Scottish Borders Council faced severe budget pressures and wanted to cut costs by minimising travel and giving its employees tools for flexible and remote working. The council replaced its telephony system with Microsoft Lync 2010 and now plans
to extend the solution to 10,000 users. The Lync 2010 deployment to the entire corporate staff is expected to save the authority £1 million (U.S.$1.6 million) over the next three years.
Scottish Borders Council—the sixth-largest local authority area in the country—delivers local government services to 112,900 people living in south-east Scotland. The council headquarters at Newtown St. Boswells is complemented by four area offices, some
up to 80 miles apart, which poses communication and collaboration challenges for staff and councillors—especially during winter, when weather conditions are often severe.
With cuts being made across the public sector, Scottish Borders Council committed itself to a workforce reorganisation programme. It is aimed at introducing and supporting more flexible and remote working by staff and elected councillors, many of whom live
far away from council head offices. The council plans to save hundreds of thousands of pounds by reducing the carbon footprint of its buildings and the cost of travel between its different sites.
Gavin Innes, Infrastructure Team Leader, Business and Technology Solutions, Scottish Borders Council, says: “We were aware that we couldn’t meet targets set by the Chief Executive and senior managers for cost reduction with our existing Siemens private automated
branch exchange (PABX) telephone infrastructure. So we had to find another solution that provided quality voice communication equal to our Siemens system.”
There were additional financial pressures, with communications costs rising because staff were forwarding calls from their desk phones to mobiles when working from home or travelling between office locations. Innes and his colleagues were interested in assessing
the potential of a unified communications solution to avoid the cost of replacing the existing analogue telephony system. They considered offerings from Siemens Enterprise Communications, Avaya, and Cisco before taking advice from Microsoft Gold Unified Communications
Partner Exactive, a specialist and thought leader in unified communications. Exactive recommended a proof of concept (POC) with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2.
Having won a competitive tender through national body Procurement Scotland, systems integrator Exactive recommended replacing the Siemens PABX with Microsoft Lync 2010 as the most cost-effective solution. The council used its Microsoft Enterprise Agreement
for low-cost volume licensing of software to put together an end-to-end communications solution aimed at transforming the business.
This followed the successful POC with Office Communications Server 2007 R2, which showed that Microsoft unified communications technology could integrate with Siemens telephony during the transition between the two systems. By the time the council made its
procurement decision, Lync 2010 was available as the successor to Office Communications Server 2007 R2.
Lync 2010 has now been deployed at each of the two council data centres in what will be a three-year programme. Robert Hutchison, Sales and Marketing Director, Exactive, says: “In the initial phase of the deployment, which has now been extended to 800 users
at council head office, we had to integrate the Siemens PABX system with the Dialogic Media Gateway appliance.”
Innes adds: “We needed a smooth transition between Siemens and Lync 2010. We also wanted to ensure the quality of voice communications using approved Jabra or Bluetooth headsets, giving our staff a choice of different solutions.”
The council has a considerable commitment to further investment in Microsoft software, including extending Lync 2010 to 10,000 users in its schools. In the 2012–2013 financial year, the council plans to upgrade to the Windows 7 operating system from Windows
Server 2003 and Windows XP. At the same time, it is planning to upgrade to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, while also deploying Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Microsoft Office 2010, and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010.
Scottish Borders Council expects to save more than £1 million over three years by standardising on Lync 2010. Innes says: “Staff are already working smarter, travelling less, and finding it easier to work at home or remotely without losing contact with colleagues.
They experienced immediate productivity gains of at least 20 minutes a day when adopting Microsoft Lync 2010.“ The change will also benefit all councillors.
Unified communications helps meet cost reduction targets. The savings achieved will stem partly from the rationalisation of office space as more employees enjoy flexible working and desk sharing. Innes says: “By standardising on Lync 2010,
we expect the council to save more than £1 million over three years,” says Innes.
Extension to schools will add 10,000 Lync 2010 users. Scottish Borders Council also expects to finalise a licensing agreement with Microsoft to extend Lync 2010 to 10,000 additional users in 2012, including teachers and students in its schools.
It will give staff full use of all Lync 2010 functions, with presence and instant messaging for students.
Staff realise unexpected benefits from Lync 2010. Lync 2010 has transformed the working lives of many of the 800 staff already using unified communications, while the others are eager to take advantage of it. Innes says:
“Presence, group conversations, audio conferencing, and instant messaging are the significant time savers. Desktop sharing is also extremely popular. It means specialist staff at head office can share desktops with a colleague in an area office without having
to travel offsite.”
Partner support helps smooth integration with existing PABX. The contribution from Exactive helped overcome the biggest potential challenge—integration—and due to the systems integrator’s experience and expertise it was a smooth migration.
Hutchison says: “Lync 2010 proved to be the solution that integrated best with the existing systems, including Siemens telephony. This has helped us ensure business continuity.”
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