4-page Case Study - Posted 11/30/2009
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Consulting Firm Enhances Work-Life Balance with Unified Communications
A desire to deliver the best outcomes for its clients and provide a manageable work-life balance for employees drove A.T. Kearney to provide its consultants with tools to develop and maintain relationships with clients all over the world while also staying connected to colleagues and family members closer to home. The company first looked at adding unified communications capabilities such as instant messaging, presence, and softphone capability for mobile voice over IP (VoIP) to its existing Cisco VoIP solution, but it found that Microsoft® Office Communications Server could provide a full solution for a fraction of the cost. After the deployment was completed for all 3,400 employees in March 2008, consultants could collaborate more effectively with each other and with clients, streamlining processes and project times, and gaining more ways to pursue better work-life balance.
With 3,400 employees in 47 locations around the world, A.T. Kearney is a global management consulting firm that uses strategic insight, tailored solutions, and a collaborative working style to help clients achieve sustainable results. Consultants perform an array of services, including complexity management, strategic IT, mergers and acquisitions, supply chain management, and procurement and analytic solutions. They offer these services across industries such as aerospace and defense, communications and high tech, financial institutions, pharmaceuticals, and the public sector. Having a range of experts across the globe engaged in such a variety of industries and services requires A.T. Kearney to provide its employees with the collaborative tools they need to serve clients, but it must also consider how it can help employees with demanding schedules and travel-heavy agendas to better manage their work-life balance.
“Success through collaborative relationships” is one of A.T. Kearney’s key tenets, and its technology choices have long supported this principle. In 2005, it deployed Microsoft® Office Live Communications Server 2005, which offered instant messaging (IM) capabilities for all employees. That same year, A.T. Kearney began the migration of its telephony systems to a Cisco voice over IP (VoIP) solution for its office phones. In 2007, the company decided that it needed a softphone solution to provide mobile access to the VoIP system because so many employees were frequent travelers. “Because the majority of our employees travel during the week, we wanted to provide them a way to communicate without depending on mobile phones,” explains Kevin Rice, Global Network Architect at A.T. Kearney. “We felt this could improve their ability to communicate and save the company money.”
Because it had already implemented a Cisco telephony solution, A.T. Kearney decided to consider Cisco’s unified communications offering. The company found that providing softphone capabilities to all employees through Cisco would be cost prohibitive due to the assortment of new hardware and software licenses required. Furthermore, the Cisco solution could not provide the unified solution that A.T. Kearney desired because A.T. Kearney’s VoIP architecture had multiple management interfaces and required two separate instant messaging and presence environments.
In November 2007, representatives from A.T. Kearney attended a briefing about Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, and they were immediately convinced that it offered the unified communications system they needed to support their mobile consultants. One major advantage was that the company had already deployed Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Professional 2007, which would integrate seamlessly with Office Communications Server. “Office Communications Server offered all of the features we needed out-of-the-box without requiring additional licenses,” notes Rice. “That, plus the interoperability with Office 2007 and Office SharePoint Server and the ability to click to dial from these other applications, was what sold us on Microsoft.”
By March of 2008, A.T Kearney had Office Communications Server 2007 fully deployed and operational for all 3,400 employees, who were provided with presence, instant messaging, and VoIP capabilities. A.T. Kearney also
||After we determined that Office Communications Server was fully capable of making and receiving calls, we knew we could implement it as our unified communications architecture.
Global Network Architect,
deployed Exchange Unified Messaging, part of Exchange Server 2007, at the same time. The migration from Live Communications Server to Office Communications Server took only two weeks. “We had no issues with the migration at all,” says Rice. “We have a group that packages the installations for deployment, and they made the transition effortless for employees.” Because of the familiar user interface, employees also avoided having to learn new software.
A.T. Kearney deployed one Office Communications Server pool in Chicago to support communications for the entire organization. It also installed mediation servers at local offices so employees could connect to the VoIP system locally rather than routing call calls through the United States. By doing this, the company could take advantage of local numbers and local calling plans to avoid toll charges. To save money, the company deployed the mediation server software on existing file and print servers in the offices.
A.T. Kearney chose not to implement Remote Call Control on Office Communications Server, which would give employees the ability to operate their Cisco desk phones from their computers. “Remote Call Control would have required additional licenses from Cisco,” explains Rice. “After we determined that Office Communications Server was fully capable of making and receiving calls we knew we could implement it as our unified communications architecture.”
The company did implement Public IM access so that employees could add contacts to Microsoft Office Communicator from public instant messaging networks such as the Windows Live™ network of Internet services. “A lot of consultants keep in touch with family and friends through IM so we wanted to offer them the capability to do that through Communicator,” says Rice.
Using federation, consultants can also share presence information and send instant messages to clients through Office Communicator—and vice versa—saving valuable time on communications between companies. “We are trying to make federation a part of our consulting engagements so that we can communicate more effectively with our clients,” explains Rice.
A.T. Kearney is now deploying Office Communications Server 2007 R2, and it believes that desktop sharing and group chat capabilities will further enhance communication between consultants and clients. “We do a lot of work on Office PowerPoint® presentations, and we feel that desktop sharing will provide a great way to quickly collaborate on these,” notes Rice. The company is also working on implementing the public switched telephone network (PSTN) capabilities so users can organize conference calls and Web conferences through Office Communications Server and provide local numbers for clients to call to join the meetings.
A.T. Kearney worked with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Aspect, a provider of unified communications software and services, on the planning and design of the Office Communications Server 2007 R2 solution. Aspect has a partnership with Microsoft to deliver unified communications solutions to customers. A.T. Kearney worked closely with Aspect to ensure all capabilities of the solution were properly functioning. They also developed a plan and upgrade path for the unified communications deployment based on Aspect’s best practices to minimize costs and interruptions to service while delivering the capabilities that A.T. Kearney required.
By implementing a unified communications solution based on Microsoft technologies, A.T. Kearney has enhanced both the work and home life of its mobile consultants, while also improving communication and collaboration across the board for all of its employees. And because the solution is easy to administer and integrates with other Microsoft Office products, A.T. Kearney has saved valuable time and money. “We have enabled their laptops to be their mobile phones, their mailboxes, their instant messengers. All they need is a broadband connection,” says Rice. “They can even access all of their project documents through SharePoint.”
By choosing the Microsoft solution, A.T. Kearney avoided the additional cost of hardware and licensing required by the Cisco solution. The company estimated that licensing the Cisco solution for only 65 percent of its employees would have cost more than U.S.$800,000. It deployed Office Communications Server for all employees for a fraction of that amount. “A big advantage for us was cost avoidance,” explains Rice. “With Office Communications Server everything comes in one package, and we could set up conferencing and VoIP without incurring additional costs.”
Because consultants can place VoIP calls from their laptops using any available broadband network, they have better control over project costs and the company can avoid high cell phone bills. “We pay for many of our employees’ mobile phones, and we probably have more than $2 million per year in expenses. We are trying to drive the behavior of giving out the office number and then letting Office Communications Server find you either on your computer or on your mobile phone,” explains Rice. “In the past consultants typically gave out their mobile numbers and would frequently incur steep mobile roaming charges. Also, when they make calls from their laptop, they use local trunks at their office and get much better rates than on their mobile phones.” A.T. Kearney believes that these charges could easily be reduced by five percent, saving $200,000 per year.
Enhanced Collaboration and Communication
Office Communications Server provides a fully integrated communications solution, which helps the consultants at A.T. Kearney work more effectively. “We had more than fifty consultants working at a client site where they were unable to get cell phone service. Because we had deployed Office Communications Server, we were able to ask the client for Internet access so they could make calls,” says Rice. “It actually worked out better, because with Internet access they could also use their e-mail, instant messaging, and presence information.”
Office Communications Server has also enhanced communication and collaboration between consultants and clients through federation and Unified Messaging in Exchange Server. Because federation enables consultants and clients to see each other’s contact lists and calendars, they can schedule project discussions and share information more readily. And, with Unified Messaging, consultants can be more responsive to clients—and other consultants—because they can respond to voice mail messages from their laptops or mobile phones.
Another advantage to deploying Office Communications Server was its integration with Microsoft Office SharePoint® 2007. “SharePoint capabilities and the available presence information help our global teams communicate and strategize,” explains Rice. “On a lot of collaboration sites, it’s difficult to tell who created a document or if they’re available for a discussion. When you connect to SharePoint, you see presence indicators for everyone participating in a discussion. It’s especially helpful when you’re working with people across time zones.”
More Options for Managing Work-Life Balance
A big part of implementing a unified communications solution for A.T. Kearney employees was creating a better work-life balance. “We had an employee who was recently transferred to Dubai for an engagement.” says Rice. “He has been communicating with his family via Office Communications Server, reducing roaming charges tied to his company-provided mobile phone. That is one way we’re seeing employees use it beyond its usual capabilities.” Because Office Communications Server can communicate with public instant messaging clients like Windows Live Messenger, employees can share presence information not just with clients and colleagues but with friends and family as well. They also avoid expensive long-distance phone calls by calling home through their laptops, from any location with a broadband connection, so they can talk longer.
After seeing the benefits of Office Communications Server, A.T. Kearney looks forward to the possibilities offered by implementing Office Communications Server 2007 R2. Desktop sharing and group chat will further enhance the company’s collaboration and communication possibilities and help it reduce its carbon footprint, as consultants can share documents and discuss strategy without having to be face-to-face with colleagues and clients, meaning they spend less time on the road and more opportunities to improve their work-life balance.
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