London-headquartered HLM Architects is a multi-award-winning, multi-disciplinary International Architectural practice with studios in London, Sheffield, Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester and the UAE.
Named as a top 10 UK employer by the Building Good Employer Guide 2018, HLM offers a broad range of architectural and design services to public and private sector clients, both nationally and internationally.
HLM’s decision to upgrade its existing telephony software and infrastructure was driven by a range of factors.
The firm’s on-premise Avaya IP Office platform had reached end-of-life and was running across ISDN 30 lines which, as well as attracting high lease costs, were no longer future-proof.
These unavoidable realities meant change was a necessity rather than a luxury. However, the firm also saw an opportunity to introduce next generation technology which would better suit its own working practices.
… I’ve never viewed Pennine as a supplier but as a partner. There’s a value and honesty in the relationship
MARCUS EARNSHAW, IT DIRECTOR, REICH INSURANCE, HLM ARCHITECTS
“We had a system that was very much reliant on our office buildings. It was very fixed, difficult to adapt and move.” explains HLM’s IT Director, Marcus Earnshaw. “We were finding that we were increasingly working in different environments and flexible working spaces and needed a system that would match that.”
Earnshaw was also keen to further strengthen resilience across the network to support the firm’s business continuity plan.
“We’d had IP Office for nine or ten years and were aware we needed to do something slightly different with our ‘phones. We were looking at what we do and how we do it to establish if there was a smarter way to give us financial and efficiency benefits, but without a massive upfront cost.”
Earnshaw firstly recognised that HLM staff were confident and comfortable with Avaya IP Office which delivered strong functionality and benefits. “IP Office allowed us to stick with what we knew, so that on day one after installation our users would be familiar with it, whilst enabling us to build functionality over time.”
Secondly, rather than simultaneously introducing it across HLM’s five core UK studios, he wanted to roll-out the new solution. “Phasing it would give us a more hands-on approach, maintaining our level of involvement and allowing our IT team to be available across all sites,” he explains.
Having reviewed HLM’s existing provision and considered the firm’s desire for a more flexible and resilient solution, Pennine recommended the firm upgrade to Avaya’s IP Office Server Edition.
This powerful platform is hosted at Pennine’s data centre which is a ‘tier four’ facility. This means it is specifically designed to host mission critical applications, with dual resilience delivered via duplicate hardware and failover established on a hybrid cloud.
IP Office was not only already familiar to and appreciated by the 160 staff using it across HLM’s studios, it offered appealing flexibility and scalability.
“We looked at other platforms with one ticking a lot of the boxes, but it was being sold to us in a much more complex way,” says Earnshaw. “We have a very simple view of telephony in that we want people to be able to sit at a desk, wherever that desk may be, and be able to pick up a ‘phone and make a call. We don’t want the ‘phone itself to become part of the main hub of the day.”
To further support HLM’s flexible and remote working practices, Pennine recommended supplementing IP Office with Avaya’s Equinox Experience, the vendor’s unified communications and collaboration user interface and cloud service.
Dispensing with costly and outmoded ISDN lines in favour of SIP trunks running across HLM’s existing wide area network, would also deliver greater flexibility whilst significantly reducing telephony charges.
… I would recommend Pennine all day long
MARCUS EARNSHAW, IT DIRECTOR, REICH INSURANCE, HLM ARCHITECTS
For Earnshaw Pennine was a known and proven supplier. His history with the data and telecommunications specialist stretched back many years giving him confidence in their advice, expertise and service capabilities.
“We’ve been with Pennine a long time,” he confirms. “We liked that they didn’t have their sights set on being the biggest in the world but actually being very good at what they do.
“I’ve never viewed Pennine as a supplier but as a partner. There’s a value and honesty in the relationship.”
His decision to stick with the company was vindicated with pre-planning and consultation seeing a particularly smooth, phased implementation of a highly effective and cost saving solution.
“The upgrade was managed really well. As ever it was very easy to deal with Pennine in terms of managing the rollout, because of the personal service. We never felt like their guys would just come in, do it and walk away.
“We’ve got a small technology team, we all get our hands dirty and it’s important we understand all the bits and pieces we work on and use. Pennine’s engineers came in with the view that they would almost talk us through doing it, but be here for us. A differently structured organisation might simply have said that the install would be on this day, do it, explain how it works and then walk away. That’s not the approach we wanted.”
So with the solution installed, how is HLM benefiting?
The standard telephony offer is used by the majority of the firm’s staff, utilising Avaya’s 9608G handsets that offer simple log in using a personal extension number rather than user and password combination.
Around a quarter of HLM staff are also now making use of the Equinox software, enabling them to communicate via desktop, mobile or laptop devices, share desktops and benefit from licence-free audio and video conferencing.
It’s a perfect fit for HLM’s modern day working practices and, says Earnshaw is “absolutely making us more productive.”
Financially it’s also something of a dream. Pennine’s solution is based on a monthly fee operational expenditure – OpEx – model which removed the need for significant capital investment.
Removal of ISDN leases and the introduction of a supremely competitive call package also leveraged significant reductions in operational expenditure itself. These easily breach £5,000 per annum.
“If I present to our financial director that I can get a new telephone system which is going to save us £5,000-£6,000 a year and cost us nothing tomorrow, it’s a no-brainer!” enthuses Earnshaw.
Given the smooth implementation, functionality, productivity and financial benefits of this solution it’s perhaps no surprise that Earnshaw remains a Pennine fan.
“I would recommend Pennine all day long,” he concludes.