Marquette University is a coeducational institution in Wisconsin with 11,700 students and 2,700 faculty and staff. The university prioritizes its commitment to providing students and faculty with comprehensive communication tools. As the next step to updating its voice, conferencing, and instant messaging solution, Marquette is moving to Skype for Business and anticipates increased collaboration, flexibility, and adoption, in addition to cost savings.
Marquette University is a private Jesuit college in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with 8,400 undergraduate students, 3,300 graduate and professional students, and 1,200 faculty. There are 11 different schools and colleges within the university that offer a comprehensive range of majors. Marquette is a nationally ranked institution with notable designations as a Changemaker Campus and the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
Marquette is an early adopter of technology and aims to provide students and staff with comprehensive communications solutions that include voice, conferencing, mobile, and instant messaging capabilities. University students and faculty rely on these solutions every day: professors conduct remote classes; students from the business school interview for jobs out of state; the IT team works with vendors outside of the university; and various departments use videoconferencing for events and meetings. “We like to stay current on technology, if not on the cutting edge,” says Dan Smith, Deputy CIO of IT Services at Marquette University.
In 2012, Marquette deployed Microsoft Lync Server 2013 to begin hosting its own conferences. At that time, the university started to retire its private branch exchange (PBX) telephone system and installed voice over IP (VoIP) to reduce costs and provide a wider range of communication options to the campus community. Its goal was to complete the PBX migration by summer 2015.
The university also hoped to increase adoption of communication tools by providing a solution that was familiar to users. It wanted to improve flexibility and productivity with more mobile and video use and encourage students and staff to communicate more easily with people off campus. However, users were only able to use VoIP to communicate with outside partners who were federated in the same system.
“Trying to get solutions that let students and faculty communicate with people outside of Marquette has always been a challenge,” says Victor Martinez, Windows Team Lead at Marquette University.
Skype for Business was the natural next step for Marquette. It offered similar functionalities as Lync 2013, in addition to the intuitive interface of the Skype client that many students and staff were already familiar with.
In early 2015, the IT services department at Marquette began the process of upgrading Lync Server 2013 to the Skype for Business Server 2015. The migration went smoothly as the IT team mirrored the production environment, which included servers and full functionality.
“It was like spinning up a side-by-side environment with our current environment. We were able to move users as needed, and then add additional users as we became more confident with the new solution,” says Martinez.
The university has been working toward retiring its PBX system for the past three years. Now in its final phase, it began migrating users directly from the PBX system to the Skype for Business Server, and is rolling out the Skype for Business client to the migrated users.
Marquette currently supports 330 users on the Skype for Business client, and it has already prepared an additional 30,000 accounts that are licensed and ready for use—enough to support all current staff and students, and new enrollments for the upcoming academic year. Marquette also expects to support 4,000 to 5,000 phones on the Skype for Business Server.
Marquette sees the new Skype for Business client as a hybrid between the consumer Skype client and Lync 2013. “The changes aren’t as drastic as we thought they might be. The overall place where you go to do things or look for things has basically stayed the same. There’s a continuity that people will see as they go from Lync 2013 to Skype for Business.”
By moving to Skype for Business, Marquette anticipates increased user adoption and collaboration and improved flexibility. It also continues to reduce overall telephony costs by migrating users from its previous PBX system directly to Skype for Business.
Increased adoption and collaboration with familiar interface
Skype for Business offers the capabilities of Lync 2013 plus the familiarity that many users already have with Skype, meaning the campus community will be more likely to use the new solution.
“Some of the UI that you see within the Skype for Business client now mirrors the Skype interface on the consumer client,” says Smith. “We expect to see more widespread adoption as people can easily find and communicate with other Skype users and bring them into conversations.”
It will also be easier to collaborate with students, partners, and vendors outside of the university. “Now we can communicate with people worldwide who are using Skype while we’re on campus using Skype for Business—connecting this way is really powerful,” says Martinez.
Improved flexibility with mobile and video capabilities
Marquette believes users will start taking advantage of the Skype for Business mobile app that includes video, audio, IM, and content viewing and will provide the flexibility that students and faculty need to get work done anywhere, anytime. While desktop clients have dominated traditionally, that is likely to change at Marquette as many students are heavy mobile users.
“We’re going to see a lot more people use mobile and tablet devices to access Skype for Business for presentations and videoconferences,” says Martinez.
Recently, the IT department has received more requests for video support. Because Skype for Business provides messaging, audio, and video apps from a single solution, Marquette can offer students and staff new ways to collaborate, both internally and with users outside of the university. “A lot of external users already use Skype, which makes the experience of joining our meetings a lot easier,” says Martinez.
Continued cost savings
As part of Marquette’s migration process, it moved its telephony system from a physical connection to a virtual connection through Session Initiating Protocol (SIP). By moving to a SIP connection, Marquette saved approximately $125,000. “Disabling the ports on the PBX system saves us money as we continue to move this project forward,” says Smith. To date Marquette has saved approximated $95,000 in PBX costs.
Marquette is meeting its commitment to provide cutting-edge communications tools to student and faculty, without making additional investments in its IT infrastructure. The university was able to utilize its existing hardware for its new communications solution. “Skype for Business doesn’t require different hardware than what we currently have,” says Martinez.