Gensler Case Study
Global architecture firm implements a Mitel UC solution across five continents for greater TCO
Seeking global unity
Gensler is headquartered in San Francisco, California, with 38 offices and 3,000 professionals across five continents. The firm needed to architect and unify communications throughout its growing organization.
Flexibility in a VoIP system
While Gensler’s business was booming, the firm was expanding into new geographies, new offices, and was making many phone changes and moves. Gensler was facing major system upgrade costs simply to expand to handle additional users. Then, when the global economic downturn forced Gensler to trim its workforce, Bruce Bartolf, principal and chief technology officer at Gensler, was left with many extra phones and a need for extensively flexible telephony.
“We needed to move toward a voice over IP (VoIP) platform that would be reliable, easy to manage, and allow for efficient communication, regardless of where and how we grow. A new solution would also need to integrate with Nortel at least for the remainder of that system’s life cycle, and we were very interested in superior voice quality, too,” says Bartolf.
He also wanted to ensure that his new VoIP solution would adhere to best practices such as simplicity while scaling up or down, and communications survivability regardless of network availability. Gensler initially selected another VoIP vendor to integrate and transition with the Nortel system, but there were many complexities involved in the deployment, creating delays that interrupted business operations.
In looking for an alternative, Bartolf created a “bake-off” between Mitel and two other vendors. “PacketFusion was able to install Mitel and run a complete UC solution, including integration into the existing Nortel in less than two hours. The other vendors took seven to ten days just to set up their test systems,” he continues.
Mitel designs a modern VoIP system
Gensler selected a Mitel UC solution to deploy across its organization, based on Mitel IP Phones, Mitel Communicator, and Mitel Voice Switches. The initial focus was integration with the existing Nortel gear at offices struggling with growth and integration with Avaya systems already in place. Mitel was first installed in the New York and Chicago offices, where systems were integrated.
“Since then, we methodically deployed Mitel across the U.S. and across the globe until it completely replaced our Nortel and Avaya deployment. The great story here is that we gained a phenomenally easy-to-manage, feature-rich VoIP system that is less expensive to operate and scale, which really helps during economic downturns and upturns as well,” says Bartolf.
The Mitel UC Solution today comprises more than 3,400 IP Phones, and the entire worldwide system is standardized on three voice switches. Mitel Communicator adds universal simplicity for sharing information and streamlining workflows, from Gensler desktops, mobile devices, and any phone connected to the network.
As part of this advanced UC implementation, Mitel is providing unified messaging and fostering real-time collaboration. The Mitel UC system is fully integrated with voicemail, email, and calendars, including Microsoft Outlook—all through a single interface.
“From London and Doha, to China and Japan, and from North America to Costa Rica and Thailand, we literally have this affordable, simple, and reliable communi-cations platform that is night and day from our previous solutions,” Bartolf adds.
“WE NEEDED TO MOVE TOWARD A VOICE OVER IP (VOIP) PLATFORM THAT WOULD BE RELIABLE, EASY TO MANAGE, AND ALLOW FOR EFFICIENT COMMUNICATION, REGARDLESS OF WHERE AND HOW WE GROW.”
Bruce Bartolf, Principal and CTO
Advanced architecture and simple, clean lines
Mitel’s innovative communications platform facilitates extensive simplification, enabling Bartolf to trim the time and resources. “We used to have four staffers to handle phone-related tasks. Now with Mitel, we have less than a fulltime dedicated position, a total of two full-time employees working part-time to manage the entire system, and we’re still able to do all our own installs and all the moves/adds/changes for each office,” says Bartolf.
Mitel’s fully distributed architecture allows Gensler to easily scale up or down to accommodate business needs while providing automatic failover and redundancy for greater availability of phone systems. “The fact that our Mitel platform is not tied into the network like other call manager servers is critical to a better survivability rate. With Mitel, we can distribute among regions, we can control the setup, and we have the failover, the simplicity, and the functionality. Not too long ago, we reallocated underutilized Mitel equipment to replace a legacy NEC PBX in Los Angeles,” he adds. “We wound up replacing the NEC with Mitel for less than the cost of maintaining it for a year.”
Another Mitel feature Bartolf mentions is leastcost routing, the process of selecting the path of outbound communications traffic based on cost. Mitel uses automated, policy-based network selection and least-cost routing to help reduce costly cellular charges for global enterprises with multiple points-of-presence, such as Gensler. Calls are instead routed through VoIP and Wi-Fi to the closest access number, for an order-ofmagnitude savings.
Building an enduring foundation for savings
Gensler is one of the more sophisticated Mitel implementations, yet simplicity and savings continue as the firm morphs and grows. “We are looking forward to some of the advanced things that Mitel is planning, such as ubiquity of integrations and mobile technologies. Whether people are on SIP, cell phones, Skype, or home analog lines—Mitel facilitates the ability to control it all through one system, one intuitive platform,” Bartolf says.
Bartolf credits the Mitel implementation with helping Gensler to eliminate 70 percent of its maintenance costs and saving headcount expenses. Gensler has just celebrated its final PBX replacement in Shanghai, China for a complete Mitel implementation.
“SHORETEL IS FOCUSED ON END USER INTERFACE AND OPERATIONAL SIMPLICITY. THE SOLUTION IS LESS EXPENSIVE TO MANAGE, EASY TO INSTALL, AND SIMPLE TO USE. IT’S ABOUT TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP. I’M A FAN OF GETTING TECHNOLOGY THAT WORKS. THAT, QUITE SIMPLY, IS SHORETEL.”
“Mitel is focused on end user interface and operational simplicity. The solution is less expensive to manage, easy to install, and simple to use. It’s about total cost of ownership. I’m a fan of getting technology that works. That, quite simply, is Mitel,” he concludes.
Gensler needed to architect a unified communications strategy that could integrate and scale with the firm’s rapid business expansion while trimming complexity and lowering the total cost of ownership.
Mitel integrated with existing Nortel systems, and eventually became the primary VoIP provider for all Gensler locations. The solution included 3,400 Mitel IP Phones across 38 sites worldwide and Mitel Communicator.
- 80 percent reduction in IT management time
- Easily scalable and highly available
- Single-image phone system
- 70 percent reduction in maintenance costs