4-page Case Study
Posted: 2/19/2013
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UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions UniCredit Speeds Communications, Saves Millions on Travel with Conferencing Solution

UniCredit employees depend on email, text messaging, and phone calls, along with a lot of travel, to facilitate collaboration across offices and countries. To continue providing valuable solutions to customers, the company recognized that it needed to improve the speed of communication and innovation, while reducing travel costs. Unicredit Business Integrated Solutions deployed Microsoft Lync Server across the UniCredit Group, which was rapidly adopted for its instant messaging, presence, and conferencing capabilities. It is now upgrading to Lync Server 2013 to facilitate the adoption of Lync 2013 as a softphone solution, to support a flexible workplace initiative, to further improve business processes, and to improve the reliability of the solution through a disaster recovery site.

Situation
UniCredit can trace its origins back to 1473 when Rolo Banca was established in Bologna, Italy. It has come a long way since then. Through numerous mergers and acquisitions between 1998 and the present, UniCredit has grown rapidly and now has nearly €1 trillion (US$1.3 trillion) under management.

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* The Lync deployment has been a huge success…. We have also reduced our travel through the use of desktop sharing and conferencing. Assuming that Lync helps avoid only 10 percent of our annual travel cost of more than €100 million [US$133 million], Lync has already saved the bank millions of euros every year.” *

Stephan Gerold
Head of eCollaboration Solutions Team,
UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions

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The bank’s 158,000 employees are located at 9,400 branches in 50 markets that span across Europe to the United States and Asia. The bank depends on the effective collaboration of employees between branches and countries to deliver a global presence for its customers and to continue to provide innovative products.

In 2008, communication between sites largely occurred via email, phone calls, and text messages. Employees also spent a lot of time and money traveling to other offices or branches for meetings. “We were looking to improve the speed of our internal communications with a real-time option and also reduce the amount of travel that was required by our employees,” says Stephan Gerold, Head of the eCollaboration Solutions Team at UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions. UniCredit deployed Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 in a small pilot program to see if instant messaging (IM) and conferencing capabilities fit the bank’s needs for easy collaboration across different locations. The deployment was quickly turned into a production environment and maintained through Office Communication Server 2007 R2 and the latest version, which is now called Lync Server, as demand for the product rapidly spread across the company.

The UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions eCollaboration Solutions team currently manages a Lync Server 2010 deployment for more than 37,000 bank employees. By using federation with Lync infrastructures, operated by other teams within the UniCredit Group for about 50,000 employees, all together the deployment reaches about 90,000 employees at UniCredit. Use of Lync is completely voluntary, so all of the employees asked to have it installed because they believed it would help them do their jobs better.

The central solution managed by the eCollaboration Solutions team is deployed at one location with 18 servers, most of which are virtualized. The solution provides instant messaging, presence, and conferencing capabilities.

Given the success of the Lync Server project, UniCredit has been working to expand the capabilities that are available through Lync. “UniCredit employees expect the great solutions from our team and after they saw what Lync could do, they have been asking for many more communications and collaboration projects, such as mobility features and federation with Public IM providers,” says Marco Scarano, Lync Specialist, eCollaboration Solutions Team at UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions.

The team wanted to provide Lync enterprise voice to employees, enabling them to use the softphone capabilities, and initiated a pilot program to connect Lync with the bank’s Cisco Call Manager solution. The Lync softphone enables employees to place calls directly from their computer instead of dialing on a physical phone. Additionally, dial-in conferencing is provided.

The team ran an additional pilot program that used persistent chat servers to facilitate communications within the help-desk organization. Persistent chat enables teams to meet and collaborate in virtual rooms in real time. The discussions are searchable and persist over time, enabling efficient information sharing. UniCredit formerly developed an internal application to fulfill the need for persistent chat and now uses Lync so that it can retire that application and save on the support costs.

These pilot programs were all successful and the company was ready to move forward with the additional services when Microsoft announced Lync Server 2013. UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions tested the solution and realized that the improvements to persistent chat, the web application programming interfaces (APIs), the support for virtual desktop infrastructures (VDIs), and the improved client and conferencing capabilities would help it provide better communications capabilities to employees.

Solution
UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions deployed Lync Server 2013 in two data centers for disaster recovery. Each data center has initially a pool of two front-end servers. The Lync Server data is stored in two databases running Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 data management software, which use database mirroring to stay synchronized. Each data center also has a persistent chat server deployed. All of the server roles are virtualized.

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* With the Lync Web App we can have rich communications with our customers in a way that is easy for them. They can join a meeting from their PC or Apple Mac and participate in the meetings using video, voice, and desktop sharing from their browser. *

Marco Scarano
Lync Specialist, eCollaboration Solutions Team,
UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions

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To set up the architecture, UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions uses the Lync Server Topology Builder, which helps to define and configure the solution topology. It uses a wizard format to make the process fast and straightforward.

Adding Internal Tools
UniCredit will use the persistent chat servers in Lync Server 2013 so that employees can access chat rooms from the Microsoft Lync 2013 client, rather than a separate interface. Improved search capabilities and the ability to set up notifications to receive alerts based on users or keywords will help to drive adoption.

Videoconferencing with Lync is already widely adopted at UniCredit. With the new gallery view within the Lync 2013 client, meeting participants can view up to five video feeds at one time. They can lock one of the feeds on the primary presenter or just let them change to follow last five speakers. UniCredit is investigating and partly working on upgrading the networking bandwidth to its branch office to ensure a great videoconferencing experience. It has been testing the Logitech B525 HD web cameras to take advantage of the high-definition video capabilities in Lync.

Because UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions experienced success by integrating Lync to Cisco Call Manager through a Direct Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) connection, it will move forward with its plan to provide the Lync softphone capabilities to many users. “Our goal is to have the Lync softphone as an additional method of making calls, where a hardphone is no longer mandatory at the employee’s desk,” says Wolfgang Müller, Expert System Specialist, eCollaboration Solutions Team, at UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions.

UniCredit is encouraging flexible workplace initiatives within many of its departments. The Lync softphone capabilities will help to facilitate these initiatives by enabling employees to access office phones from anywhere with an Internet connection. The flexible office desktops use VDI technology, and the Lync Server 2013 support for VDI provides users with full communications capabilities from their virtual desktops. “The Lync audio-video plug-in enabled us to include all of the Lync communications capabilities in our virtual environment,” says Müller. “With Lync 2013, we can start providing a complete, eCollaboration service environment to our employees even though they are at home using their personal computers and our standard Remote Access solution.”

UniCredit has been testing several Lync-certified endpoints to provide its employees after the rollout, including Jabra headsets and Polycom IP phones. It will also host audio conferencing bridges through Lync to avoid the cost of third-party audio conferencing services.

UniCredit employees are happy with the changes to the Lync 2013 client. It now provides tabbed conversations so that each IM conversation does not open in a new window and clutter up the desktop. It also displays a dynamic contact card that includes a high-resolution photo of the contact, their presence, status note, location, and organizational details. The contact card can be accessed simply by moving the mouse over a person’s name and is consistent across Microsoft Office applications.

Reaching Out to Customers
By using Lync Server 2013, it will be easier for UniCredit to communicate with its customers. “We investigated if Lync Web APIs can provide chat and videoconferencing on our online banking website and in terminals at the branches,” says Gerold.

The Lync Web App will also facilitate customer communications. “With the Lync Web App we can have rich communications with our customers in a way that is easy for them. They can join a meeting from their PC or Apple Mac and participate in the meetings using video, voice, and desktop sharing from their browser,” says Scarano. “Lync Web App will be very strategic for us.”

Skype federation with voice and chat will help UniCredit reach its customers. “We are using a third-party application to provide customer support on our financial tools today, and we plan to use the Skype federation in Lync to do that job in the future. We expect to use Skype for a lot of solutions,” says Scarano.

Another use for Skype and the federation with other public IM platforms is enabling easier communication between financial advisors and their clients. The advisors can now just add their client’s Skype or Windows Live Messenger address to their contact list and their clients can do the same. Having a way to instantly connect can help to deepen those advisor relationships.

Benefits
UniCredit uses Lync Server 2013 to improve collaboration among employees, communication with customers, and efficiencies for its IT team. “The Lync deployment has been a huge success story for UniCredit. It has helped people work more efficiently through presence and chats,” says Gerold, “We have also reduced our travel through the use of desktop sharing and conferencing. Assuming that Lync helps avoid only 10 percent of our annual travel cost of more than €100 million [US$133 million], Lync has already saved the bank millions of euros every year.“

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* We see persistent chat as a way to create pools of information that can be accessed by people in different roles. We have a lot of information that needs to travel quickly across the company and persistent chat is the perfect solution for this. *

Wolfgang Müller
Expert System Specialist, eCollaboration Solutions Team,
UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions

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Enhanced Business Processes
By fostering collaboration and providing social networking capabilities, such as pictures and organization charts, Lync has helped to foster a sense of identity across the bank. It also helped the employees develop relationships across borders and cultural divides. “We are constantly working with colleagues from other sites. When we use Lync to share a document or presentation, it reduces the time to do the job and we get the project done faster,” says Scarano.

UniCredit will expand its use of persistent chat in Lync Server 2013. “We see persistent chat as a way to create pools of information that can be accessed by people in different roles,” says Müller. “We have a lot of information that needs to travel quickly across the company and persistent chat is the perfect solution for this.” Because employees can access the chat rooms from the Lync 2013 client, the solution will be easier for users than the current proprietary application.

UniCredit is also using Lync to facilitate its flexible workplace initiative. Since employees can make and receive calls on their Lync client from any location with an Internet location, working outside the office is simple.

“Lync represent a value for the business and a new way of working together,” says Saverio Andaloro, Head of Middleware Solutions II, at UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions.

Improved Customer Communications
Skype and public IM federation, Lync integration with the company website, and Lync Web App provide new ways for the bank to communicate with its customers. “We want to enable the bank to be visible and make it as easy as possible for our customers to connect with us, if business demands,” says Müller.

The Lync capabilities will make it easy for customers to reach a specialist within the bank. For instance, if a customer is at a kiosk in a small bank branch, they would be able to initiate a videoconference with a specialist in a larger branch to get assistance with a complex transaction.

Reduced IT Management Effort
UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions set up its main site and disaster recovery site with very little effort. “I have never seen a Microsoft product with such an easy setup,” says Müller. “Its simplified so you just have to enter a few values in Topology Builder and Lync is up and running.”

Managing the disaster recovery options was easy, too. “We tested the disaster recovery failover with Lync Server 2013 and never had a problem or any lost data,” says Scarano. The back-end redundancy provided by the SQL Server database mirroring is also a nice addition for UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions. UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions only had one database server before, and employees would experience downtime during maintenance tasks. Now maintaining the servers can be done without impacting users.

UniCredit also replaced two applications with Lync Server functionality. “At the moment, we use a hosted third-party tool to enable videoconferencing and chat on the website. From a security point of view, we do not want to rely on a hosted scenario, so it will be great to provide this functionality through Lync,” says Müller.

The second application that was retired was a proprietary persistent chat tool. “Lync 2013 persistent chat can be accessed from the Lync client, which is easier for users, and IT can easily manage it from the Lync control panel,” says Müller. “Lync persistent chat saves us the time and cost of maintaining our own application.”

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 UniCredit Group products and services, call (39) 02 88 621 or visit the website at:
www.unicreditgroup.eu

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 150000 employees

Organization Profile

UniCredit Business Integrated Solutions, owned by UniCredit, provides information and communication technology (ICT), back and middle office, real estate, security, and procurement services. It employs about 11,000 people and oversees activities in 11 countries.


Business Situation

UniCredit needed to improve the speed of communications within the company and reduce travel by employees.


Solution

UniCredit deployed Lync Server 2013 to improve employee communications with easy-to-use capabilities for voice, conferencing, and instant massaging.


Benefits

  • Enhanced business processes
  • Improved client communications
  • Reduced IT management


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Lync Server 2013
  • Microsoft Lync 2013
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Service Pack 2

Vertical Industries
Banking

Country/Region
Italy

Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Unified Communications

IT Issue
Personal Productivity

Languages
English

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