Energy & Utilities: A case study

The client in this case study is an investor-owned utility in the Midwest that supports more than 500,000 customers in 24 counties. It has a service territory of 6,000 square miles and more than 150 substations.

Modern, more efficient operations
Facing an upcoming office move, Aux Sable inventoried the IT systems and platforms used in its offices to assess their viability for use in the new space. From this evaluation, the company found inefficiencies in its current telephony solution, including overlapping systems, disparate platforms, and a lack of functionality due to the legacy nature of the systems. As a result, the platform:

  • Hindered the IT function’s ability to manage the platform
  • Increased overall operating costs
  • Limited communication effectiveness within and outside of the office

In addition, the systems’ basic calling functionality resulted in a patchwork of peripheral solutions for handling functions such as video conferencing.

Aux Sable’s upcoming office move presented a unique opportunity to evaluate its current telephony approach and determine whether to implement a more feature-rich, scalable, and cost-effective solution.

Business + technology expertise
For assistance with selecting and implementing a solution, Aux Sable turned to West Monroe Partners, which offered a unique blend of business and technology skills relevant to its needs, including:
  • Collaboration solutions
  • Experience with leading tools, including Microsoft Lync
  • Industry acumen, including extensive knowledge of energy operations

Greater collaboration at a lower cost
Aux Sable wanted a solution that would:

  • Allow employees to communicate and collaborate effectively across multiple locations in two countries
  • Incorporate its existing video conferencing infrastructure
  • Simplify enterprise support
  • Increase productivity and reduce costs while providing unified communications

A solution guided by best practices
West Monroe Partners established five best practices as guiding principles for defining the best telephony solution:

  • Ensure interoperability between the solution and existing systems
  • Ensure ease of use and functionality that will naturally increase employee collaboration
  • Increase availability and ensure maximum up-time
  • Adhere to compliance and regulatory requirements
  • Increase cost savings

These guiding principles enabled West Monroe Partners and Aux Sable to develop a short list of vendor solutions and, in the end, facilitated introduction of several key features within Aux Sable’s new enterprise telephony environment.

Rich functionality guides the selection
After reviewing various telephony solutions, Aux Sable, with West Monroe Partners’ assistance, selected and implemented Microsoft Lync. Having a single unified product with a rich array of features and functions was a key deciding factor in favor of Microsoft Lync over other solutions available on the market.

Interoperability. A key component of interoperability is conferencing through web, audio, and video. The solution enabled employees to conduct scheduled or ad-hoc conferences and to collaborate seamlessly regardless of physical location. West Monroe Partners integrated the system with Aux Sable’s existing Polycom Video Conferencing system, allowing employees to join meetings directly from their desks or remotely from the road.

Usability and collaboration. With departments spread between locations, employees need tools to work easily with teams and individuals in other areas. This required features such as:

  • Instant messing/presence: Aux Sable increased team productivity and team collaboration by adding the ability for employees to quickly determine if someone is available for an instant message conversation.
  • Unified messaging: The solution provided seamless integration between message types (e.g., voicemail and instant messaging conversation history).
  • Cross-enterprise extension dialing: Employees now have the ability to call each other by dialing just four or five digits, which saves time and increases productivity.

Compliance. To support compliance requirements and meet company guidelines, West Monroe Partners helped Aux Sable choose a solution that facilitated call recording for both incoming and outgoing calls.

Integration, simplification, and cost savings. With the move to a new telephony system, simplification and manageability were imperative. The solution fulfilled two key requirements by reducing the number of systems in place and leveraging existing administrator skills for management. In addition, Aux Sable reduced costs by:

Increasing WAN-based calling. Aux Sable significantly reduced the volume of telephone calls between independent systems across the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and, as a result, long-distance and international phone charges, through:
  • Least-cost routing: By implementing an integrated solution between its US and Canadian offices, Aux Sable was able to save significant costs on international long distance charges between the two countries, as calls between countries are routed on local gateways after traversing the corporate network.
  • On-network calling: Calls between employees in different locations can traverse the wide area network, thus significantly reducing domestic and international long-distance charges.

Reducing conferencing services costs. By leveraging built-in conference-calling capabilities, Aux Sable was able to eliminate its existing and expensive third-party conference calling solution.

Integrating the video conferencing system. To preserve its existing investment, Aux Sable integrated its existing video conferencing solution with its new telephony platform, creating economies of scale.

Goals achieved
By implementing Microsoft Lync, Aux Sable has increased productivity and enhanced employee collaboration while reducing overall complexity and eliminating third-party costs.