Global association switches to cloud phone service to support flexibility, reduce costs

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Case Study: IPC

Global association switches to cloud phone service to support flexibility, reduce costs

As written on customers.microsoft.com
As an industry association supported by member companies, IPC must operate in an efficient and cost-effective way. To lower global real estate costs, IPC encourages employees to work from home and decided to deploy Microsoft Office 365 to support this new model. IPC employees can use new features in Skype for Business Online to more easily work remotely and join meetings from anywhere, while IPC has reduced real estate costs by 60 percent and phone costs by US$10,000 a year.

New work model blocked by phones

Since 1957, IPC—Association Connecting Electronics Industries—has been guiding the electronic interconnection industry through dramatic changes. A global industry association dedicated to the competitive excellence and financial success of its more than 3,700 member companies, IPC represents all facets of the industry, including design, printed circuit board manufacturing, and electronics assembly and test.
IPC primarily guides the companies in the US$2 trillion global electronics industry in setting standards but also provides training, market research, and public policy advocacy. With global headquarters in Bannockburn, Illinois, IPC maintains 12 additional offices around the world and employs 150 people.
To operate as cost-effectively as possible, IPC set out to reduce its global office footprint and began encouraging employees to work from home. In its Bannockburn headquarters, the organization downsized a 24,000-square-foot space to an 8,000-square-foot space and moved to a hoteling model in which permanent offices were replaced with shared temporary spaces.
To make this model work, however, IPC needed a more flexible phone system that would allow employees to make and receive calls from home. The company’s existing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system did not work for many employees because their home Internet service providers blocked the calls. Employees resorted to using personal landline and cell phones, which was not optimal.
In 2014, to give employees easier, anywhere access to documents and to increase email messaging reliability, IPC replaced its on-premises email messaging system and desktop Microsoft Office licenses with Microsoft Office 365. Office 365 is a cloud-based productivity suite that includes familiar Office applications for email, document storage, document sharing, instant messaging, audio and video calls, and more.
While many daily work functions were now integrated and easier to use, phone calls and meetings were still outside of this unified experience. IPC used Citrix software for audio and video calls, which meant the company had additional desktop tools to learn and support. “One of the Citrix conferencing products limited meeting attendance to 25 people, so our employees that held standards meetings with our members would send out an invite to 50 people but warn them that only the first 25 people could join,” says Habib Bilfaqi, Network Manager at IPC.

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“Skype for Business Online is really helping us downsize our global real estate needs.”

Habib Bilfaqui, IPC, Network Manager

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Bigger, more streamlined meetings

In late 2015, IPC upgraded to a premium version of Skype for Business Online (part of Office 365) that helped address all of these problems and others. IPC uses Skype for Business Cloud PBX to provide software-based private branch exchange (PBX) functionality. It uses PSTN Calling to provide employees with a primary phone number in Skype for Business Online for VoIP calls and PSTN Conferencing to let employees join a Skype for Business Online meeting by dialing in over a landline or mobile phone.
Bilfaqi offered classes to teach employees about the new features, but migration from the Citrix products to Skype for Business Online was quick and painless. “We rely heavily on PSTN Conferencing, which is easier to use and accommodates more meeting attendees than other meeting solutions,” Bilfaqi says.
With PSTN Conferencing, IPC employees can host meetings with up to 250 attendees and share content with all. Plus, the meeting organizer does not have to be on the call to start the meeting but can authorize another attendee to start the meeting. “We no longer have to paste call-in numbers into our Skype for Business Online invites, and it makes us look far more professional to our members to not have to cap meeting attendance,” Bilfaqi says. “We also don’t have to worry about costs; we pay a flat fee for unlimited domestic meeting minutes.”

Helpful phone features

By using PSTN Calling, IPC has been able to simplify internal calls. Previously, every employee had a four-digit extension used to call one another internally. However, these extensions were hard to remember. Today, employees simply find a colleague’s name in their Outlook address book or start typing the name and have Outlook find the person. “With PSTN Calling, we don’t have to distribute phone lists anymore, and the call quality is amazing,” Bilfaqi says.
IPC uses another PSTN Calling feature to speed and track help-desk response. It has put all help-desk team members in a Skype for Business team-call group, which is a team of people who answer the same calls. When a team member picks up the phone, the other phones stop ringing and all team members are notified who picked up the call. “It’s really helpful to know not only that someone picked up the call but who picked it up,” Bilfaqi says.

Remote flexibility that finally works

By switching to Skype for Business Online for voice and meetings, IPC has finally been able to move ahead on its “work from home” policy. In fact, all 100 US staff members now work from home at least two days a week.
Skype for Business Cloud PBX has a unique communications port that helped IPC employees overcome the port-blocking issues with previous VoIP solutions that hampered work-from-home efforts. “Skype for Business Online is really helping us downsize our global real-estate needs by around 60 percent,” says Bilfaqi.
Bilfaqi estimates that IPC will net an additional $10,000 a year by eliminating Citrix licensing, its old phone system, phone lines, and phone system maintenance costs. “As an industry organization, it’s important that we demonstrate fiscal responsibility to our members,” Bilfaqi says. “By using Skype for Business Online, we are working more efficiently and cost-effectively than ever before.”

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