Managed network services provider and Unify Master Partner Telent has put its channel relationship to work within its business after adopting Unify’s unified communications platform, Circuit, internally.
Formerly the services arm of Marconi, Telent adopted its current branding – a portmanteau of telecoms and enterprise – in 2006 after Ericsson acquired the rest of the Marconi business.
It now has around 1,715 people in the UK, and roughly 1,000 of those are mobile engineers out in the field day-to-day.
The firm has four separate divisions: a joint venture with construction giant Carillion to service the BT Openreach fibre broadband roll-out; a rail unit looking after major contracts with Network Rail and providing some networking managed services for London Underground; a network service provider support unit that works extensively with mobile networks such as EE and Vodafone, and comms services providers such as Sky and Virgin Media; and a technical services unit which faces blue light customers in support of Airwave.
Besides its Unify certification, Telent currently holds Cisco Gold and Juniper Elite channel partner certifications.
However, in spite of its key relationships with a large number of the UK’s critical networks, its internal communications processes had been left untouched for some time, according to Telent account director Mike Barlow.
“Embarrassingly,” he says, “we started to see a number of issues where our own technology simply wasn’t in the same shape as what we were providing to customers.”
The biggest piece of the communications jigsaw, and the one that led Telent to consider adopting Unify Circuit – known until its launch in 2014 as Project Ansible – was a need to communicate better within Telent’s bid management and sales teams.
“We had a need to drive efficiencies in sales and bid management when we were running high-end public sector bids where there is lots of documentation and complexity around bid management, finances and so on,” explains Barlow.
“Our perception is that the public sector market is picking up at the minute and so we were looking for a smarter way of working. We found there were often many people working across many departments and we found it increasingly difficult to get people in the same room.”
From Ansible to Circuit
Taking its beta name from a fictional communications device in the novels of Ursula K Le Guin, Ansible was launched to the world in autumn 2014 as Circuit. Note that it is not related to the open-source configuration management and orchestration engine of the same name.
Read more about Unify Circuit
- Industry experts say Unify UCC service Circuit has yet to deliver the promised groundbreaking features
A software-as-a-service unified comms application, Circuit was two years in the making, and comprises a single-pane-of-glass platform incorporating voice, video, instant messaging, screen and file sharing.
Key features of the system include the possibility to collaborate in a preferred – as opposed to prescribed – fashion, alongside contextual search, storage and history that offers instant access to files and conversations.
It is also one of the first unified communications and collaboration software options to use web real-time communications (WebRTC) standards, offering higher quality video and voice.
Unify believes that by storing and managing information using criteria such as previous associations and collaboration, it can remove a tedious burden from users and more effectively enable remote working and collaboration.
Circuit also includes a number of social networking features, and according to Barlow, it was a customer complaining about the difficulty of attracting and retaining social network-savvy employees that led Telent to consider Unify itself.
What finally drove the deployment through was a network services bid for the Crown Commercial Service on the Public Services Network.
Bidding across a number of lots on a government contract meant that Telent needed to keep to strict deadlines, and when one key employee went away for a few weeks on paternity leave, Circuit came into its own, explains Barlow.
“His cover could instantly see the contracts, the decisions we had already taken and the progress we were making,” he says. “So when he stepped in we could continue to drive the process, and when our man came back, it was very easy for him to step back in.”
As word of the successful 12-person trial spread, Barlow says that he quickly found it was growing virally, as more people came to him to ask to use it. At the time of writing, Telent has extended Circuit to all its bid managers and its sales team.
The move from voice-centric unified communications to social-centric unified communications has not, however, been without its challenges, says Barlow, who has identified a bit of a generational gap.
“Younger members of our team just get it. People who don’t use Facebook don’t seem to get it as quickly,” he says.
Nevertheless, Barlow believes there is scope to continue to roll Circuit out into other parts of Telent’s business.
“In other areas I can see how it could be used for project management. Other parts of our business could benefit from it and I would like to other parts of our business benefit from it,” he says.