4-page Case Study
Posted: 2/19/2013
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Aspect Technology Firm Upgrades Communications Solution to Strengthen Company Culture

Aspect helps organizations build, enhance, and sustain stronger relationships with their customers by uniting their enterprises with next generation customer contact. Aspect has grown rapidly by developing products and technologies that help support this vision, which resulted in communications issues as the company added international offices and new personnel. To facilitate effective communications, Aspect deployed a Microsoft communications and collaboration solution for its 1,900 employees, which helped it reduce costs, create a common culture, and improve productivity. It decided to upgrade its solution with Microsoft Lync Server 2013 to improve its high-availability options, enhance its conferencing services, and provide a better user experience for its employees.

Situation
Founded in 1973 in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, Aspect is a leading global provider of customer contact and workforce optimization solutions. As a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with Gold competencies, the company’s vision is to help customer-centric organizations deliver a next-generation customer experience through software solutions and services that fully exploit the enterprise communications and collaboration capabilities of Lync Server. It also provides expertise around using additional Microsoft technologies, such as Microsoft SharePoint Server in customer contact centers to help workers better service their customers. Aspect employs more than 1,900 people in 25 countries.

Aspect has some unique communications challenges. Its employees are spread around the world often working in small offices separated by many time zones. Many employees have limited opportunity to meet coworkers from other offices. In addition, roughly 25 percent of Aspect employees work from home offices at least some of the time. Aspect needs a communications solution to use in the office, at home, or on the road that provides many ways for employees to contact coworkers and a variety of customers. Employees also need to know people’s locations and availability so that they don’t call someone across time zones at an inappropriate time.

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* Microsoft invested heavily in business continuity with Lync Server 2013, so we can implement a fully redundant solution and ensure this mission-critical application will be available to our employees. *

Ivan Wood
Architect for Infrastructure and IT, Aspect

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Communications at Aspect are further complicated by the fact that the company has grown rapidly by acquiring companies that complement its product and service portfolio. Integrating the new employees quickly was a key goal for each of the acquisitions and a large part of that responsibility fell on the IT team. Aspect wanted a solution that was easy to manage and enabled the IT department to bring employees from acquired companies on board quickly. The communications system also needed to provide social networking capabilities to help staff who may have never met form working relationships.

Aspect also has a large call center and support staff to support its customers. The call center staff has special communications needs because they need continuous access to subject matter experts to help resolve customer issues.

As a Microsoft partner that integrates Microsoft products into its own Aspect Unified IP contact center solutions, Aspect has long been familiar with the capabilities that Microsoft offers for unified communications. It has relied on Microsoft to help solve its communications challenges for nearly 10 years. Knowing that each past release has substantially increased the benefits it has achieved, Aspect eagerly awaited Microsoft Lync Server 2013.

Solution
Aspect uses Microsoft Lync Server for all of its corporate communications. Lync Server provides presence, instant messaging (IM), conferencing, and voice capabilities to all 1,900 employees. Aspect also consolidated voice mail and email into one inbox with Exchange Unified Messaging, which delivers voice-mail messages to both Microsoft Outlook and the Microsoft Lync 2013 client.

Instant Messaging and Presence
Everyone at Aspect uses instant messaging more than any other method of communication. “Our employees may not be in the same building or the same country as the person they want to contact, but they can always check their presence and reach out with IM,” says Ivan Wood, Architect for Infrastructure and IT at Aspect. Some teams depend on IM more because of their specialized roles. For instance, the finance team uses IM constantly because they have to interact with people throughout the company to check expense reports or to ensure invoices are correct. The support staff has to do multiple tasks at the same time, so they use IM to talk with subject matter experts while they are on the phone with customers.

Meetings and Conferences
By using Lync, employees can easily initiate a meeting and use desktop sharing to collaborate on projects or specific problems. “We underestimated the impact that desktop sharing would have on the organization. It has really changed behaviors,” says Wood. “Anytime someone is having a problem or trying to explain something to me, they just share their desktop and show me instead.”

At Aspect, Lync Server hosted audio conferencing has almost completely replaced dial-in numbers for conferences. About 60 percent of all employees use videoconferencing, including the entire executive team, who use it to conduct staff meetings for geographically dispersed teams. Video enhancements in Lync 2013 include a video preview capability so that employees can see what the camera will show before they turn it on. Employees can also use the video gallery, which enables them to see up to five video threads at a time. They can let the feeds change to view the current and last four speakers, or they can keep one or more video streams simultaneously pinned to the screen.

To enhance meeting productivity, meeting participants can customize their view of a meeting through Lync 2013. They can choose to view the gallery and contact list or make the presentation full screen. “As a meeting participant, being able to just see the presentation helps me focus on the content instead of other things happening on screen,” says Ella Wright, Senior Network Analyst at Aspect. “Especially for large conferences, I like to see who is speaking. The flexibility of views is great.”

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* We have a lot of employees who like to use Skype, so enabling them to bring those contacts into Lync and have all of their communications in one place will be really helpful. *

Ivan Wood
Architect for Infrastructure and IT, Aspect

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Aspect is also interested in deploying Lync Room Systems in conference rooms. “The Lync Room System looks like a very supportable product that will not take a bunch of administrative time,” says Wood. “We didn’t want to invest a ton of money into a video room system, but we would love to have something like this that is very easy to use and provides a great experience.”

Voice
By implementing a Microsoft enterprise voice solution, Aspect fully retired all of its 16 private-branch exchange (PBX) systems. In the North America and Europe offices, Aspect used the session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking service from Verizon Business to provide voice connections through Lync Server. The SIP trunks connect through Acme Packet session border controllers. Aspect uses the multisite, multicountry model from Verizon Business, which means that people can use local numbers. Aspect requires local numbers so that employees are part of the local community. For its sites in Asia and Central America, Aspect connected Lync Server to the public-switched telephone network through AudioCodes Mediant 2000 gateway systems.

Aspect provides a variety of devices for employees to use for their voice and video calls. “We have used Polycom conferencing and IP phones for years. The Polycom CX3000 IP conferencing phone is in all of our conference rooms,” says Wood. It has also deployed Logitech B910 high-definition web cameras to employees who frequently participate in videoconferences.

Many Aspect employees prefer to use headsets when talking on the phone, and Aspect has long used Jabra headsets. It has been testing the Jabra PRO 930 wireless headsets and is very impressed. “The headsets do everything you would ever need—answer calls, control volume, mute—and they integrate perfectly with Lync,” says Wood. “Most importantly, Jabra provides incredible call quality.”

Multiple Clients
The Lync 2013 client makes communication easy. “The five buttons across the bottom of the Lync 2013 client provide access to everything you need. Everything is easy to find,” says Wood. “You can move the mouse over someone’s name and all of the available communications options appear. The new client is a big change for our employees, but they really like it.” Employees are also taking advantage of enhanced contact information through social networking features like the contact card, which displays people’s high-definition pictures in addition to organizational information, such as their managers and direct reports.

When employees conduct meetings with external contacts, the contacts can use the Lync Web App. “Lync Web App is a huge improvement for our clients, because they have access to the same audio and video capabilities we use,” says Wood. “We have many customers who use Macs and the Lync Web App support for Macs provides a great improvement in our ability to interact with them.”

Aspect has also tested Windows 8 tablets with the Lync app in the Windows Store, which takes advantage of Windows 8 touch-first capabilities to provide fast, natural, hands-on control of communications. “The Lync app for Windows 8 is way ahead of anything else we’ve seen for tablets,” says Wood.

Aspect could deploy Windows 8 tablets to its call center supervisors so that when they need to leave their desks to help agents, they can stay in touch with other contacts. That gives them more time to spend with agents instead of rushing to get back to their desks. “If we gave them a Jabra Bluetooth headset and a Windows 8 tablet with Lync, they will be fully connected even when they are walking around,” says Wood. “If they need to spend 20 minutes with an agent, they can. They might get interrupted but they will know they are not missing anything.”

Management
Aspect has also deployed the Lync Server 2013 Management Pack for the Operations Manager component in Microsoft System Center. “I just got an alert today that disk space was running low on a front-end server. If I hadn’t addressed that, we would have had an outage,” says Wood. “System Center Operations Manager alerted me to the potential problem in advance and prevented an outage.”

With Lync Server, the company’s centralized IT team is taking advantage of the expanded management capabilities to manage the communications solution across the organization. By using the Windows PowerShell command-line interface, the IT team can easily automate repetitive tasks, or add or edit user settings for groups of users. Aspect is also using the Lync monitoring capabilities for auditing and reporting. The Monitoring Server collects call detail reports (CDRs); usage information related to voice over IP (VoIP) calls; instant messages, audio and video conversations, meetings, application sharing, and file transfers; numerical data describing the media quality on the network and endpoints; and call error and troubleshooting information for failed calls.

Architecture
The company deployed Lync Server at its three data centers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Singapore. Aspect installed Lync Server in a fully virtual environment, using the Windows Server 2008 operating system with Hyper-V virtualization technology, which enabled it to drastically reduce the number of servers required to run its communications solution. It currently runs the entire worldwide deployment on six physical servers.

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* The Lync app for Windows 8 is way ahead of anything else we’ve seen for tablets. *

Ivan Wood
Architect for Infrastructure and IT, Aspect

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Lync Server 2013 provides several new high-availability options for Aspect. “Microsoft invested heavily in business continuity with Lync Server 2013, so we can implement a fully redundant solution and ensure this mission-critical application will be available to our employees.” Aspect implemented database mirroring at its sites to protect its data. It is considering setting up a redundant pool at each site so that employees can switch to the second pool and maintain full functionality in the event of an outage of their original pool.

Federation and Interoperation
Aspect is interested in the possibilities presented by Lync Server federation with Skype and services that use the XMPP protocol, such as Google Talk and Facebook chat. “We have a lot of employees who like to use Skype, so enabling them to bring those contacts into Lync and have all of their communications in one place will be really helpful,” says Wood.

Aspect also takes advantage of the interoperation between Lync Server and other Microsoft products. With the contact card functionality available throughout Microsoft Office, an Aspect employee can initiate a conversation from an email, a document, or a SharePoint site. They can also listen to coworkers’ voice-mail greetings through the Lync client to hear how to pronounce their names properly.

Benefits
“Since deploying Lync, we rely on it for communications. It’s how we know where people are, if they are available, and how to contact them to solve problems,” says Wood. Lync Server has helped unify the company, integrate new products and services faster, and improve customer value. By deploying Lync Server 2013 to provide communications and collaboration capabilities for employees, Aspect gets a full sense of the benefits of how a Microsoft communications solution can help its customers.

Reduced Costs
Aspect experienced significant financial benefits from deploying a Microsoft communications solution. After deploying Microsoft enterprise voice and retiring all of its PBX equipment, Aspect recovered its investment within nine months. In addition to eliminating expensive PBX equipment and reducing its hardware footprint, Aspect reduced costs in the following areas:
  • Reduced external conferencing by 90 percent, saving US$1.2 million annually.

  • Eliminated T1 lines for local and long distance calling, saving $300,000 annually.

  • Eliminated $275,000 a year in PBX maintenance costs.

  • Reduced costs by $300,000 a year to support employees who work from home.

  • Reduced mobile phone charges when usage dropped by 30 percent because people rely more on instant messaging to communicate.

Helped to Create a Unified Culture
With the social networking capabilities in Lync Server, Aspect has created a more unified organization where people feel like they are part of the same team. “When we acquire new companies, we can quickly deploy Lync at a new site, provide local telephone numbers, and get the new team fully connected to the rest of the organization, so they feel like part of a team right away,” says Wood. Because Aspect maintains offices in 25 countries and has many employees for whom English is a second language, it believes that the social networking features in Lync have helped break down cultural and language barriers.

Simplified Management
Aspect has two people administering its Lync deployment. “The web interface makes it easy to perform one-off tasks from anywhere and PowerShell automates most of the daily administration,” says Wood. “We automate everything we possibly can. We automated the testing process we use after we make configuration changes and reduced 1.5 hours of work to 10 minutes.”

The new high-availability options in Lync Server 2013 will also make management easier by enabling Aspect to deploy Lync with no single points of failure. “We can perform maintenance on the servers without impacting users, which will make everyone happier,” says Wood.

By upgrading its communications solution with Lync Server 2013, Aspect continues to provide the latest technology to help its employees feel like part of a cohesive team, no matter where they work.

Microsoft Lync Server 2013
Microsoft Lync Server 2013 ushers in a new connected user experience that transforms every communication into an interaction that is more collaborative and engaging—and that is accessible from anywhere. For IT, the benefits are equally powerful, with a highly secure and reliable communications system that works with existing tools and systems for easier management, lower cost of ownership, smoother deployment and migration, and greater choice and flexibility.

For more information about Microsoft Lync Server 2013, go to:
www.microsoft.com/lync

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 in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about Aspect products and services, call (888) 412-7728 or visit the website at:
www.aspect.com

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 1900 employees

Organization Profile

Aspect helps customer-centric organizations deliver a next-generation customer experience through software solutions that exploit enterprise communications and collaboration platforms.


Business Situation

Aspect had grown quickly through acquiring companies that enhanced its products and services, which resulted in disparate communications solutions and siloed branches of the organization.


Solution

Aspect upgraded to Microsoft Lync Server 2013 to help further reduce costs and provide a more comprehensive communications solution to create a unified culture.


Benefits

  • Reduced costs
  • Helped create a unified culture
  • Simplified management

Third Party Software
  • Aspect Unified IP

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Lync Server 2013
  • Microsoft Lync 2013
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft System Center Operations Manager
  • Microsoft Outlook 2010
  • Windows 8

Vertical Industries
IT Services

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Unified Communications

IT Issue
Personal Productivity

Languages
English

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