“Compared to a PBX upgrade, Lync has proved far cheaper to implement and support. The hardware is good value and we did the implementation ourselves.”
Carsten Larsen, General Manager Corporate Services and Coordination, Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA)
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) aims to be the world’s best converged regulator, and excellent collaboration and communication is viewed as an essential contributor to reaching this goal. However, integrating office communications
with staff mobile devices would have required a costly upgrade of the existing proprietary VoIP private branch exchange.
In April 2011, ACMA staff took three days to build a unified communications proof of concept using their existing Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, and adding Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Enterprise Edition and Polycom CX600 IP phones. Subsequently the trial
was extended to staff smartphones using a Lync mobile client. This combination allows staff to manage all voice, instant messaging and email communications from smartphones, desktops and iPads, and provides desktop video-conferencing.
A full deployment involving 750 desk phones followed in June 2012 and cost less than half the estimated cost of upgrading the existing PBX phone system.
IT staff also deployed the Lync client on a range of staff mobile devices, reducing travel times and helping staff collaborate more effectively, wherever they work. Because support can be provided in-house, communications support costs have fallen by two-thirds.
||Staff are more productive because they can work more easily with colleagues who work in other offices, remotely or from home.
| Carsten Larsen
General Manager Corporate Services and Coordination,
Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA)
Established in 2005, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is a statutory agency of the federal government, responsible for regulating much of the country’s communications and media. This includes allocating spectrum for radio and telecommunications
companies, and oversight of broadcast news and entertainment, as well as internet content.
The authority maintains major offices in Canberra, Melbourne and central Sydney, has subsidiary offices in Brisbane and Parramatta, and employs approximately
“Our goal is to be the world’s best converged regulator, and the ability to be agile through collaboration and communication is an essential factor in reaching and maintaining this standard.” says Carsten Larsen, General Manager Corporate Services and Coordination.
In 2007, ACMA technicians installed proprietary VoIP private branch exchange (PBX) phone systems at its three main offices. Besides office and inter-office voice communications, these PBX systems provided automatic call routing, call delegation sequencing
when lines were busy, and message banks. Four years later, staff needs had changed, and technical staff re-evaluated their phone system.
“We needed to enhance collaboration, and this meant enabling staff to easily manage communications from mobile devices,” says Larsen. “Flexibility and support were also major issues. We saw technologies we liked, such as desktop video conferencing, and the
ability to manage all communications from one application, but integrating this sort of technology with the existing PBX would be difficult and very expensive.”
The cost of supporting the existing IP PBX phone network was already considerable. ACMA staff needed external telecommunications specialists, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. The PBX was also a drain on internal resources because support
staff had to create separate phone accounts for each employee, rather than use existing details in Active Directory.
“We looked at upgrading the phone system to the manufacturer’s latest offering, but due to financial constraints this did not appear to be feasible,” says Larsen. “To get the functionality we wanted, we would have had to make a large capital investment,
and even then the new system would have required complex integration and costly, long-term support.”
In January 2011, Larsen and his colleagues decided to investigate alternatives. Their objectives: to improve desktop and mobile communication for all staff; to make video conferencing as accessible as possible; and to reduce telecommunications costs.
One option that soon became attractive was to replace the entire phone system with a unified communications platform, that integrates audio and videoconferencing, voice, instant messaging and email communications, and enables staff to manage them through
a single desktop application.
“We evaluated Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Enterprise Edition, with Windows-based Polycom CX600 handsets, which are specifically designed to work with Lync,” says Larsen. “This would provide each employee with unified communications capabilities from their
own desktop. Besides managing all calls through the Lync interface, they would also gain instant messaging, video conferencing and desktop sharing.
“This solution would be far cheaper than an upgrade,” he adds. “We wouldn’t need separate end user licences for each desktop and desk phone, because with Lync they are combined. And because Lync is a Windows-based system, our in-house team could support,
maintain and develop our telephony, freeing us from reliance on contractors.”
In April 2011, Larsen and his colleagues created a proof of concept to test their evaluation. The trial version took three days to build, and included integrating Lync with the authority’s existing email system, Microsoft Exchange 2010 Standard Edition.
“The trial involved 20 staff, and validated all our assumptions on usability, cost, infrastructure and support requirements,” says Larsen. “In July, we expanded the trial to 200 employees, again without the assistance of specialist support. This involved
installing two Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Standard Edition servers in the Sydney and Melbourne offices, with Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Enterprise Edition in Canberra, to provide load balancing across the network and service redundancy.”
In November, ACMA staff extended the trial to iPhones and iPads, deploying a Lync client devised for iOS, the apple mobile operating system. Together with AirWatch mobile device management software, staff proved their ability to deploy and maintain unified
communications across desktop smartphones and other devices, providing staff with a consistent email, voice, instant messaging and presence experience whether they were in the office or travelling.
In February 2012, the Lync pilot was declared a success, and a business case approved. By June, 750 desktops had been re-equipped with Lync and Polycom phones, with IT staff planning to decommission the existing PBX.
The new platform delivers complete presence, instant messaging, conferencing and enterprise voice capabilities through a single, easy-to-use interface that is consistent across PC, browser and mobile device. By improving communication and collaboration,
Lync has helped achieve the agility the agency needs, whilst also cutting long-term communications costs.
With the ability to share and edit documents in real-time, conduct instant messaging conversations and instigate desktop audio or video conferences with one click, staff are more efficient and collaborative.
“They love it,” says Larsen. “We converged all communications on their desktops, which improves collaboration, and then we replicated those capabilities on staff members’ own smartphones. Staff are more productive because they can work more easily with colleagues
who work in other offices, remotely or from home.
“Unified communications is also empowering. Staff aren’t reliant on executive assistants or technical support to set up video conferences, nor are they competing for video conferencing facilities. With effective ownership over the technology they use day-to-day,
the whole organisation runs more smoothly.”
Dramatically reduced costs
Larsen believes replacing the PBX system with Lync-based telephony has delivered large and ongoing savings.
“Compared to a PBX upgrade, Lync has proved far cheaper to implement and support,” he says. “We need half the number of licences, the hardware is good value and we did the implementation ourselves.
“Considered purely as a phone system, in our circumstances we have found Lync to be half the cost of a traditional PBX.
“Payback on the new platform is estimated to be less than two years without taking productivity gains into consideration.
Administrators benefit from a single, consistent management infrastructure, and interoperability with existing systems. More importantly, support can be kept in-house, provided by employees who are already trained to maintain Windows-based systems.
“Now we have internal ownership over our phone system and greater control over how we develop it,” says Larsen. “And because we already have the skills we need to maintain our phones, our support costs have fallen by two-thirds.
“Now we have centralised our operations management, simplified support and increased control,” he adds. “Administration is easier, because we only have to create one user account in Active Directory. From a technical standpoint, supporting Lync is virtually
the same as looking after Exchange.”
Microsoft product that was featured
Microsoft Lync Server 2010 can transform your workplace and your workforce, making communication more collaborative, engaging and accessible from virtually anywhere. A single interface unites voice, presence and instant messaging, as well as audio, video,
and web conferencing to provide a more intuitive experience, and a single identity makes it easy for users to find contacts, check their availability and connect with them. Lync works seamlessly with Microsoft Office and enriches familiar applications like
Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Word, Microsoft SharePoint and more.
The Microsoft Lync 2010 desktop client is available for Windows and Mac, and mobile versions are available for Windows Phone, iPhone/iPad, Nokia and Android devices.
For More Information
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