The Commonwealth Bank of Australia has revealed it recently deployed the 2010 version of Microsoft’s Lync unified communications server to some 32,000 staff across its operations, in one of the largest known roll-outs of the newly integrated and re-branded technology in Australia so far.
Jetstar chief information officer Stephen Tame caused provoked discussion amongst Australian technologists in November last year when he revealed the airline had largely eschewed rolling out physical handsets on desks when it refurbished its telecommunications environment — choosing instead to focus on providing headsets so that staff could place most of their calls through their PC.
In a video case study published by Microsoft recently, a number of CommBank staff are seen taking a similar approach — using the desktop videoconferencing, instant messaging and unified communications features of Lync to communicate, instead of picking up their desk phone.
The bank’s head of workplace technologies Mark Griffith said in the video that the bank’s Lync deployment saw the fastest take-up of any product it had ever deployed to staff. “What we found when it got it out there was that it spread like wildfire,” he said. “It was just intuitive and they picked it up. 60 percent of people were using it within 24 hours of that tool landing on their desktop. We put it across 32,000 people in a couple of weeks.”
The bank’s general manager of mortgage services, Ian Harrison, whose division appears to be using Lync extensively, said training around the software had been “pretty much self-driven”, with employees discovering it fairly quickly.
The comments echo Tame’s sentiments last year. At the time, the CIO noted that many of his staff were already using unified communications extensively within the company — albeit informally, through the free Google Talk application.
Griffith said the bank had also been able to use Lync to communicate externally by federating with its partners. And the rollout was facilitating customer service outcomes, with staff being able to get information more quickly from colleagues who they could see were online in Lync — quickly instant messaging them for help while still remaining on their customer call. “Historically we’d have to put them on hold, or we’d have to tell them we’d get back to them,” said Griffith.
In the Microsoft-produced video, bank executives emphasised the ease of rollout of the technology. “The bank’s got one platform which we run all of our applications on,” said Griffith. “Putting Lync into that platform, it just worked. We were able to link it with Office, with SharePoint, with our .NET applications, we were able to use that presence across all of those applications, to be able to allow our people to collaborate on whatever piece of work they’re working on at any time.”
It’s not the first time CommBank has been a relatively early adopter of the latest Microsoft technologies. In September 2008 the bank became one of the first major Australian organisations known to have deployed Office 2007, with Griffith again being the bank’s public spokesperson to reveal the rollout.
In the video, it appeared that the bank was using Microsoft’s own HD cameras to facilitate desktop videoconferencing, with some HP PCs in shot, as well as what appeared to be some Lenovo ThinkPad laptops. Most staff were using Windows XP, but it appeared that some were using Windows 7, the latest version of Microsoft’s desktop operating system.
Lync was also having some unexpected benefits for certain members of the bank’s workforce. “We have a hearing-impaired person within Mortgage Services who has discovered that she can actually lip read via the technology,” said Harrison. “It’s no longer that she’s hindered … and just having to do things via email — she can actually bring up people’s image on screen and also share information.”
“So that’s something we hadn’t quite expected.”