4-page Case Study
Posted: 12/10/2009
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NEC Personal Products Computer Manufacturer Improves Business Processes with Unified Communications

NEC Personal Products designs, manufactures, and sells personal computing products to customers around the world. The PC business is extremely competitive and requires efficient operations so the company looked to enhance competitiveness through investments in IT. After making many investments in technology to improve operations within departments, NEC Personal Products felt that it could benefit from a solution to improve communications and collaboration across the entire company. In December 2008, the company completed its Integrated Collaboration and Unified Communications programs which involved deploying Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, and Microsoft Office Professional 2007. This fully interoperable solution for communications and collaboration helps the company to improve business processes.


NEC Personal Products was created in July 2003 to manage all of the PC business operations within NEC—from product planning and manufacturing to sales and support. The integrated structure has helped NEC Personal Products thrive as it works toward its goal to be “number one in customer service, number one in speed, and number one in share.”

The PC business continues to grow more challenging as new competitors from around the globe compete for business. NEC Personal Products wants to operate with more agility and be more responsive to its customers’ needs.

To address these challenges, NEC Personal Products develops and deploys innovative IT solutions. These solutions help support real-time management, life-cycle management, and risk management in all areas of the company. Some advances include a value chain management system used to centrally manage all aspects of the operation, a PC version of the Toyota Production System, and a production system using radio frequency identification (RFID), the first such system in Japan. The efforts have resulted in improved productivity, reduced waste, and increased customer satisfaction.

Even with the success of these earlier programs, the company wanted to continue to improve its operations. Tatsuya Minakawa, General Manager of the Process Innovation Promotion Division at NEC Personal Products, gives the following assessment, “PC business operations involve not only the Production division but also various other divisions, including the Sales, Materials, Product Planning, and Maintenance Support divisions. To date, we have been developing the IT infrastructure within each division. Now we are looking to reinforce our communications infrastructure, which supports the entire PC business. We decided to focus our attention on unified communications to improve collaboration between departments and improve our results.”

According to Minakawa, approximately 45 percent of intracompany phone calls are made simply to relay messages and 60 percent of these calls result in someone taking a written message. These are wasteful communications that can cause mistakes and lead to lost business opportunities. The organization set out to improve communications and collaboration systems to create business process improvements across the entire value chain.


NEC Personal Products decided to take a phased approach to its unified communications project. The first phase was to build an integrated collaborative environment through e-mail and document sharing. To help handle the back-end tasks of e-mail and document management, the company deployed Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 e-mail messaging and collaboration software and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. The company then provided its employees with Microsoft Office Professional 2007, a suite that includes products such as Office Outlook 2007, Office Word 2007, and Office Excel 2007.

NEC Personal Products now had an integrated solution where employees could handle all of their document-related tasks through a single user interface. This was a vast improvement over the previous situation where various types of documents were managed by different applications that did not always work well together. As a result, the amount and speed of information sharing among employees increased dramatically.

* Users don't need to travel between offices any longer, and they can easily share documents using Web conferencing in a way that the traditional phone conference couldn't facilitate. *

Tatsuya Minakawa
General Manager of the Process Innovation Promotion Division, NEC Personal Products

The company completed the first phase of the project in July 2007. At that point, NEC Personal Products had a vision for how to approach the second phase. Katsumi Sasaki, Chief Manager of the Process Innovation Promotion Division at NEC Personal Products, says, “Our company's goal was not to achieve unified communications or make telephone communications easier but instead to solve our current business problems by facilitating improved business processes. Our most important goal is to improve productivity by seamlessly connecting all types of communication.”

NEC Personal Products has the concept of a “communication cycle” whereby a document posted on a group site leads to a chat in the hallway, which leads to a phone meeting, which turns into a Web conference involving the larger team. The company wanted to facilitate this type of communication flow and enable users to spontaneously escalate communications by seamlessly connecting different modes of communication.

After researching systems from several vendors, NEC Personal Products selected a unified communications solution based on Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 because it could support multiple modes of communication from a single user interface, with the ability to easily switch between modes. Office Communications Server 2007 provides presence, instant messaging (IM), audio, video, Web conferencing, and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) all from within the familiar user interface of Microsoft Office. The solution also includes a Polycom CX5000 video collaboration device for video conferencing, a NEC Univerge SV7000 communications server to connect to the telephony system, and a BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager application delivery networking system from F5 for load balancing.

“We already deployed Exchange Server and Office SharePoint Server in the first phase, so it was a natural choice to use Office Communications Server to take advantage of the interoperability between the products,” explains Sasaki. “Beyond that, we knew we would get excellent support and consulting services from Microsoft.” NEC Personal Products could also implement the product at a relatively low cost through the Enterprise Agreement, part of the Microsoft Volume Licensing program.

NEC Personal Products built a test environment as a proof of concept in December 2007 and spent three months extensively testing the solution. A set of users within one department tested the solution and made suggestions to improve the usability of the solution. “Some users didn't realize there was an incoming call even if a pop-up notice was sent to them, while some commented that it felt somewhat uncomfortable to use a headset instead of a receiver. Thus, the validation phase shed light on problems, particularly those related to usability, that we hadn't even imagined when we first researched the system options. These problems are often associated with implementing anything new, and we just needed to solve them one at a time,” says Sasaki. Microsoft, NEC, and NEC Personal Products worked together to resolve the issues, and in April 2008, the solution went into production. Over the next eight months, the company rolled out the solution to all 3,000 employees who now use Office Communications Server for voice, Web conferencing, and instant messaging and presence capabilities.

The solution is driving fundamental changes in the way employees at NEC Personal Products communicate. Presence enables employees to confirm other people’s presence prior to calling or sending a message so that they can choose the best format. Employees can choose to communicate via e-mail, telephone, or IM. Or they can start a conference using audio, video, or the Web as required.

Employees have found instant messaging to be one of the most effective forms of communication. It is fast and users can receive instant feedback to questions. Once initiated, a communication can be seamlessly escalated to a Web conference or to a video conference.

When they need to make a phone call, employees use a headset connected to their PC to talk on the phone. Phone calls are initiated from the Office Communicator 2007 unified communications client or from other Microsoft Office products, such as Office Outlook or Office SharePoint Server. Employees can use their desk phones wherever they have their computer, even if they are out of the office. They can also set up call forwarding to mobile phones.

The Polycom CX5000 video collaboration device has been popular as well. NEC Personal Products implemented a total of 11 devices at the major sites, including headquarters, the Yonezawa plant (a development site), and the Gunma plant (a maintenance support site). The headquarters office, which has two devices, has permanently installed one in a conference room and uses the other exclusively as a rental unit for various meeting purposes. The office uses both devices frequently.

“The previous video conference system was not portable, so if the conference room was booked, nobody else could use it, even if the meeting was not a video conference,” explains Minakawa. “The CX5000 is highly portable, so you can bring it into any room or set it up by your desk. Being able to see the participants' facial expressions creates a sense of presence, facilitating a smooth conferencing process. Moreover, the panoramic camera pans 360 degrees, enabling everyone in the room to participate.”

The company also used the Active Directory directory service to implement an integrated authentication system as a back-end mechanism that is transparent to users, as well as an audit function for the use of services, such as e-mail, Internet access, and phone calls. NEC Personal Products recognized the importance of security measures and corporate compliance, so it used Active Directory to establish a mechanism where those measures could be carried out without adding complexity for users.


NEC Personal Products achieved its goals of improved business processes through unified communications. The speed and quality of communications has improved, reducing the time required to design new products. In addition, the company reduced costs by reducing telephony charges and by reducing travel. “With unified communications, a user can, for the first time, choose the device that's convenient to him or her at any given time, while the other party can communicate in the same manner. Users don't need to travel between offices any longer, and they can easily share documents using Web conferencing in a way that the traditional phone conference couldn't facilitate,” says Minakawa.

Improved Business Processes

All of the departments in NEC Personal Products benefit from the improved communications capabilities enabled by the Microsoft solution. One important change has been with the product design team. In the PC business, it is essential to rapidly design new products because the technology changes quickly and customers demand the latest designs. The design teams often work together from locations across Japan and have benefitted from presence information and the new communications methods to speed the design and development process.

Designers can collaborate through impromptu meetings and can easily work together on documents using Web conferences. They are also using Web conferences to speed procurement and manage suppliers.

Sales teams within NEC Personal Products now use Web conferencing for regular internal sales meetings rather than travelling, which saves money and time. The company also uses Web conferencing for product training so that the salespeople can stay up-to-date on new product releases. The human resources department takes advantage of Web conferencing for training and to broadcast corporate messages.

Reduced Costs

The deployment of Office Communications Server 2007 has helped NEC Personal Products reduce costs in two main areas: telephony and travel. The company can now route internal calls through Office Communications Server, which helps avoid toll charges. The second area of cost savings is reduced travel. NEC Personal Products reduced travel by 39 percent from the same period in the year before the solution was deployed. This travel reduction is due to cost saving measures implemented by the company, but it is largely enabled by Office Communications Server. Using presence, Web conferencing, and video conferencing, employees can communicate effectively without travelling.

Support for Future Growth

NEC Personal Products feels that the Microsoft unified communications solution will help it to continue to grow and improve its communications processes. Sasaki notes, “We see that there are more and more communications methods and devices becoming available, and we believe we should be able to incorporate any new technology or product at any time when necessary. We also plan to gradually continue development of the solution to enable improved communications not just within the company but also to communications during business trips overseas or with external entities, including customers.”

With its Microsoft unified communications solution, NEC Personal Products brings together the wisdom and know-how of people dispersed over different offices and sites, and it is capitalizing on the synergetic effect to transform that knowledge into an even greater strength. As unified communications evolve, the communications environment for NEC Personal Products will continue to support continued business growth.
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Solution Overview

Organization Size: 2300 employees

Organization Profile

Since 2003, NEC Personal Products has designed, manufactured, and supported NEC PC business products.

Business Situation

NEC Personal Products wanted to improve communication and collaboration across the company.

The company deployed Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 to provide employees with communications capabilities including VoIP, conferencing, and instant messaging and presence.

  • Improved business processes
  • Reduced travel by 39 percent
  • Support for future growth

  • Polycom CX5000
  • F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manage
  • NEC Univerge SV7000

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007
  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007
  • Microsoft Office Professional 2007
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2007
  • Microsoft Office Communicator 2007
  • Active Directory Directory Services

Vertical Industries
High Tech & Electronics


Business Need
Unified Communications

IT Issue
Personal Productivity