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The best tech companies don’t just sell the latest technology. They also use it. That’s the case at Mattersight, a Chicago-based behavioral analytics company that transitioned to Microsoft Lync for unified communications in 2013.
CIO Jeff Geltz says the decision to go with Lync was based on economics, Lync’s collaboration benefits and sheer timing.
“We knew that the lease was ending on our unified communications equipment in March 2013, so the decision before us was to replace those components or go with something different,” Geltz explains. “The capabilities of Lync far exceeded anything that was out there on the market, especially for the price.”
Replacing Mattersight’s old gear would have required an investment well into six figures. Instead, for one-third the cost, or roughly $80,000, the company switched to Lync.
Geltz was skeptical that Mattersight could achieve such dramatic cost savings with Lync. To clarify, he asked CDW to send over a system architect.
CDW Technical Specialist Andrew Hunkins says the Mattersight team was very knowledgeable and had high expectations.
“It was great that we could show them that level of expertise,” Hunkins says. “They are a consulting organization, so being able to collaborate and escalate calls to a video session is critical to their business.”
Most of the savings Mattersight has seen are from reduced licensing costs. In addition, Lync can be set up on IBM servers that are far less expensive than other UC systems.
Cost savings are important, but what really sold Geltz and his crew on Microsoft Lync was the way it lets employees — in locations as disparate as the company’s Chicago headquarters, its data center in Edina, Minn., and its development location in Austin, Texas — work collaboratively.
With the presence function of Lync, employees always know if someone is available, even a worker in a remote office. And each employee has a picture associated with all communications.
Greg Marciciak, Mattersight’s service desk manager, says employees can now attach files through the chat feature in Lync, which means the company no longer ties up its email system for its communications. Unlike with email, where attachments must be limited in size, employees can send any size files via chat. Lync also has video apps, as well as a feature that turns speech into text.
“People can set up chats in a matter of seconds, and because Lync integrates with Microsoft Exchange, they can easily drag people into a conference call from the address book. It’s now much easier to set up a quick call,” Marciciak says.
“And from a support perspective,” he adds, “it’s made my life easier because I can take over an employee’s desktop and troubleshoot a problem.”
Kevin Mattakat, a senior network engineer, also has high praise for Lync.
“I can IM my support engineers in a couple of clicks,” he says. “The functionality is awesome, and it improves our productivity.”
Lync also boosts network awareness, Mattakat says, noting that the service’s real-time monitoring delivers information on the audio quality of each call.
Before Lync, the IT staff had to manage a separate server for the voicemail-in-email feature. Now, all of that is integrated within Lync. Meetings and webinars can be set up in Lync without the need for separate user names, passwords and special plug-ins.
In fact, CDW integrated many of the features Mattersight used with its previous UC system into the Lync environment.
Jeremy Silber, a senior Microsoft consultant at CDW, says among the features Mattersight wanted in its Lync environment were high availability (in case of outages), integration with Microsoft Office applications (for presence information) and mobile access to Lync via notebooks and cellphones. “The mobility piece for remote users was huge for Mattersight,” Silber says.
“There’s no question that Lync makes the staff more efficient,” says Scott Cotter, Mattersight’s vice president of marketing. “It lets us share information and collaborate more easily. The video feature is also a big help. Our vice president of channels, responsible for nurturing relationships with our partners, uses the video feature. He feels it is important for keeping the teams connected.”
Mattersight employed a clear strategy when it rolled out Lync. After piloting the technology late in 2012, Molly Joyce, the client lead on the company’s training and adoption team, set up a series of more than 10 Lync training sessions.
The trainers started by explaining that Lync was integrating three main systems: meeting setups, instant messaging and telephones. “At first, not having a desk phone was hard for people to figure out, but when we explained it to them and they got a chance to use the headsets, they realized that they are really very simple.” she says.
After the basic introduction, Joyce showed users how, in a matter of seconds, they could collaborate via IM, set up groups and meetings, share documents or use a whiteboard — all within the system’s chat function.
Joyce says one factor that helped with the rollout was that nearly 90 percent of the staff received new Lenovo notebooks (either T530 or X230 models) with Microsoft Lync installed. Setup time was minimal, she says, and the trainers were able to focus on familiarizing users with the basic features and benefits of the system.
“It really helped that we’re a tech company,” Joyce says. “Many of the people on the staff are young and are very receptive to using new technology. It’s why they came to work for Mattersight in the first place. For some of our older employees or those who had a hard time making the transition to a softphone, we set up one-on-one sessions. But most everyone adjusted to the technology very naturally.”