As with most professional services firms, the majority of Grant Thornton employees spend a lot of time outside the office. They depend on each other as subject matter experts and must collaborate to serve customers. To help employees work better
together, Grant Thornton has deployed a variety of communications solutions to provide voice, instant messaging, and conferencing capabilities. The firm wanted to provide a simpler, more unified experience for its employees by providing these capabilities
through a single solution. The firm plans to deploy Microsoft Lync Server 2013 to provide the collaboration, conferencing, and communications capabilities that its mobile employees need through a single client. With Lync Server 2013, the firm plans to reduce
the cost of its conferencing services and facilitate collaboration by enabling Lync Server to interoperate with other Microsoft products.
Grant Thornton LLP is one of the largest accounting firms in the United States and offers auditing, tax planning and preparation, and advisory services. The company is a member firm of Grant Thornton International, a global network of accounting companies that
operate in more than 110 countries.
Grant Thornton has approximately 5,800 employees working from more than 50 offices in the United States. Most of these employees provide client services and may be traveling or working at client sites at any given time. Providing communications and collaboration
solutions for these mobile employees is a top priority for Grant Thornton. It had deployed Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 for web-based collaboration and is planning to implement Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 for messaging. The firm offers a variety of
communications capabilities from multiple audio, video, and web conferencing services. Instant messaging and presence were delivered using Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007.
||We felt that Lync Server 2013 could provide a great user experience at a lower total cost of ownership. Interoperability with Microsoft Office and SharePoint Server, and the ability to have a hybrid solution with Office 365, is something
we were looking for.
| Mike McClain
IT-Director of Technology Strategy & Architecture, Grant Thornton LLP
“We have a variety of communications tools, but they aren’t interoperable through a single interface,” says Mike McClain, IT Strategy and Architecture Director at Grant Thornton LLP. “We would like to deliver a simpler solution for all of our communications
needs that provides a better experience at a lower cost.”
In particular, Grant Thornton endeavors to gain returns by lowering dependency on external audio conferencing services. The firm offers a variety of audio, video, and web conferencing services for employees, but it found that many employees use the high-end
conference services even when only a small group of participants are involved. The videoconferencing services require an administrator to schedule and manage the conference, which adds costs.
Many employees use instant messaging (IM), but the accounting professionals have no access to IM when they are using their mobile devices or tablets. “People in the office use IM frequently, but people who are traveling, and rely on mobile devices, aren’t
reachable via instant messaging,” says McClain, “Without IM, they use their mobile phones to call and send text messages. We hope to drive users to use these IM services, rather than consume their text plans on their mobile devices.” The text messages can
also create compliance issues, because the company cannot easily retrieve and archive them similar to other information and communications, such as email messages. Grant Thornton wants to give employees more communications options while on the road through
mobile instant messaging clients and softphones on their laptops. The firm also wants to support more communications on Apple iPads, which employees have widely adopted.
Grant Thornton also recently added a shared service center in Bangalore, India. Rather than deploying a new IT infrastructure for these employees, it opted to use Microsoft Office 365 for communications and collaboration. When upgrading its communications
solution, it wanted to ensure that these employees could easily interact with the rest of the company.
Providing a Seamless Experience
When given the opportunity to test prerelease versions of Microsoft Lync Server 2013, the latest-generation communications solution from Microsoft, the organization took advantage of the collaboration and conferencing capabilities. “We felt that Lync Server
2013 could provide a great user experience at a lower total cost of ownership,” says McClain. “Interoperability with Microsoft Office and SharePoint Server, and the ability to have a hybrid solution with Office 365, is something we were looking for.”
Through the Microsoft Lync 2013 unified client, employees have the tools they need to communicate from anywhere. It includes features such as contact cards, which appear when the mouse pointer hovers over a contact’s name. Employees can also see presence
information across all of the Microsoft Office and SharePoint applications at Grant Thornton. Employees can find subject matter experts and communicate with them instantly through a chat, phone call, or videoconference. “Employees can quickly start a chat
session and then add video or share an application,” says McClain. “Our employees have started using Lync for their meetings, and we see they are interacting with their colleagues with video and desktop sharing.”
Lync 2013 also supports persistent chat rooms. 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. As an accounting firm with many
practice areas and subject matter experts, teams can use persistent chat capabilities to enhance communications even further. “Our employees will be able to pose questions to a larger team,” says McClain. “By using Lync Server persistent chat, we can offer
them that opportunity. We can also preserve all of the conversations so that the rest of the company can access and search for corporate knowledge.”
Adopting Mobile Clients
No matter what major mobile phone platform employees are using, employees will need to access Lync 2013 through a mobile client. Grant Thornton is looking forward to providing mobile instant messaging capabilities to all of its employees. Employees will
also be able to place voice and video calls over wireless networks, manage contacts, and join meetings through the Lync 2013 mobile client.
||When our professionals are out of the office at a client site or working from other remote locations, they can still be available at their office phone number.
| Mike McClain
IT-Director of Technology Strategy & Architecture, Grant Thornton LLP
Many Grant Thornton professionals like to use their iPads as a second screen when working at their desks. “I can envision our employees using Lync on their iPads while working at their desks. They will have a great communications interface and free up their
PC screens for client work,” says McClain.
Grant Thornton has connected Lync Server 2013 to its private-branch exchange (PBX) system so that employees can use softphones through Lync 2013. They can make and receive calls from the Lync client from any location with an Internet connection, essentially
bringing their office phone number with them on the road. “Lync voice capabilities are a major use case for us,” says McClain. “When our professionals are out of the office at a client site or working from other remote locations, they can still be available
at their office phone number.” Lync Server 2013 integrates with a variety of PBX equipment to make it easy to get Lync enterprise voice capabilities deployed quickly and at a low cost.
Grant Thornton plans to take advantage of Lync Server 2013 for most of its conferencing needs. It will retire or reduce the usage of its current services. “We now have cameras in all of our laptops, and we have been using Lync videoconferencing,” says
McClain. “People can easily transition a chat or Lync phone call to a full videoconference without extensive setup, so people should feel encouraged to adopt it.”
Grant Thornton has been using panoramic videoconferencing units in its meeting rooms to promote Lync videoconferencing for larger meetings. “They provide a great video experience and excellent sound quality,” says McClain. Through Lync Server 2013, employees
can also view videos from Microsoft PowerPoint during a meeting or desktop sharing session.
Improved Support for Mobile Users
The IT department at Grant Thornton focuses on keeping the firm’s highly mobile professionals productive so that they can provide great service to their customers. By using Lync Server, they can offer employees fully featured mobile clients for the major phone
platforms, simple yet comprehensive conferencing services, and extensive interoperability with Microsoft Office products.
By using the Lync 2013 mobile client, Grant Thornton employees can use the same communications tools they use at the office to stay in touch with clients and colleagues while they are out of the office. They no longer have to make phone calls or send
text messages to communicate. They are also easier to reach and do not have to worry about missing important calls. Through presence information, they can easily see when their colleagues are available to answer questions, even from their phones. Employees
who use iPads can also take advantage of all the capabilities of Lync 2013.
Reduced Conferencing Costs
Grant Thornton sees the ability to provide a better user experience at a lower cost by reducing usage on certain conferencing services. By making communications easier, Lync will enable Grant Thornton to communicate more effectively. By using video and
desktop sharing more frequently, employees will improve collaboration to exchange best practices and solve customer issues faster.
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:
For More Information
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