Sky – “we believe in better” – serves over 11.5 million homes across the UK and Ireland with multi-channel, multi-platform television and related telephone and broadband services. Central to Sky’s ability to connect with its customers is the company’s network of customer contact centres handling over 60 million calls per year. Sky has been a large customer of Citrix® since deploying Citrix solutions to all of their outsourced, UK and international, contact centres. “That worked exceptionally well,” says Platforms and Engineering Manager Gareth McGuinness. “Citrix has provided a stable, resilient technology platform to our contact centres for the last ten years.”
About 18 months ago, Sky began to review the technology used by their wholly owned contact centres.
With the Microsoft Windows XP operating system used in Sky’s internal contact centres reaching the end of its life, Sky’s Work Place Technology (WPT) team faced a decision. They could either refresh the existing technology with new PCs running Windows 7, or they could evaluate other solutions that might better align with business needs. There were several considerations. Sky invests 300,000 hours per year in training contact centre staff and user experience is a prime concern. The WPT team is driven by the motto: “Quicker, easier, better”, focusing upon how to improve the IT environment from a user perspective. At the same time, Sky wanted the agility to flex its capacity at short notice – quickly adding new contact centres as required – and to have robust disaster recovery capability. Sky is also a carbon neutral company and Gareth was keen to minimise the project’s carbon impact.
After evaluating several options, Sky decided on an innovative solution that would run on Wyse thin client devices. The team developed a custom HTML application that allowed them to control users’ experience, simplifying the logon journey while making it as fast, familiar and simple as possible. The Wyse terminals run only Sky’s VOIP phone client and use Citrix XenApp® to deliver a common, published desktop to users. “User experience has been a main driver for us,” states Gareth. “This solution has been designed with the user at the core: How do our users act? What do they need to make their lives easier?”
The solution puts all of Sky’s contact centres on a common platform increasing business flexibility and resilience. It is currently being rolled out to 5,000 operators across the UK and Ireland.
Gareth McGuinness has received excellent feedback from the business. The time from boot-up to application on the new platform is just 90 seconds, 600 per cent faster than before and Sky has seen significant savings through productivity gains. Training requirements were minimal and users enjoy the familiar Windows environment. Sky also benefits from having better control over software licensing and can prevent the running of unauthorized “exe” files by end-users. “The only negative feedback that we’ve had is that users don’t have time to get a coffee while their system boots up! Users say it’s a much slicker environment because they can easily move from one machine to another during their shift and reconnect to their session.”
The new system is much more resilient than the PCs it replaces. Gareth explains: “A design principal of the project was that it absolutely must support the front-end of the business. The contact centres are the front end of Sky and if we were to fail in the engineering, then customers can’t contact Sky. The system was designed, with support from Citrix, to be absolutely resilient, with no single point of failure.”
Even in the event of a full disaster recovery, the system – which operates from separate data centres – can be accessed from any device. This same functionality also makes it simple for Sky to quickly commission an additional contact centre as the need arises, easily providing a consistent, secure environment for users.
Deploying devices with very low power usage has significantly decreased Sky’s carbon footprint. The company is expecting lower air-conditioning costs as a result of using thin client technology with light-weight, air-cooled devices. At the back-end too, Sky is reducing carbon costs with very efficient, high-density virtual server infrastructure.
Once deployment is complete, Gareth foresees regular refreshes of the contact centre desktops. “With XenApp, we can rebuild the standard desktop quite easily on a regular basis to give users the very best experience possible. Our regression testing and user education requirements become much less with this solution.” Sky is also considering Citrix technologies to enable a Bring Your Own Device policy for information workers across the wider Sky business.
Citrix (NASDAQ:CTXS) is a leader in mobile workspaces, providing virtualisation, mobility management, networking and cloud services to enable new ways to work better. Citrix solutions power business mobility through secure, personal workspaces that provide people with instant access to apps, desktops, data and communications on any device, over any network and cloud. This year Citrix is celebrating 25 years of innovation, making IT simpler and people more productive. With annual revenue in 2013 of $2.9 billion, Citrix solutions are in use at more than 330,000 organisations and by over 100 million users globally. Learn more at www.citrix.com.