As the KCOM Group has grown from a regional telephone carrier into a national information services organisation, it wanted to make it easier for employees to work together and share knowledge across geographic and business boundaries. To enhance its effectiveness, reduce costs, and establish market leadership, the KCOM Group wanted to develop an integrated knowledge management, unified communications, and business intelligence framework. To move the company forward and optimise its existing IT infrastructure, the KCOM Group deployed a suite of Microsoft messaging, collaboration, and management solutions, such as Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, Microsoft Lync 2010, and Hyper-V virtualisation technology. Now KCOM Group has reduced costs, promoted cross-unit collaboration, transformed its business culture, and developed powerful competitive advantages.Situation
The KCOM Group (the Group) has grown significantly since it began providing telephone services in and around Hull, in the East Yorkshire region of the United Kingdom, more than a century ago. The Group has offices throughout the United Kingdom and offers a full range of communications and technology services to organisations nationally and to selected consumer markets.
The KCOM Group has more than 2,000 employees distributed across four customer-facing brands. Kcom and Smart421 provide communications solutions, access to an advanced information network, and a full range of IT services for enterprise and public sector organisations throughout the United Kingdom. Eclipse delivers Internet services to small and midsize businesses throughout the United Kingdom. And KC continues to deliver telecommunications and Internet services to consumers and businesses in East Yorkshire.
||We are using Microsoft technology to deliver the expertise of our 2,000 employees—the full power of the Group’s resources—to any one particular customer. That’s a significant competitive advantage.
Executive Chairman, KCOM Group
As the Group has transformed from a regional telephone carrier to a national communications and information services organisation, it has developed new strategies to meet new business opportunities. “As our business model changed, it became more strategic to look at collaboration across the entire Group,” says Mark Osborne, Senior Technology Consultant at the KCOM Group. “Before, each brand was a product-focused business, but now we wanted the organisation to become more people-centric.”
With employees spread across seven main offices, as well as a number of home-based workers, the Group wanted to make it easier for employees to work together and share knowledge and expertise across geographic and brand boundaries. “Our whole business is about connecting people and organisations so they can interact,” says Bill Halbert, Executive Chairman of the KCOM Group. “If you can enable that interaction, then you are more likely to help organisations create value.”
Unfortunately, employees at the KCOM Group tended to work in teams that were isolated within the company’s separate business units. They communicated almost entirely through email, and people often travelled to meet in person, generating significant costs and inefficiencies. Some employees had limited use of web conferencing, but most had no effective way to collaborate or share information online.
“Key documentation was spread across the organisation, with no way to manage or share it,” says Dean Branton, Group CIO at the KCOM Group and Director of Customer Operations at Kcom. “It was just unworkable.”
The company was also managing a fragmented information infrastructure, as each unit maintained separate technologies and processes. “We ended up with a legacy architecture that had pieces bolted onto it from different acquisitions,” says Osborne. “We had email, mobile devices, traditional telephony, and pockets of web conferencing, but no standardisation and little control. We needed a unified environment.”
The IT department at the KCOM Group is called Business Transformation and Technology Services (BTTS), and as its name suggests, it is committed to driving the company’s business goals by developing integrated solutions for specific business challenges. BTTS recognised that to effect the cultural change the company wanted, it would have to deliver the tools necessary to manage knowledge, gather and share business intelligence, and unify communications across the organisation. At the same time, it wanted to control and reduce costs.
“We had to encourage people to work in a different way and collaborate across brands and teams,” says Ian Bedford, Director of Managed Services at the KCOM Group. “We knew we needed to develop a centralised communications and collaboration ecosystem across the entire enterprise.”Solution
The KCOM Group uses many business technologies, but after evaluating several approaches, the Group recognised that it could best meet its needs with a coordinated deployment of several Microsoft messaging, collaboration, and business productivity solutions across the entire enterprise.
To support a unified communications and collaboration framework, BTTS initially deployed Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, and Microsoft Office Live Meeting, eventually upgrading to Exchange Server 2010 and Microsoft Lync 2010. During the same period, the Group also deployed Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007—recently upgraded to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010—to enhance and unify knowledge management and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software for business intelligence.
The BTTS department originally chose 40 senior executives to evaluate Office Communications Server 2007 instant messaging, but the number of early users expanded organically and rapidly. “The technology sells itself once you start to use it,” says Branton. “The senior team members immediately decided they wanted their direct reports using it as well, and then their extended teams, and then their personal assistants. Before we knew it, we had rolled out by stealth.”
||We are more flexible, more agile, and we can make quicker decisions, because it is much easier to find the information we need. That drives a responsiveness and professionalism that enhances the customer experience with any of our brands.
Executive Chairman, KCOM Group
After the initial pilot, BTTS prepared a business case for deploying a Microsoft Unified Communications solution, but the KCOM Group Board could not be assembled quickly in one location, so BTTS used Office Live Meeting to deliver the presentation remotely by web conference. “We presented the business case for the technology by using the technology,” says Osborne.
KCOM Group employees use Office Live Meeting to hold web conferences with colleagues in other locations without leaving their desktop PCs, or from a remote location with a portable computer or mobile device. In June 2011, the Group upgraded its communication and collaboration environment by updating from Office Communications Server 2007 to Lync 2010 with enterprise voice. The Group wanted to offer its employees the enhanced instant messaging and voice communication features in Lync 2010 as it deployed its unified communications framework and a single email environment across the enterprise. With SharePoint Server 2010, employees across the Group can store, search, and share profiles, documents, data, and project materials in a single, centrally managed environment.
“Having SharePoint Server 2010 integrated with the presence indication in Lync 2010 makes finding information and expertise seamless,” says Osborne. “If I need an expert on XML, I can search XML in SharePoint Server 2010 and find a list of every XML expert across the Group along with their locations and their presence, so I can see if they are offline, busy, or available to answer my question right now.”
The KCOM Group often uses visual diagrams to sell communication solutions, and 400 employees use Microsoft Visio 2010 drawing and diagramming software to help build dynamic, data-driven diagrams that they can share with colleagues and customers by using SharePoint Server 2010. To streamline access to information and accelerate project cycles, 200 project managers across the KCOM Group manage programs and projects by using Microsoft Project Professional 2010.
To gather and manage the data that will drive collaboration and innovation, BTTS used SQL Server and SQL Server Reporting Services to build an enterprisewide business intelligence environment. The BTTS department has already used the environment to support an online billing application for Kcom customers.
While BTTS helps move the company forward by developing a unified collaboration environment, it is also working to reduce costs and optimise the company’s existing IT infrastructure. By deploying Hyper-V virtualisation technology in the Windows Server 2008 operating system, Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007, and System Center Configuration Manager 2007, the KCOM Group can reduce the size of its server environment and more effectively manage all its virtual and physical infrastructure resources. That way, the Group can enhance its efficiency, flexibility, and growth potential for the future while it reduces its present operational costs.
The KCOM Group anticipates that by the beginning of 2012 it will have virtualised 50 percent of its physical servers by using Hyper-V. “By virtualising, we can reduce some infrastructure costs that are immediate and obvious,” says Branton. “At the same time, we can use it to help develop a road map for the future.” Benefits
By using Microsoft technologies to deploy an integrated knowledge management, communications, and business intelligence environment across its entire enterprise, KCOM Group transformed its business culture and positioned its IT department as an agent for growth and innovation. The Group has successfully promoted cross-unit collaboration, significantly reduced costs and enhanced efficiency, and developed powerful, competitive sales tools.
With the ability to store, search, and share profiles and documents, employees and teams in any business unit at KCOM Group have access to all the knowledge resources in the entire enterprise. They can work together seamlessly across disciplines and unit boundaries from virtually any location, so they can meet more deadlines, resolve internal issues more efficiently, and respond quickly to customer queries, which enhances customer satisfaction and drives revenue opportunities.
||The IT group has reduced its costs by more than 20 percent while continuing to drive up the value it delivers to the business.
Group CIO, KCOM Group; Director of Customer Operations, Kcom
“An employee on a customer site now has the ability to instantly get a response from somebody who has the particular expertise they need,” says Halbert. “That is a powerful business tool.”
With easy remote access to collaboration resources and work information, KCOM Group employees can now work productively from any location and meet mission-critical obligations in nearly any circumstance.
“Last winter, the country was snowed in, and I couldn’t get my car out of the driveway for two weeks,” says Bedford. “But I didn’t miss a day of work. As long as we have an Internet connection, we can work, connect, and collaborate whenever we need to, from wherever we are.”
With Project Professional 2010 and Visio 2010, KCOM Group employees from different disciplines can collaborate seamlessly to create data-based work products and complete projects faster. “Having applications that project managers and engineers alike can use together is incredibly valuable,” says Osborne. “It enhances communication and accelerates work-streams across the organisation.”Transformed Business Culture
The Group’s BTTS department is using collaboration and data management solutions from Microsoft to drive growth and innovation at the company and fundamentally change its business culture. “We are more flexible, more agile, and we can make quicker decisions, because it is much easier to find the information we need,” says Halbert. “That drives a responsiveness and professionalism that enhances the customer experience with any of our brands.”
According to Branton, cross-unit collaboration is now business as usual at the KCOM Group. “It’s the way the culture of the organisation works,” he says. “We’ve come quite a long way and made it to a really good position. But what really excites me is how far we can still go.”Reduced Costs, Enhanced Efficiency
KCOM Group employees can use Lync 2010 and Office Live Meeting to communicate and work together remotely in real time, and they can attend training sessions, business presentations, or project meetings without taking a full day and incurring the costs of travel. The company expects a significant boost in efficiency and a £700,000 (U.S.$1.3 million) reduction in costs associated with employee travel and communication.
“By using Office Live Meeting, we conservatively estimate that we’re getting back 17,000 hours in productivity and saving 2.5 million miles of driving annually, which obviously has a cost benefit to the business and also helps reduce our carbon footprint,” says Osborne. “We saved £400,000 [U.S.$640,000] a year on hotels, £250,000 [U.S.$400,000] a year on other travel expenses, and £50,000 [U.S.$80,000] a year on mobile phone charges.”
By using Hyper-V virtualisation technology, System Center Virtual Machine Manager, and System Center Configuration Manager, BTTS can provision IT services faster and more cost-effectively than it could before. “The IT group has reduced its costs by more than 20 percent while continuing to drive up the value it delivers to the business,” says Branton.Competitive Advantage
By building a comprehensive collaboration solution, the KCOM Group has demonstrated thought leadership in its industry and created a framework for delivering similar solutions to its customers. “Growing the business is about interactions with customers, and for me, the most important part of our collaboration environment is that we can be the best example for our customers,” says Halbert. “To show them how we actually use what we are selling in-house—and not just in a demonstration environment—will make us more competitive by helping customers understand what’s possible and how to achieve it.”
With its online billing application built on SQL Server, the KCOM Group has already created new revenue opportunities. According to Branton, building the business intelligence environment with integrated Microsoft technologies helped the KCOM Group quickly and easily build, scale, and offer the solution to customers. “We built an online billing and reporting system that delivers a customer experience that is matched by nothing else out there,” he says. “We have deployed it to more than 400 customers, including large enterprise and public sector organisations.”
Most important, KCOM Group expects to be able to compete successfully against larger enterprises by using all the knowledge available within the enterprise to deliver customer value. “Our goal is to establish market leadership in all of the markets we serve,” says Halbert. “We can only do that by making sure that we can deliver the best available information to everyone in the organisation. We are using Microsoft technology to deliver the expertise of our 2,000 employees—the full power of the Group’s resources—to any one particular customer. That’s a significant competitive advantage.”
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