BMC Software is no stranger to data. The Houston-based multinational produces software and services that assist businesses in moving to digital operations. Areas of expertise include IT service management, data center automation, performance management, virtualization lifecycle management and cloud computing management — what BMC comprehensively refers to as “digital enterprise management.”
Data therefore played a major role in the company’s initiative, begun almost four years ago, to upgrade its own internal communications systems from mere telephones to unified communications and collaboration (UCC). A key goal in the process, says Scott Crowder, the company’s chief information officer, was to reduce the amount of time it took to get people connected. With 6,000 employees using UCC systems globally, such efficiency could add up to real time and money.
“We used to do 6 million minutes a month of audioconferencing,” he estimates, which cost the company $380,000 a month for conference calling. Related expenses cost BMC an additional $2 million per year in software-as-a-service and private branch exchange (PBX) provider services. Connection times seemed like a minor matter; however, when the company analyzed all these services, it became clear that cumulatively they were a major cost factor.
Crowder says his team itemized the steps it took to initiate a collaboration session or conference call: An attendee would have to find the link from the meeting invitation, locate the meeting ID and passcode, dial 1-800 first, then enter first and last name and web ID. BMC Software found that the process took at least three to four minutes for each attendee to connect to every meeting. “Four minutes per attendee per meeting, times 6,000 employees, adds up to a lot of wasted time,” he says.
New Technology Solutions
After comparing several UCC solutions, BMC Software opted for a combination of Polycom UCC and Microsoft Skype for Business, two platforms that are even more compatible today, in the wake of an announcement last year that both companies were further integrating their respective video collaboration services and systems. Polycom’s RealPresence Group Series video collaboration solutions were recently certified for use with Microsoft Office 365, which in turn added features, such as real-time collaboration, across platforms such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel, and Skype for Business, with new capabilities for linking to Outlook calendars.
More conventional communications, such as telephony, were migrated to a SIP-trunking platform, a convergence of voice over IP and streaming media based on the Session Initiation Protocol, by which ISPs deliver telephone services and unified communications to customers equipped with SIP-based (IP-PBX) facilities. SIP trunking can also carry video and other streaming-media applications, such as desktop sharing, webconferencing, and shared whiteboard.
However, choosing a platform was only half the battle, Crowder says. Before the new UCC solution could be implemented, a four-person adoption team in the CIO’s office analyzed how users would receive the new systems. The adoption team formulated the most effective processes for training on each platform and then carried the technologies into the enterprise through a combination of town-hall meetings, onsite orientations, and lunch-and-learn sessions.
Crowder says that after systems began coming online, their effectiveness was monitored regularly using mean opinion scores (MOS), metrics used to gauge subjective AV quality in UCC and similar systems. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an agency of the United Nations, has defined recommendations for using MOS to assess video and speech quality. At BMC Software, the MOS data was compiled using the company's own enterprise software.
Of course, "subjective” is a critical term here.
“When you’re trying to measure the quality of an experience, you have to account for the fact that sometimes meeting participants are calling in remotely, or on non-compatible devices, or on sketchy cellular service or Wi-Fi at a Starbucks,” Crowder says. “There are a number of factors that can degrade the experience and you have to account for them to get an accurate evaluation.” To that end, BMC Software's UCC analysis also included measuring issues such as round-trip delay, lost packets, jitter, and other technical problems.
The results of BMC Software's migration to a new UCC platform, though, were quantifiable and positive. Connectivity costs dropped dramatically, to an estimated $15,000 a month, while collaboration minutes nearly doubled in a single month to 10 million minutes, an indication that more people were using the systems effectively. SIP trunking alone reduced telephone bills by as much as 30 percent.
Crowder says the company eliminated $5 million a year in annualized operating expense and reduced travel expenses by 13 percent. Meanwhile, collaboration minutes skyrocketed, he explains. “More virtual business meetings happen because of reduced travel, and we avoid costs associated with increased minutes on legacy systems.”
The overall equation here involved measuring existing costs and time expended, analyzing those to determine a benchmark against which improvements could be measured, and then finding solutions that could tackle the problems holistically to comprehensively solve communications and collaboration challenges.