Christian Aid is a global charity with over 70 years’ experience of working in partnership with local communities to expose poverty throughout the world and help in practical ways to end it. The charity works in 37 countries to highlight, challenge and change the structures and systems that favour the rich and powerful over the poor and marginalised.
In 2019 Christian Aid became one of the first organisations to deploy Hosted Microsoft Teams Phone System with Direct Routing across their UK offices to enable state-of-the art Unified Communication and Collaboration, transforming the user experience and reducing projected telephony costs by 50% over a three year period.
Christian Aid’s 500 UK employees work closely with partners and volunteers across the globe. When Simon Granger, Head of Connectivity and Infrastructure, joined the organisation in 2017, he and his team identified an opportunity to update the organisation’s communications infrastructure. Simon explains:
“In the new age of remote and mobile working, employees need to stay connected wherever they are working. We saw an opportunity to update our communications infrastructure and give our employees a truly Unified Communications experience, with a single application that enables state-of-the-art team collaboration.
“Our employees work with volunteers, partners and fundraisers across the globe, so effective collaboration is a vital part of the work they do. But they were struggling to make the most of two separate systems. We used Microsoft® Skype for Business for internal communication, with a different application hosted by another provider for external calls. The application was unreliable, could be difficult to access, was not popular with our employees and did not integrate with our Microsoft Office software.”
Within Christian Aid’s offices, limited extension and DDI numbers meant there were often not enough handsets to go around. In addition, the numbers were not portable, so employees couldn’t receive external calls if they were working from home. And, as the handsets were running at sub 1GB speeds, they also slowed the network down.
When the phone contract came up for renewal at the end of October 2018, Christian Aid saw a huge opportunity to update their communications infrastructure and take advantage of the latest team collaboration trends.
Simon and his team, Jeff Boateng, Head of Infrastructure Connectivity and Operations, Ethel Livermore, Desktop and Asset Manager and Richard Nti, IT Support Services Manager, identified several key requirements for a standardised unified communications and team collaboration solution:
- A single system to meet all of Christian Aid’s communication needs, internal, external and mobile, with meeting room integration to provide a single solution for voice and video
- Users should make use of Teams on their phone, laptop or a desk phone where one is provided
- Voicemail should be integrated within Microsoft® Outlook
- Users should have the flexibility to set up their own Hunt Groups and set call divert to where they need
Christian Aid decided to look for a partner to extend their Skype for Business deployment with an integrated telephony platform so that users could handle all their communication needs from within a single application. Simon explained:
“Our team loved Skype for Business. With teams often working across multiple countries, it really helped to reduce the cost of international calls. The chat feature meant it was easy to get hold of people to check availability before picking up the phone and dialing an international number. Our departmental meetings were all done on Skype for business. The video conferencing facility was also really useful and we could share screens to work on documents together. We wanted to enable PSTN calling from within the application, so our staff could use a single application for all their calls.”
After a competitive tender process, Christian Aid made the decision to work with Intrado. John Milsom, Chief Technology Officer explains:
“We needed a partner that not only understood our needs but would be able to help us make the best use of available resources to get to where we wanted to be. As a charity we are very mindful of the money we spend. Intrado were very pragmatic and honest about what could and could not be achieved and presented us with realistic options that would meet our needs.“
In 2018, Microsoft announced the transition to Teams and, after considering their options carefully, Christian Aid took the decision to make the leap directly to Teams with Direct Routing, making it even more vital that they were working with the right partner. Simon continues:
“We already had a relationship with Intrado, as they provided our audio conferencing integration for Skype for Business. Intrado is ranked as a UCaaS leader by Gartner and works with other global charities; importantly, they provided us with a roadmap to migrate to Teams; and finally their global presence meant we had the option to extend the implementation seamlessly to other regions in the future.”
The first phase of the rollout, to 500 users in 15 offices, began in January 2019 and was completed in June 2019. Employees were encouraged to take advantage of the comprehensive training programme put in place by the team and early reports show feedback has been very positive. Simon confirms:
“The people at Intrado stood out during the sales process and they continued to impress throughout the implementation phases. We worked closely with Steve Hutchinson, one of Intrado’s Microsoft Solution Architects, whose ability to understand the challenges we faced and then bring in the right individuals with the expertise and experience to deal with those challenges was invaluable.
As one of the earliest implementations of Hosted Teams Phone System with Direct Routing, we had a number of issues to overcome: there were challenges specifying handsets for Teams, as well as some phone migration and SBC (Session Border Controller) issues. Intrado has deep technical knowledge as well as long-established relationships with Microsoft as well as Ribbon Communications who provided the SBCs and AudioCodes who delivered the handsets. This was a real asset to the project and enabled us to cope with each of the challenges very effectively. And the friendliness and knowledge of the staff helped keep things on track throughout.”
Steven Hutchinson, Microsoft Solutions Architect for Intrado adds:
“Christian Aid took a big leap into the future when they decided to migrate to Teams and their bold decision has paid off. It has been an exciting project to work on and although there were challenges at times, it is great to see that Christian Aid’s staff are already experiencing the benefits of the latest trends in team collaboration.”
Within weeks of the rollout, feedback from employees has been overwhelmingly positive. Christian Aid carried out a user survey which confirmed that over half of the workforce agreed or strongly agreed that Teams empowers them to work more efficiently and 60% agreed that it is easy to make a call even though they didn’t have a physical phone. Simon summarises the benefits:
“One of our primary aims was to provide a better user experience for our employees and feedback from staff has been very satisfying in this respect. With all our communications unified on a single application, people can communicate seamlessly with their internal teams, but also volunteers and partners. They can receive calls on the go, with a single number that means they can be contacted wherever they are.”
“Christian Aid has also made significant savings on operational costs as a result of the migration to Teams, with projected savings of 50% in licensing, maintenance and support costs over the next three years.
With a unified communications infrastructure in place Christian Aid has laid the foundation for a global migration to Teams. The rollout is currently being extended to Dublin and Belfast and an international migration to Teams is underway.
Tom Withers, Business Development Manager for Intrado concludes:
“This has been a very rewarding project to be involved with. It is great to see that a charity like Christian Aid can benefit from the latest team collaboration trends, with an improved experience for its volunteers and partners, as well as staff. We have now demonstrated that Hosted Teams Phone System with Direct Routing is a reality, opening up new possibilities for the future.”
“Christian Aid has also made significant savings on operational costs as a result of the migration to Teams, with projected savings of 50% in licensing, maintenance and support costs over the next three years.”
- Simon Granger, Head of Connectivity and Infrastructure, Christian Aid.