Facilities management giant adopts unified communications

By Martin Courtney
28 Jan 2011 View Comments
OCS mobile worker and van

Facilities management company OCS employs 30,000 staff and provides cleaning, catering, security, sustainability and waste and carpark management services to a number of large UK customers, which include the Ministry of Defence, the NHS, Landrover and Birmingham Airport.

The firm is constantly looking for ways to improve its IT provision and drive down costs and has been tracking the progress of unified communications (UC) for years.

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But it was only in late 2010 that ICT director Jenny Sener concluded the technology had reached the sufficient level of maturity and pricing to merit signing a £5m, three year deal with managed communications services provider Azzurri to install and maintain fixed and mobile connectivity on its behalf.

“We were looking at UC even four years ago, but the upfront investment costs at that point in time did not stack up in terms of cost benefits,” says Sener.

“Back then you had leased lines and ISDN backup and you signed up for three to five years and that was it. Now you can deploy UC as part of a WAN contract and you get DSL, Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM) and a whole raft of more flexible technologies at far better price points.”

In the short term, the contract is focused on procuring fixed and mobile voice and data services from a single supplier, covering voice over IP, landlines, contact centre services and wide area network (WAN) or broadband connectivity to multiple OCS offices around the UK.

But OCS is also looking to deliver presence and instant messaging (IM) onto a wide range of different mobile devices according to specific staff job roles.

“One of the core concepts of the contract is role-based telecommunications deployment because in the past we have had a much more simplistic approach based around the technology itself,” says Sener.

“Now we can take individual jobs – management, supervisory or administration, for example – and provide whatever this person needs to do their job such as a ruggedised handheld PC, or security guard mobile telephony device, or senior executives roaming the world needing access to email and presence information on their BlackBerry.”

Mobile access to key business applications like SAP and a bespoke contract, billing and service deployment application called Lynx that lets customers sign off jobs electronically on mobile devices are just as vital as email.

Azzurri is responsible for consolidating previous services from multiple network connectivity providers into a single managed contract, switching OCS’s previous deal with Vodafone to Telefonica O2, and taking over the fixed line telephony and broadband provision itself, adding hosted VoIP service based on Avaya equipment.

“We have been trying to drive down our procurement costs and we don’t want to put manpower into managing huge numbers of suppliers,” says Sener.

“We’re looking to Azzurri to advise us on best-of-breed technology, and we fully expect them to map in different suppliers to achieve better performance or lower costs over the lifetime of the contract.”

To date 2,500 mobile accounts have been switched to O2, with the replacement of OCS’s analogue private branch exchange (PBX) equipment with an Avaya VoIP core expected in the first quarter of 2011.

OCS expects to shave up to 30 per cent of its forecast communications spend over the duration of the three year contract, savings which will come primarily from reducing its headcount, but also from lower internal management costs.

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