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UK Enterprise Increases Competitiveness with Collaboration Capabilities

by Charlie Trumpess

 20th November 2014 10:42 am

Ascential increased efficiency  of distributed  workforce with Jabber, TelePresence, and contact centre solution

THE FULL STORY…

THE CUSTOMER

Formerly the Top Right Group, Ascential is a London-based  organization. A global events company, i2i Events, that brings together more than 250,000 buyers and sellers annually. Digital information services through 4C and WGSN Group specializing in the retail, infrastructure, and creative sectors. EMAP owns media brands for business-to-business communities such as retail, health, construction, architecture, and fashion. Lions Festivals produces events to recognize outstanding creative communications in all forms. Ascential has major offices in London, New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sao Paulo, and Dubai, and approximately 15 regional offices throughout Europe, the Americas, and Asia Pacific.

THE CHALLENGE

The company operated as a single entity, and all 1200 London-based employees worked in one office building. “To remain competitive, we had to make sure that each business unit received the resources and attention it needed to succeed,” says Sean Harley, group IT director for Ascential. The company embarked on a bold business transformation project, splitting the company into those four independent business units. Each would have its own operating identity, headquarters building, and executive team.

The IT team, which remained centralized, viewed the move to new buildings as an opportunity to introduce more flexible ways of working. “We wanted to give employees the tools to work from anywhere, including any office, a coffee shop, the train, or home,” Harley says. Enabling employees to work from any available desk would reduce real estate costs. Many employees travel frequently, so providing one desk for each employee is an unnecessary use of space.

To make the hot-desking  arrangement work, Ascential needed a collaboration application that operated on the variety of laptops, tablets, and smartphones that employees use for work. “We already had a presence and instant messaging application, but it only worked on Windows machines and did not integrate with our voice system,” Harley says. As a result, employees could not click to dial or exchange instant messages with team members who used a different type of device.

 

THE SOLUTION

After evaluating three leading unified communications solutions, Ascential selected Cisco® Unified Communications and Cisco Jabber®, which provides a single, easy-to-use interface for presence, instant messaging, voice, and voice messaging. Modern Networks, a Cisco Premier Partner, provided plan and build services. “Cisco Jabber is the only solution that works on Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android devices,” Harley says. “Modern Networks’ delivery capabilities were just as important as technology because we had a very aggressive timeline to move into the four new offices.”

Modern Networks implemented Cisco Unified Communications Manager centrally, in Ascential’s two London data centers. Other offices need no equipment other than a Cisco Integrated Services Router (ISR). “We moved out of our old offices on a Friday, and the following Monday employees sat down at any unoccupied desk in their new building, connected their laptops, and began making and receiving calls and instant messages with Cisco Jabber,” says Harley.

Today, Ascential’s London workforce can collaborate efficiently from anywhere, using any device. The solutions behind the transformation are…

A single interface for all communications and collaboration applications: All employees use Cisco Jabber for phone calls, presence, and instant messaging. The company has only a few physical phones, most in executive offices. Approximately 60 percent of employees use Cisco Jabber on their Windows laptops, while most of the remainder use Macs. A few IT team members have also begun using Cisco Jabber on their iPhones, iPads, and Android devices, to be ready if Ascential later introduces a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. Ascential chief executive officer already uses Cisco Jabber on an iPad.

In-person collaboration:  Employees in three London offices, New York, Hong Kong, and Shanghai can enjoy an in-person collaboration experience from conference rooms with Cisco TelePresence® systems, implemented by Cisco partner Ideal Networks. Employees use Cisco TelePresence for job interviews, spontaneous conversations with teammates, formal team meetings, and investor presentations. “Our fashion-industry teams in London, Hong Kong, and New York have started to replace audio-conferences with Cisco TelePresence sessions,” Harley says. The in-person experience helps make communications more accurate, contributing to better decision-making. Cisco TelePresence is also improving rapport among people on the same teams who previously had never seen each other.

Efficient contact center operations:  Approximately 150 people across the four businesses receive a high volume of phone calls because they work in sales or staff the internal IT helpdesk. Cisco Unified Contact Center Express intelligently routes inbound calls to the first available agent with the right skills. Agents place and receive calls on Cisco Jabber. Detailed reports show agents’ activity, motivating them to perform at their best.

Employees quickly overcame their initial hesitation about using Cisco Jabber instead of a traditional phone. “Everyone talks about Jabber, and credits it with helping them be more productive and able to work from any location,” Harley says. “It’s become a part of our organizational vocabulary, as in ‘I was just on a Jabber call and we came up with a plan’.”

 

THE BENEFITS

Cisco Jabber helped Top Right Group transform to independent business units by simplifying collaboration and lowering real estate costs. “Our internal team had to manage a lot of activities before the move: preparing employees for cultural change, replacing desktops with laptops, implementing next-generation  Wi-Fi, and opening new global offices,” says Harley. “Through it all, Modern Networks and Cisco acted as trusted advisors to facilitate business transformation.”

Enabling Collaboration from Any Device, at Any Desk: Now all employees, not just the employees who use Windows laptops, can collaborate with presence and instant messaging. And enabling employees to work at any desk has also lowered London real estate costs. “One of the business units only needed to provide 301 desks for 365 people,” Harley says. “Replacing traditional phones with Cisco Jabber means employees can work from anywhere.”  To date, everyone who has needed a desk could readily find one because some workers are visiting customers, traveling, working from home or remote offices, or on vacation.

Increased Contact Center Efficiency: “A salesperson who needs a manager’s approval to close a sale can use presence to see which manager is available, and then just click to send an instant message or bring the manager on the call,” Harley says. “By enabling the right people to collaborate at the right time, Jabber is helping to increase the productivity of our sales teams.” In addition, Ascential’s sales managers can now view detailed reports from Cisco Unified Contact Center Express to monitor the productivity of their teams. Sales managers can also listen to live calls to provide coaching, identify training opportunities, and provide sales assistance.

For the IT helpdesk, giving staff members Cisco Jabber to locate experts and obtain quick answers has helped increase the number of incidents that first-line staff can resolve by 30 percent, and accelerated the average time to resolve a helpdesk incident by 50 percent. As a result, satisfaction ratings have increased by 15 percent.

Lowered Voice Costs in Global Enterprise: Thirty-eight percent of the company’s telephony traffic flows between offices in different countries. Now, with SIP trunking support in Cisco Unified Communications Manager, international calls travel over multi-protocol  label switching (MPLS) network, avoiding high toll costs. “We estimate that SIP trunking has reduced company-wide monthly service provider costs by at least 40 percent. And that’s despite connecting from four offices instead of one,” says Harley.

NEXT STEPS

Continuing its pursuit of better ways of working, Ascential plans to take advantage of more Cisco Jabber capabilities:

  • Video calling: Employees will make video calls exactly the same way they make voice calls, and also be able to join Cisco TelePresence sessions from their laptops.
  • Integration with Salesforce.com: Modern Networks is working on this. The goal is to increase efficiency by enabling employees to view presence information and click to call from within Salesforce.
  • Mobility: The company expects to provide Cisco Jabber Mobile to all employees to use on their iPads, iPhones, and Android devices.

In addition, other Ascential sales teams are planning to adopt Cisco Unified Contact Center Express. Those that want to increase outbound call volume are considering using a feature that connects the call to the agent only if a person has answered the call.

Product List

Unified Communications

  • Cisco Unified Communications Manager

Collaboration Applications

  •  Cisco Jabber
  •  Cisco Unity® Voice Mail
  •  Cisco Unified Contact Center Express

TelePresence

  •  Cisco Video Communication System Expressway
  •  Cisco TelePresence C20, C40, and MX20 Endpoints

 

Read the full Ascential case study.