Vodafone cuts its communications costs using Microsoft OCS

Vodafone has ‘proved’ its business case to cut its communication costs with its company-wide rollout of Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS).

Jost Krebs, head of unified communications (UC) at Vodafone Technology Information Services, told an IDC conference in London yesterday that Vodafone’s main driver for UC deployment was to bring down communications costs. The company also hoped to reduce travel costs and increase staff productivity.

“We used mobile heavily in Vodafone, and mobile use reduction is not as much as we would like because people cling to their mobiles, but we do see the business case is being confirmed,” Krebs told IDC’s Unified Communication and Collaboration Conference.

“It [UC] provides us significant productivity gains, because people stay at home. We do a yearly feedback survey, and they [employees] say ‘I work more from home’. This also proves our business case,” he added.

Vodafone divided its UC rollout into five streams of work, starting in 2008 with the deployment of Microsoft OCS out of the box out of the box features. The first two modules of work also included the integration of OCS into Vodafone’s existing 1,000 video conferencing systems.

The third, fourth and fifth modules were all about telephony integration – enabling employees to dial in and out, but also integrating the system with Vodafone’s mobile network.

“[Integration with the mobile network] allows us to show presence in the OCS when users are in a call even when the person is not logged in,” said Krebs.

If a user is logged in, the OC will also ring so that a call could also be picked up via the OCS.

However, Krebs said that the biggest challenge for Vodafone was the telephony integration. There were a high number of system components that need to be managed, which were complex to set up and change.

The company therefore exploited its own telephony products, which it said “improved significantly the operation of the service” because it provided a more simple solution for the integration of OC into the mobile network.

“We had our own PBX [Private Branch Exchange] in the cloud and connected the on-premise OCS into the cloud, and used the IP solution we sell externally,” Krebs explained.

So far, Vodafone has connected 57,000, around two-thirds of its 85,000 global employees, as well 18 external partners, including HP, Microsoft, Accenture and Nokia, to its UC system.

Krebs said that adoption of the system has been strong, with growth in the use of video calling continuing to grow steadily over the past 10 months.

He did mention, however, that some of this growth was driven by certain events in Europe, such as the heavy snow in the UK at the start of the year, and the volcanic ash cloud.

“We have very strong usage,” said Krebs. “In October, we had about two million minutes per month on video calls.

Vodafone’s next step is to deploy the OCS into the cloud to reduce dependency on the third-party PBX, as well as the further integration of the system with the mobile network service.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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