Global insurance provider RSA picked BT Global Services over Atos Origin and 14 other providers to host a range of Microsoft communications products in the cloud.
The firm had recently moved people from three separate offices to four floors of the City of London's iconic Walkie Talkie building, but with 19,000 employees across the world it wanted to do more to improve the way employees communicate with each other and with clients.
James Sandell, group IT delivery director at RSA, said that before the BT-led migration the firm used LotusNotes as its main email client.
"For a number of years we've noticed that 95 per cent of financial services firms were on [Microsoft] Exchange and Outlook, and so it felt like we were behind. However, it was quite hard from a technology point of view to build a business case around it, because it's hard to put measures on it in terms of a bottom line," he told Computing.
"It was pretty obvious what people wanted; collaboration came out loud and clear," he said.
The firm found that almost half of its employees belong to "Generation Y", and that this would rise to 75 per cent by 2020.
"This means that they're going to be ‘always on', mobile, ubiquitous, all of that good stuff," Sandell said.
Jenny Burns, director of communications, brand and social media at RSA, said that the aim of the overall project, dubbed The Big Upgrade, was to bring all 19,000 employees together under one virtual roof so that they could collaborate globally, improve customer service, reduce costs and maximise productivity.
How BT pipped Atos to pole position
Sandell explained that through a tender process, 16 solutions were considered, which were narrowed down to the two: BT Global Services and Atos Origin.
What set BT apart from Atos was the migration experience, he said.
"We picked up a number of reference calls and we worked with people who had our complete product set, people who were bigger than us, those in the regulated financial services and non-financial services, and what we found was that BT were streets ahead [of the competition]," Sandell explained.
"It wasn't just slideware and PowerPoint stuff - they had actually done it, so to work with them rather than making it up [was better] and that has proven to be the case," he added.
A BT One Cloud platform was chosen for The Big Upgrade, it's a private cloud solution that hosts Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Skype for Business, and Microsoft SharePoint in all RSA offices.
"We've got dual data centres in Cardiff and Docklands and they're basically attached to our MPLS [Multi-Protocol Label Switching - a standard wide area network configuration] network and in terms of services we bought the 2013 versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync... and we've got a refresh built in within the contract which lasts until 2019, so within a couple of years we'll move up to the next version(s)," he said.
So far the migration process has impressed Sandell - 3,300 people have moved over to the private cloud, and there have only been three failures.
A culture refresh
As well as improving collaboration, the project has also allowed RSA to increase desk occupancy from 80 per cent to 130 per cent.
"The Big Upgrade is going to change the way we work forever - with customers, with brokers and with each other. We've seen email traffic fall by over 40 per cent because we can engage with people instantly online," he said.
In terms of continuing the upgrade, the firm has put in place socalled "trailblazers" - staff who can help other employees with any issues they encounter with the migration process.
"What we said was that everyone who gets migrated should know somebody else who has been through it to help them, so we set up for five per cent of the population to be trailblazers and at the moment we've got 750 people who are helping others with the basics," he said.
But this isn't the end of the journey.
"We're quietly rolling out Lync on mobile - this is one of those things that you've got to get used to - but people have been really excited about it as we rolled it out and there are some interesting use cases for it. Instant messaging from your mobile to the corporate network is something else we're looking at, and finally there is OWA (Outlook Web App) - a sort of replacement for Good [Technology], which carries quite a reasonable licence fee," Sandell explained.
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