VoIP At Getronics: A Case Study in Success
Getronics is an international
information communications and technology company with offices in 30
countries. The company has rolled out VoIP services to over 8,000 employees
in 15 countries. Starting with a pilot, the rollout has been extended to
administration, sales, and direct customer support including help desk
services that are at the core of the companyï¿½s offerings.
The internal VoIP deployment
helped us better understand the challenges our customers would face when
they move to VoIP. This paper will give an overview of the Getronics VoIP
installation, examine one site in more detail and give some tips for
companies that are considering a shift to VoIP.
Getronics is typical of many large U.S. and international organizations. It
has several regional sales and service offices, as well as country-level
headquarters throughout the world. We looked at VoIP as a way to leverage
our existing infrastructure, eliminate redundant telephony networks, reduce
cost and complexity, and make us more flexible in serving our clients.
As a service company with a major field force Getronics takes full advantage
of many VoIP features. For instance, VoIP unified messaging lets our field
force see all of their messages at once. They can respond to e-mail from
their cell phones and access and answer phone messages from their laptops.
This feature alone is a tremendous productivity enhancement for us.
The VoIP system was built onto a robust data network. Getronics has a
Cisco-based network that connects 600+ sites and includes over 800 Microsoft
Windows servers. The network also includes over 1,000 customers that connect
via the Internet. All told, the networkï¿½s two major data centers support
28,000 networked PCs in 450 cities.
Internally, we deployed over 8,000 VoIP phones in +50 locations and expect
to use only IP telephones by the end of 2005. Weï¿½ve seen a substantial ROI.
We saved $50,000 in cabling costs alone at our U.S. headquarters building
and save $100,000 per year in moves, adds, and changes (MACs) in our two
major Massachusetts facilities.
Getronics was an early adopter. We wanted to work with the technology so
that we would have the experience when our customers were ready to move to
the new technology. It proved to be a good strategy since we are now seeing
significant market growth. Also, the technology has advanced. Previously,
Ciscoï¿½s CallManagers supported only 150 users. Today, CallManagers support
thousands, which simplifies deployment and drives down costs.
At the outset, the deployment was affected by bandwidth costs, which were
quite high in Europe. Now, it is cost effective in more geographies so we
expect to convert virtually every IP phone in our European operations, about
6,000 units, by the fourth quarter of this year.
Also affecting the rollout is finances. Like other companies, we wanted to
retire our PBX equipment when it was near or at the end of its depreciation
schedule. This meant that we deployed the new technology as it made both
financial and technical sense.
New Office Deployment Saves
Letï¿½s take a look at one specific office. It was a new facility in the U.S.
that we were provisioning in early 2003. The ï¿½greenfieldï¿½ site would have 70
Based on our review, we
determined that the company would benefit in the following areas:
ï¿½ Reduced cost for network infrastructure.
ï¿½ Reduced initial costs.
ï¿½ Reduced operating costs.
ï¿½ Reduced telephony charges for local and long distance.
The equipment consisted of a Cisco C2620 Router with T1/DSU WIC and 70 Cisco
Model 7960 phones. We also determined that we would have to add two Cisco
Catalyst 3548 Switches with uplink modes and cabling with inline power to
the phone units.
First, we looked at our initial non-recurring costs ï¿½ essentially equipment
and installation labor. We found that separate PBX and data networks would
cost a little over $200,000 while a converged network would run about
$115,000. This is a savings in the 40ï¿½50 percent range. The primary costs
for the converged network were in switches and other equipment, while the
savings were in wiring and installation costs and, obviously, the
elimination of the PBX.
The operating costs showed similar savings with $55,000 in annual costs for
the converged network, while the separate PBX and data networks would cost
$96,000. This 43 percent savings comes primarily from reduced maintenance
and software support and a reduction in MAC costs, as well as $11,700 in
telco message unit cost savings.
Depending on the business activities, the savings in tariff costs can be
even more significant. For instance, one of our call centers saves
$35,000/month ï¿½ over $400,000/year ï¿½ by compressing the voice traffic and
routing it over the data network.
The result at the new facility is
a cost-effective phone network that provides the same or better Quality of
Service (QoS) that our employees have come to expect from previous phone
This is a relatively simple example since it was a ï¿½greenfieldï¿½ site. For
existing facilities, we often run phased VoIP introductions. The phased
approach has the advantage of gradually moving capacity to the data network
and giving you the opportunity to evaluate each increment before bringing
the next group of users onto the network.
At Getronics, weï¿½ve learned a lot as weï¿½ve moved through our various
deployments. These lessons are valuable, not only to us, but also for our
customers as we help them implement VoIP:
Organization: Companies usually have separate telecommunications and
information technology departments. At Getronics, weï¿½ve combined the
departments; I am Director, Global Information Systems Networks, which
includes both data and voice communications. Organizations have to bring the
technology and the skill sets together through either converged
reorganizations or task teams. The goal is to arrive at a common language
and a single set of goals that bring the two worlds together.
Other teams: Donï¿½t forget to involve other teams, such as the ones
that control the Active Directory and the messaging infrastructure. Strong
relationships among all infrastructure teams are essential.
Small details: Small details do count. They may be even more
important in a converged network since it is a more diversified environment
with more equipment between the phones and the call manager. By properly
planning and implementing the correct switches and routers, you can assure
high QoS and reduce maintenance issues in the future.
Donï¿½t take shortcuts: Always follow best practices deployment
guidelines. Shortcuts will inevitably cause issues down the road. They can
be expensive and dangerous because quality will suffer. Remember, the
objective is to offer a QoS level that is equal to, or better than, the
Network infrastructure: Perform due diligence; conduct the traffic
studies; evaluate the existing network. With todayï¿½s compression technology
the data lines generally are not the bottleneck unless they are already
congested, in which case you should be looking at an upgrade anyway. Focus
on the network equipment, such as routers and switches. For instance, newer
switches include inline power which is the way to go for VoIP. Also, people
tend to concentrate on the condition of the wide-area network (WAN). You
should closely examine the condition of each local-area network (LAN) since
LANs are sometimes in worse shape than the WAN.
Treat your pilots like the real thing: Pilots must have the same
standards as the planned deployment because they often become, by default,
the production environment. Pilots are seldom uninstalled. Instead, they
tend to be expanded to larger groups. This means that all of the shortcuts
will catch up with you later when system reliability must be maintained.
Implement a full set of services: Deploy in relatively small blocks
of users, perhaps a department or other natural work group, but give them
equal or better features than they already have with the POTS. Make sure
that their initial experience with the new system is positive. A phased
deployment gives you the opportunity to better control the experience.
Monitor and adjust networks and switches to maintain QoS as other groups are
brought onto the converged network.
Donï¿½t overwhelm users: Make sure that employee groups get what they need but
donï¿½t give them a complicated set of unnecessary extra features. An
administrative unit will not need the same features as a call center. By
limiting features you can reduce complexity and control costs.
Evaluate the costs: For ï¿½greenfieldï¿½ situations, converged networks
are the way to go. For existing installations, you have to take a hard look
at cost/savings projections, looking at equipment leases and depreciation
costs. VoIP may not be right for every situation. Look at your calling
patterns and data line utilization to evaluate what the effect of adding
voice will be to your overall network operations. The cost equation includes
equipment and infrastructure investments, ongoing support and operational
costs, as well as tariff charges. By examining all of these factors, you can
develop a valid projection of cost savings.
At Getronics we are clearly committed to VoIP, both for internal use and for
our customers. Our business, with distributed offices, call centers and
field service technicians, requires a flexible, cost effective
communications environment. Weï¿½ve broken new ground with our VoIP rollout
and we are well on our way to becoming one of the first companies in the
world with a total VoIP telephony system.
Romolo Pallini is IPS
Director, Global Information Systems Networks for Getronics. Getronics is
one of the worldï¿½s leading providers of vendor independent Information and
Communication Technology (ICT) solutions and services. For more information,
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