4-page Case Study
Posted: 2/19/2013
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Perkins+Will Architecture Firm Supports Sustainability Efforts with Communications Solution

Perkins+Will is an innovative global architecture firm strongly devoted to sustainable design. Sustainability is not just designed into the buildings the firm creates; it is built into the processes the firm uses. One way the firm promotes sustainability is by avoiding unnecessary travel. The firm’s project teams typically consist of employees from different offices in addition to clients and consultants. These teams can work effectively without traveling because Perkins+Will deployed Microsoft Lync Server 2010 to enable effective communications through instant messaging, presence, voice, and conferencing capabilities. Perkins+Will is currently testing Microsoft Lync Server 2013, which will help it to support a wider deployment of voice capabilities and a wider adoption of videoconferencing for the firm’s 1,500 employees.

Situation
Perkins+Will designs truly beautiful structures. The firm’s architects combine design, innovation, and sustainability to create buildings that look great, are functional, and have minimal impact on the environment. The firm recently received its 150th Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The LEED certification system is administered by the US Green Building Council and is the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability.

Designing these projects requires multidisciplinary teams with members from offices around the world. The teams typically include not only Perkins+Will employees, but also clients, consultants, and construction firms.

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* By delivering phone, video, and desktop sharing in a consistent and unified manner, Lync 2013 provides the potential for seamless collaboration between offices *

Murali Selvaraj
Chief Information Officer, Perkins+Will

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The work that the teams do includes a lot of visual elements, so people find it challenging to use just a telephone or audio conference. “The teams are always looking at drawings: design reviews or 3-D CAD models of a project,” says Albert Anderson, Collaboration Business Manager at Perkins+Will.

Facilitating these meetings, while trying to minimize travel to support the firm’s sustainability initiatives, was a challenge. Perkins+Will had deployed a number of conferencing capabilities. It had videoconferencing rooms set up in about 20 offices. It had an audio conferencing service, and it used several web conferencing services to enable employees to share their computer screens. It also had private-branch exchange (PBX) equipment at each of its offices for phones.

Perkins+Will wanted to simplify its communications environment by deploying a solution that could provide all of the communications capabilities the firm needed. “As we migrate to a global model for design and project delivery, seamless collaboration across all our offices globally has become a key strategic focus area for us,” says Murali Selvaraj, Chief Information Officer at Perkins+Will. “A ubiquitous platform for phone, video, and desktop sharing is a critical requirement to enable our design professionals to deliver the best solution to our clients.” Perkins+Will hoped this solution could improve its sustainability efforts while facilitating improved communications, both internally and with partners and consultants, at a lower cost.

Solution
Perkins+Will first deployed a Microsoft communications solution in 2005, which provided instant messaging and presence functionality to the firm’s employees. It upgraded the solution over the years and added functionalities such as audio conferencing and desktop sharing. The firm currently uses Microsoft Lync Server 2010.

Lync Server 2010 is available to all of the firm’s 1,500 employees. They use Lync for conferencing, instant messaging, presence, and desktop sharing. About 170 employees have also been enabled for Lync enterprise voice, which provides voice over IP (VoIP) calling to the public switched telephony network (PSTN).

Perkins+Will provides Polycom CX600 IP phones to all of its employees who use Lync enterprise voice. “We insist that they have a desk phone that is independent of their laptop so they can communicate if their laptop is starting up or is otherwise unavailable,” says Ray Wu, Converged Communications System Manager at Perkins+Will. “The availability of affordable and reliable IP phones like the Polycom CX600 has really enabled our voice rollout.”

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* Many of our international clients prefer to use Skype as a client. They can more easily join meetings by using the built-in Skype federation. *

Ray Wu
Converged Communications System Manager, Perkins+Will

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Perkins+Will hosts meetings of all sizes on Lync as well. Employees can share a desktop or application and turn over control to a client or consultant to manipulate a model, which makes the meetings productive.

Perkins+Will also uses Lync for its learning and development programs to provide best practices sharing and continuing education for employees. “The presenter could be anywhere in the firm and participants can join the conference live or watch a recording posted on our intranet later,” says Anderson.

“For employees who use conferencing, we provide Plantronics C310 headsets,” says Wu. “The headsets are reliable, easy to use, and provide great sound quality.”

Upgrading to Microsoft Lync Server 2013
To improve its communications capabilities and further consolidate its communications infrastructure, especially in the area of videoconferencing and external communications, Perkins+Will has been testing Lync Server 2013, the latest Microsoft communications solution.

The firm wants to expand its voice solution, so it is testing the high-availability features of Lync Server 2013. “Lync will be our firm-wide phone system so we need a stable architecture with high-availability and disaster recovery,” says Wu. Lync Server 2013 front-end servers are organized into pools, which can have extra capacity to handle individual server failures. If an entire pool fails, the employees are transferred to a backup pool. The Microsoft SQL Server databases that support Lync Server 2013 have redundancy through database mirroring and will automatically failover in the event of a database issue. All of the failovers are transparent to employees.

Perkins+Will is also looking forward to some of the latest videoconferencing features in Lync 2013. “We are very excited about the new video codecs and the Lync gallery view,” says Anderson. Through the gallery view, employees can see up to five video streams, so they can see the reactions of others, identify the active speaker, and associate names with faces. Lync 2013 uses open standards including H.264 SVC to enable multiparty high-definition (HD) videoconferencing across a range of devices. Perkins+Will plans to distribute Microsoft LifeCam Cinema webcams to employees with desktop computers to facilitate video conferencing participation.

Two new capabilities that will help Perkins+Will communicate with external partners are Skype federation and the Lync Web App. Perkins+Will employees can add Skype users to their contacts and initiate voice and chat sessions with them. Through the changes to Lync Web App, employees can more easily meet with outside partners because administrator rights are no longer required for outside participants to install the plug-in to run Lync Web App. Lync Web App also delivers voice and video over the Internet so external participants can experience the full range of Lync functionality. Perhaps most important for Perkins+Will is the support for Apple Mac computers, which are very popular in the world of architecture.

Benefits
Perkins+Will has been enjoying the benefits of Lync Server for a few years now and will add to those benefits with the Lync Server 2013 upgrade. “With Lync, our teams can work together more easily, especially with desktop sharing and the ability to schedule ad hoc meetings,” says Anderson. “We look forward to the deployment of Lync 2013, so we can standardize our communications on one platform and access it from all of the devices we use.”

Provides a Flexible Voice Solution
Perkins+Will has been deploying enterprise voice capabilities for a few months now and has received rave reviews from those employees who have received it. “Lync voice provides a level of flexibility that is really beneficial to our employees,” says Wu. “I am working remotely today, but nobody needs to know. My calls still come to me.” The employees also like the click-to-call capabilities and the ability to make calls from directly from Microsoft Office applications. The firm continues to roll out enterprise voice to employees. It hopes to have enterprise voice fully deployed in the near future so it can retire its PBX system.

Adds Value to Video
With Lync 2013, employees can start a video call directly from the Lync client or through Microsoft Office applications. “Ease-of-use will drive video. Employees can click to start a video chat or easily join a conference room video presentation,” says Anderson. “We want to leverage these capabilities as much as possible and retire the other systems we have in place.”

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* With Lync, our teams can work together more easily, especially with desktop sharing and the ability to schedule ad hoc meetings. *

Albert Anderson
Collaboration Business Manager, Perkins+Will

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The gallery view also increases the value of a videoconference for employees. Because they can see all the meeting participants and the relevant content, they have almost the same experience as if they were meeting in person. “We expect our executives to find the gallery view to be very beneficial,” says Greg Fait, Director of IT Infrastructure at Perkins+Will.

Facilitates Meetings
While inviting external participants to web conferences can be challenging today, employees can simplify that process by using Lync Web App. “Moving forward, external users can easily join meetings through Lync Web App, and they will get a much better experience with voice, video, and presentation content,” says Anderson.

The support for people who use Mac computers means that Perkins+Will can host all of its meetings on Lync. “With Lync Web App, we can standardize our meetings on one platform no matter what device people are using.”

Perkins+Will has migrated the vast majority of its audio conferences onto Lync from the third-party service it was using and is saving about US$150,000 per year. “Most of our meetings have around 5 to 10 participants and they are all on Lync,” says Wu. “We even do our weekly IT conference call on Lync with about 30 people and its works beautifully.”

Skype federation will also make organizing meetings easier. “Many of our international clients prefer to use Skype as a client. They can more easily join meetings by using the built-in Skype federation,” says Wu.

Fulfills a Vision for Sustainability
Perkins+Will finds Lync to be a great communications platform because it provides many methods of communication that employees can easily access from desktop and mobile clients and from the Microsoft Office applications that they use every day.

By using Lync, the firm can host productive meetings for dispersed teams and avoid travel. Lync 2013 will improve these capabilities by facilitating the participation of partners and clients in these meetings. The firm will also complete the deployment of Lync enterprise voice functionality to employees and provide them with a flexible telephony solution. “By delivering phone, video, and desktop sharing in a consistent and unified manner, Lync 2013 provides the potential for seamless collaboration between offices,” says Selvaraj.

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 Perkins+Will services, visit the website at:
www.perkinswill.com

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 1300 employees

Organization Profile

Founded in 1935 in Chicago, Illinois, Perkins+Will now has 24 offices and more than 1,500 employees. The firm’s principles are centered on design, innovation, and sustainability.


Business Situation

Perkins+Will uses multidisciplinary teams to design projects; team members are drawn from many offices and also include clients and consultants. It wanted to minimize travel while enabling effective collaboration.


Solution

Perkins+Will deployed Microsoft Lync Server 2010 to provide access to voice, conferencing, instant messaging, and presence to its employees. It is upgrading to Lync Server 2013 to enhance these capabilities and improve access to meeting for external stakeholders.


Benefits

  • Flexible voice solution improves employee access
  • Enhanced video options add value to meetings
  • Hosted conferences reduce costs
  • Meeting options make it easier for external participants to join


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Lync Server 2013
  • Microsoft Lync 2013

Vertical Industries
Architecture, Engineering & Construction

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Unified Communications

IT Issue
Personal Productivity

Languages
English

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