which works with an organization’s existing messaging and telephony infrastructure. Raminhos says: “To begin with, we thought that committing ourselves to a new solution with which we had no experience was a risk. But once the solution was deployed, we found it to be not only more reliable, but also more flexible than our digital exchange system. We retained two fixed-line telephones as backup in case anything went wrong, but we didn’t need them.”

The CUF Group worked with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Tecnidata throughout the deployment. Paulo Gaspar, Project Leader, Tecnidata, says: “The solution consists of a high availability cluster based on HP hardware, running Windows Server 2008 and Office Communications Server 2007 R2. The entire unified communications solution was designed and implemented in less than three weeks.”

Mediation Server for Office Communications Server 2007 R2, also supported by Windows Server 2008, provides interoperability between the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and private branch exchange (PBX).

The solution is used by around 50 people, but is highly scalable and in future can be rolled out to as many users as the company requires. Employees use the Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 client application to call telephone numbers or corporate extensions. People communicate using tools such as instant messaging, and audio and videoconferencing. The solution also integrates with users’ address books and corporate directories. Using presence technology, they can share information about their availability and view the status of others to help them communicate in real time.

Benefits
Despite the deployment of Office Communications Server 2007 R2 being in its early days, employee feedback already suggests that it has significantly improved their quality of communications. “People are saying they couldn’t work without the flexibility this technology offers,” says Raminhos. “It’s clear that it will cut travel and call costs, and help our employees work in the most efficient way possible.”
  • Business costs are reduced. VoIP is more cost effective than traditional telephone calls because it uses less bandwidth. Vieira says: “We also expect to make significant savings with the help of intuitive conferencing tools, because we won’t need to travel for meetings as frequently as we do now.”

  • Workplace is more flexible. Office Communications Server 2007 removes the association of a person with a number, so employees are no longer restricted by the location of their desk phones. “Users can maintain communications with their colleagues from any location by remotely accessing Office Communications Server 2007,” says Vieira.

  • Employees are more available. Traditional calls often end up as voice mail, but with Office Communications Server 2007, it’s less likely that employees will miss the person they’re trying to reach. Users can quickly check the availability of their colleagues and contact them using their preferred method.

  • System is easy to administer. “Configuration of the PBX was a time-consuming and often expensive process. Today, our IT personnel can quickly and easily configure the system, and some functions can even be set up by the end user,” says Vieira. Office Communications Server 2007 R2 is tightly integrated with the Active Directory service. Administrators can give users access to services rapidly and centralize management functions.

  • Training is minimized. The CUF Group planned extensive training for employees, but much of this was unnecessary. Vieira says: “The system is so intuitive that many people are using functions within Office Communications Server 2007 R2 that they discovered for themselves.”

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Solution Overview



Organization Size: 600 employees

Organization Profile

The CUF Group is one of the largest industrial groups across Spain and Portugal and is the leading chemicals group in Portugal.


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2
  • Microsoft Office Live Meeting
  • Windows Server 2008
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2003
  • Microsoft Office Communicator 2007

Vertical Industries
  • Manufacturing & Resources
  • Life Sciences, Chemicals; Oil & Gas, Mining
  • Process Manufacturing & Resources

Country/Region
Portugal

Business Need
Unified Communications

IT Issue
Personal Productivity

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Tecnidata

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