University of West England deploys Microsoft Lync to boost productivity

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The University of West England (UWE) has deployed Microsoft Lync to boost staff and student productivity as part of its £10m plans to overhaul its IT infrastructure.


The university has partnered with a consortium of partners that includes HP, Microsoft, video conferencing provider Polycom and electrical systems provider Schneider, for its IT transformation project.

Steve Grive, IT director at UWE told Computing that one of the key introductions to its transformation project was unified communications.

"One of the key things we wanted to introduce was unified communication and collaboration tools because we found that we needed the infrastructure to be able to collaborate in meetings and in other situations.

"From our perspective, the Microsoft suite which included SharePoint 2010 and the Lync Server 2010, seemed to offer us a functionality that we wanted and also built on the Microsoft products that the university already had," he said.

Grive said that UWE completed a BETA trial of Microsoft Lync at the end of 2010 and then started implementation of Lync last summer.

"We wanted to use the desk video conferencing and the voice telephony side of things because like many other large organisations we have a mixture of telephony platforms.

"We still have a Siemens PBX which is coming to the end of its life in 2016 so we knew we had to do something with our analogue technology. We already started to replace it with voice over internet protocol (VoIP) from Alcatel Lucent but because UWE uses a lot of Microsoft software, Lync made the most sense," he said.

Grive said that the university has now implemented several hundred Lync handsets and staff can now choose to use Polycom CX600 IP desktop phones, Polycom CX300 handsets or HP notebooks which are all optimised to work with the Lync Server.

He said that getting Lync live took three months but that the university hasn't completely changed its telephony systems because it would be too costly and so there is still a reliance on old technology.

"The long-term solution is to migrate over time to Lync, and there is some potential to simplify telephony infrastructure. This will help us reduce costs by eliminating the use of other products over time," he said.

According to Grive, Lync will boost the productivity of staff and of students in the university.

"The rollout of these technologies means that staff can access desk video conferencing and online meetings which can boost the staff productivity. In addition it can allow students to have meetings with their tutor online instead of walking between one of our four campuses," he said.

He said that the biggest challenge for the university was for staff to change from an analogue phone to some form of unified communications.

"It's a very cultural change, it is very straight forward but it is different," he said.

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