news Australian accounting and advisory firm Pitcher Partners has announced the replacement of desk telephones with Skype for Business, alongside the implementation of VPN-like service Microsoft DirectAccess.
The move is aimed to provide greater mobility, as well as simplify the user experience and consolidate the firm’s providers, according to Bradley Kay, Pitcher’s CIO.
“All partners and staff now using Skype for Business,” said Kay. “No-one has a handset anymore and we’re receiving proactive feedback from staff that they’re able to work from home and client sites in a way that was never possible before.
“We have partners travelling interstate or internationally all the time and now we have them running solely off their mobile devices. They’re infinitely more productive.” he said.
According to Pitcher, client-facing staff working in remote locations across Australia were previously “disconnected” from each other, from events in the office and the company culture.
After making the decision to try and to view its own IT services from the perspective of both clients and staff, Pitcher Partners decided to “simplify” the corporate IT experience.
Furthermore, ensuring staff have the “tools and information they need to be productive”, wherever they happen to be, means the firm is more likely to “bring the best to our clients”, said Kay.
“We set about developing a culture of collaboration and innovation and started by adopting the mindset that ‘we’re not in the business of running IT, we’re in the business of empowering people’, the CIO said.
Earlier in the process, Kay had to overcome fears that a solution like Skype for Business wouldn’t work or would be “too big and too complex” to undertake.
“Surprisingly those fears were unfounded,” he said. “Although it was important to do our homework, for example understand the key elements of our environment that would lead to success, like making the right choices with equipment and the robustness of the network.”
Pitcher moved from pilot to small groups initially, and expanded the new service in stages. Although having two phone systems working concurrently created “some complexity”, the strategy helped the firm identify and resolve technical challenges early on, without disruption to the business, Kay said.
From pilot stage to completion, the implementation of Skype for Business across the company – carried out in partnership with Qtec Systems – took around four months.
“It was a big jump for a lot of the partners, not having a desk phone, so it took some change management on our part,” said Harry Tsockallos, Head of PMO and IT Operations at the firm. “Once they were able to use it, and realised the ease in doing so, the feedback has been great.”
Additional benefits arising from the move to Skype for Business has been a reduction in telephone and hosting charges, as well as a decline in the volume of emails, the firm said.
Kay commented: “[W]ith the mobility we have now we don’t force people to be physically in the office in order to collaborate, which practically translates into reduced need to travel back from client sites, reduced wasted time local travel costs and more time with our clients.”
The move to DirectAccess has also been of benefit to the company, he said.
The Microsoft product is a VPN-like technology that connects staff computers to the company’s digital assets, automatically connecting when they access the web.
“For such a small change, there has been such a huge impact on our firm,” said Kay.