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Unified Communications Saved Sprint Millions

Sprint says it cut nearly $13 million in annual communications costs by using Polycom and Microsoft Lync.

10 Lessons Learned By Big Data Pioneers
10 Lessons Learned By Big Data Pioneers
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Much of the value of unified communications technology has been about better communication and collaboration between workers, faster time-to-market, and the ability to cast a wider net for talent. But the wireless carrier Sprint Nextel has presented a case study that shows it has saved $12.85 million by adopting UC Polycom equipment and Microsoft Lync software. The savings have come from reduced local exchange carrier circuit costs, avoiding the purchase of new PBX systems, and lower conference call costs and other expenses.

Joe Hamblin, senior manager of enterprise communications and collaboration at Sprint, detailed how the company implemented UC during a webcast with representatives from Polycom and Microsoft. Polycom unveiled the CX7000 UC room video collaboration appliance in July that comes pre-integrated with Microsoft Lync. This month, the CX7000 became generally available and Polycom expanded Lync interoperability to additional Polycom SIP-based wired and wireless voice products.

Hamblin said Sprint began its transition to UC in 2006 when it struggled with managing and maintaining 490 Nortel post branch exchange (PBX) systems across its enterprise. Because those PBXes only connected desk phones, they couldn't serve workers who were increasingly mobile and were using cell phones when away from the office. "We were no longer working in our offices like we used to. We found that people were trying to conduct their business from anywhere but the office," Hamblin said.

[ Learn from others' mistakes and plans for unified communications. See New Research: Unified Communications 2012. ]

Furthermore, his telecom IT staff was constantly busy with "moves, adds and changes"; that is, installing new phones, replacing old ones, or moving equipment when an employee switched offices. In 2007, Sprint performed 8,000 such tasks, he said. Sprint decided the decentralized PBX system had to go. "We knew we wanted to get centralized so how do we take all these decentralized PBXes and come up with a very centralized solution that we can manage with less infrastructure?" Hamblin asked.

It looked into voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) and considered four different business cases "and all four of them failed miserably," he said. They were too expensive, for one thing. In one case, the capital expense was $25 million with a five-year projected return on investment (ROI). Worse yet, 70% of that expense was just in handset replacement. Sprint began using Microsoft Office Live Communications Server for instant messaging and discovered the user interface had a "Call" button on it, he said. Soon 200 Sprint workers were using the Live Communications Server for making voice calls. Now Sprint is upgrading to the Polycom CX7000 video collaboration appliance embedded with Lync.

Overall, Hamblin itemized these annual savings for Sprint from the transition to UC:

--$6.7 million in local exchange carrier circuit cost savings.

--$3.6 million in audio conferencing cost savings.

--$1.25 million in PBX cost avoidance.

--$700,000 in power and cooling savings.

--$600,000 in reduced moves, adds, and changes labor costs.

On top of that, Hamblin said Sprint believes it can save $20 million annually in reduced real estate and related IT expenses because it needs less office space.

The company has 55 Polycom video conference rooms enterprise-wide, but Hamblin says they're underutilized because scheduling rooms is difficult. He thinks that will change when the CX7000s with Lync are installed and scheduling and using those rooms will be easier because an organizer can simply click on the names of people in a directory to join in the video conference.

While proving demonstrable cost savings from UC, Hamblin also acknowledges the other benefits of collaboration in terms of better decision-making, faster time-to-market, and business success.

"As you look at what you want your company to be in 2013 and 2014 you have to think about it from an IT perspective. How can we give our company a competitive advantage?" he said.

The Enterprise Connect conference program covers the full range of platforms, services, and applications that comprise modern communications and collaboration systems. It happens March 25-29 in Orlando, Fla. Find out more.

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