Conference Notes

Notes on "Unified Communications – Some Recent Real World Experiences" (Steve Kennedy, Sungard)

Steve Kennedy from Sungard is presenting at the New Zealand Computer Society meeting here in Christchurch tonight, on the topic of “Unified Communications – Some Recent Real World Experiences”. Steve is the IT Director of Corporate IT at Sungard, with oversight for the Asia Pacific regions. Sungard offers software and processing solutions for financial services, higher education and public sector organizations. There are about 20,000 people in Sungard across the world. The Christchurch development center has 130 staff, and is essentially an offshore development lab for Sungard US.

Agenda
– discussion of the experiences (overview, background, implementation, post-implementation)
– audience interest in UC

Acknowledgements – the real work was done by a very clever team of people in Steve’s group, as well as great work from all of the vendors involved: Microsoft, Gen-i, Nortel, Jabra and others. And Steve showed pictures of some of the staff … including Dorje (hi Dorje!).

What is UC?
– a combination of telephony and messaging on the desktop
– encompasses lots of different things — phone, productivity tools, IM, presence, multiple endpoints (desktop computer, phones, Windows Mobile devices)

Background to Why Sungard Went This Way
– lots of work with people in other regions around the world. There are no other NZ offices
– IM and Skype are not welcomed on the corporate LAN.
– a lot of our staff are part of global teams, and non-voice communication tools are critical
– a fairly simple telephony site … No call center, few inbound calls.
– corporate IT, out of East Coast of the US, had a major influence on the decisions. AD is global, so changing schema is a no-no. Exchange 2003 is global, and Sungard NZ wanted to go to Exchange 2007 (this would have made the NZ office the “first” in the world, but Corporate IT wasn’t too keen. And there were licensing issues too.)
– Fundamental design changes were required … We couldn’t put the OCS schema in place, even if it had existed. Could not use Exchange 2007 on the existing Active Directory.
– Sungard has very strong links to Microsoft, eg, a Microsoft development shop, a Microsoft Premier partner, etc.
– The shift to a new building in Christchurch was another key driver, and the CEO didn’t want to take the existing phone system across. A new building meant a new server room, new cabling, new phone system, etc.
– Cost savings with not putting in “real” phones. Saved $20,000 on cabling that didn’t have to go in. Saved another $20,000 on purchasing Jabra headsets rather than desk phones.
– Some risks in place … Especially the January 12 “go live” date — in the core of the summer holidays here in NZ. A second major risk was that some of the solution components didn’t actually exist or were delayed.

Implementation
– were aiming for a Nortel CS1000 for PSTN calling and handsets. Exchange 2007 would give voicemail and auto attendant, Office Communications Server for IM and presence, Office Communicator client front end, and Outlook 2007 for email. This would give IM, presence, audio conferencing, telephony services, and integrated voice and email.
– Haven’t done a formal training programme yet, but are thinking about going around and saying “did you know you could do this.” Didn’t have time to do a lot of training, nor a full Office implementation given the time lines and the other things going on within the organization.
– complications … Had to build a separate domain for Exchange 2007 and Office Communications Server. Lots of Office 2003 about, but wanted Outlook 2007. By having a separate domain, were able to do the schema changes without running afoul of Corporate IT.
– When first went live, the integration between Nortel and OCS was not available, so had to put in a Dialogic gateway for a while. That gateway is being taken out next week.
– Steve said that he thinks of all of this as being divided into three main groups: (a) Communicator services, (b) telephony services, and (c) end-user devices. The last item was the most difficult one, as people are so used to having a desktop phone.
– Process of implementation … (1) rolled out the Communicator services, (2) pilot of IM, presence and documentation, (3) tested headsets with pilot users and for calls within the building, (4) all staff could choose an end-user device from a stated menu list, (5) Exchange 2007 voicemail testing, (6) new building PABX testing, and (7) cutover to production.
– one of the big gotcha was when the phone rang, and the computer was locked (which is done automatically after 10 minutes at Sungard), you couldn’t answer the phone. So … Needed to get OCS compliant headsets. The Jabra ones were really good, and they add a button to signal that you are answering the phone, even if the PC is locked. The wireless headsets are pretty good, and can almost do the entire 3 story building.
– staff have really loved the integration of voice mail and missed call notifications into Outlook.

What they got:
– a number of analogue phones for 111 (emergency services, “911” local equivalent), fire service and lifts.
– some Nortel speakerphones for meeting rooms.
– Vista introduces some problems with the microphone volume level (eg, automatic upward adjustment).
– computer-based call routing is very easy to use, eg, call forwarding, call diverting, route straight to voice mail.
– escalation through the communication modes is really great. Eg, from IM to voice call to video call.
– IM conversations with OCS can be logged automatically into a folder in Outlook 2007.

Post Implementation
– major issues … Call quality issues (echo, delay, USB difficulties), sound quality from building issues (all of the surfaces are very hard), busy PC (people running massive compiling routines), “Are you there?” silence with VoIP, meeting rooms for conference calls, and locked PCs with OCS compatible headsets.
– many social changes … Headset vs traditional phone, freedom with the wireless, presence for visibility of what others are doing, forgetting phone numbers (because it is all done through Communicator), too much communication (always present), collaboration … Etc. Overall, Steve thinks acceptance has been a lot better that he thought.

Benefits:
– potential to save money; Sungard did because of the move to a new building.
– enhanced communication and collaboration
– phone system that works
– platform for the future
– centralized management through Active Directory

New steps:
– finalizing the implementation with Nortel.
– expansion of Communicator tools
– implementation of additional tools, eg, Live Meeting
– further rollout within Sungard.

Questions and Answers
1. Have heard that there have been problems with the stability of OCS. Have you experienced that?
Answer … No, no issues experienced. Have found it very stable.

2. The Sungard crew are tech savvy. Is this an advantage or disadvantage?
Answer … Definitie advantage; didn’t need to do a lot of training. Almost self-training. Everyone was keen to be involved.
(Someone else in the audience) We took the same no-training approach in a district council, and it worked fine. Did a show-and-tell, and the staff took to it quickly.

3. What has been the impact on external clients?
Answer … Nothing comes to mind. Only call quality at times.

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