University of London Case Study

Requirement: Skype for Business

University of London turned to GCI for a cost-effective, scalable Unified Communications solution to meet its continually-increasing needs.

The Client

Founded in 1826 as a non-religious alternative to Oxford and Cambridge, University of London was only the third University to be formed in Britain. With notable colleges including University of Central London (UCL), Goldsmiths, Royal Academy of Music, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and King’s College London, the University was also the first to admit students for degree study regardless of their gender, race or religion. The collegiate has several Royal Warrants, and has produced world-renowned alumni such as scientists Alexander Graham Bell and Alexander Fleming, authors H.G Wells and Thomas Hardy, and musicians Elton John and Mick Jagger.

With 1600 staff members, several hundred post-graduate students and over 200,000 campus-based and distance-learning students, University of London had found that its existing voice infrastructure and PBX was at full capacity and could no longer meet its needs. Maintenance was becoming expensive and the system was insecure, and the University required a future-proof solution that would enhance its business, address changes in the workplace, and grow with it to meet its needs for the next decade. The solution needed to offer high levels of security and resilience, as well as enabling staff to remain productive while working remotely or on the move. In turn, this would free up valuable physical resources that could allow the generation of income elsewhere within the University, allowing it to better manage costs and offer a competitive and diverse course programme.

Technical Solution

GCI initially installed a Microsoft Lync 2013 for University of London as single, scalable Unified Communications platform to enable flexible working. With seamless integration across multiple devices supporting voice, video and online collaboration as well as traditional phone calls, Lync would also reduce their telephony and travel costs. As a Microsoft Gold Partner and highly-experienced in large-scale Lync deployments, the University was certain that GCI had the ability to deliver. 

Following the launch of Skype for Business, University of London was confident in the excellent relationship and high level of service received from GCI, and so agreed to the suggestion to move to Microsoft’s replacement for Lync. This would ensure continuity for users, plus the danger of using unsupported, legacy software was not a risk the University was prepared to make. The solution’s flexible working benefits include hot-desking, working from home and collaborating over HD-enabled virtual meetings, with diverse connections from the University of London into the GCI Cloud platform providing full resilience, guaranteed data security, availability, and peace of mind. GCI replaced 1600 handsets in just 4 weeks to ensure very little downtime or disruption, and the University had full end-to-end support, including support of the legacy equipment during the transition. To ensure the University received the full benefit from its Unified Communications solution, GCI also committed resources to training staff in the new technology so that improved working practices could be quickly embraced. Another key element of GCI’s solution that the University was impressed with was the transparent, all-inclusive pricing model, offering full project management, hardware including phones, switches and other devices, data recovery and ongoing account management and reporting. This meant that the University could successfully allocate its budget and not worry about any hidden costs, which could successfully extend to additional users thanks to a fixed annual “price per user” subscription.

Skype for Business also provided the University with a host of additional collaboration and voice features, such as Auto Attendant and Call Queues, which offer an automated voice answering system and incoming call routing to the next-available attendant. An enhanced interface and server workflow engine also saw improved voice and call controls, plus seamless IM, Presence, Audio, and Video connectivity with Skype’s consumer-facing version. Further features included a faster, more efficient screen-sharing experience, the new Skype Web App for web-based conferencing which dramatically improved the “Join Meeting” experience, and Broadcast Meetings which allows 10,000+ attendees into one single meeting – ideal for streaming lectures online to their thousands of students in the UK and worldwide. Finally, it was even easier for staff to join meetings and conferences as instead of having to click the phone number and then enter the conference ID as a separate step, users are able to simply tap the phone number to join.

Success and Company Benefits

GCIs implementation of Skype for Business revolutionised communication across the University of London. Teams are now more productive even when they are mobile or working from home, and the University is on track for cost savings and new income generation. Both solutions were respectively implemented with minimal downtime, and the University was delighted that such large-scale projects had been delivered on time and to budget.

Stuart Brown, Head of Central ICT Services at University of London, said: “GCIs project management was excellent and the Project Managers did a very good job both times under difficult circumstances. As with all projects they are bigger than you expect, but GCI delivered against all objectives, on budget, and to very tight timescales. The positive feedback from the University and its staff has been overwhelming; the solution is being embraced by staff across the University, with even the biggest sceptics coming on board!”

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