PFH provide an invaluable service in the design and implementation of a leading edge solutions for Acorn Life Group. This end to end solution comprised of a Hybrid Cloud Solution, a product roadmap and strategy using Microsoft Office 365, a unified communications and telephony solution, along with a complete infrastructure upgrade.
Cloud success story -
Acorn Life Group Ltd. is an independent Irish owned company with its Head Office based in Galway. The group provides a wide range of financial services. Established in 1989, Acorn Life offers protection, savings, investment and pensions products through a nationwide team of financial advisors. Acorn Insurance is a general insurance brokerage company founded in 2012 to provide motor, home, health and commercial insurance. Acorn Life Group is dedicated to excellence by providing customers with products suited to their needs, top quality advice and superior customer service.
Acorn Life and Acorn Insurance had a requirement to update, simplify and improve their core ICT operations to support business growth. The group needed ICT solutions that were much more affordable, easier to manage and leveraged the investment made on Microsoft technologies already in use, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM. To that end, the IT Management team at Acorn Life were focused on delivery of a wide range of strategic technological improvements on the Microsoft stack to help meet these requirements.
PFH, a long standing Microsoft Gold Partner, were chosen to assist Acorn Life Group in developing a product roadmap and strategy using Microsoft Office 365 cloud based productivity suite for the group’s growing business needs. Given the wide reaching nature of these projects, a project steering group including representatives from Acorn, PFH and Microsoft was established so that project priorities were quickly identified and the order for delivery agreed.
PFH participated in multiple workshops with Acorn’s IT team and led on the design and implementation of leading edge solutions through its highly skilled Professional Services team.
PFH began by working with Acorn to plan the implementation of a Microsoft Lync Voice solution that also integrated with a new Contact Centre to handle both inbound and outbound call centre operations. PFH lead this project from design, to pilot and final implementation. The focus in parallel was to migrate messaging and collaboration to the cloud through Exchange online, SharePoint online and Yammer.
As part of this migration, PFH designed a Hybrid Azure based solution that integrated with Acorn’s on premise Data Centre for added resilience on Active Directory and simplification between cloud and on premise operations. The core infrastructure at Acorn was also upgraded to support this hybrid model and the new Contact Centre was deployed on a Windows Server 2012 R2 RDS Farm. Client PC’s were replaced by HP Thin Clients which meant a more secure, manageable and high performance solution for both end users and IT operations. When completed this new environment seamlessly integrated with Lync 2013 and the Enghouse Contact Centre.
What was delivered?
PFH delivered a solution that utilised Office 365 for email and collaboration, a unified communications and telephony solution based on Lync 2013 as well as base infrastructure upgrades and migration services to support the initiative. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) for resilience of Active Directory and Office 365 integration was provided as well as platform changes on premise to expand RDS (Remote Desktop Services) and legacy telephony integration. A new telephone gateway and automated dialler was deployed and integrated with the legacy Alcatel system for seamless communication.
PFH implemented full Active Directory integration with Office 365 for seamless access to mail and other Office 365 tools. Given the reliance on connectivity to Active Directory on the local premises for access to Office 365, the design incorporated active directory and synchronisation services operating from the PFH Cloud (based on Azure) to ensure no loss of access to cloud services
Acorn Life and Acorn Insurance now have a structured hybrid solution that provides for instant business flexibility in terms of data collaboration, new user deployment, email services and availability as well as a central state of the art telephony solution with automated dialler that provides a tangible and measurable call centre performance improvement.
Each solution deployed has impacted on every single end user in the organisation in some way, and provides these users with the ability to improve their productivity and utilise the best in technology to deliver a better service to their own customers.
From a technology perspective Acorn Life now has a robust and flexible hybrid cloud environment that enables:
- Improved performance for call management in the call centre – a business KPI;
- Rapid response to business needs in terms of expansion of resources (servers etc.);
- Improved communication between offices and “on the road” financial advisors;
- Increased availability and reliability of key ICT systems;
- Online collaboration through Office 365;
- Release of local hardware and virtualisation resources previously used for workloads now in the cloud;
Acorn Life’s Operations Director, Gerard Ryan, commenting on the technology upgrades said “Our implementation of a hybrid solution of cloud and premise based Microsoft technologies has been an important strategic initiative that delivers enhanced ICT functionality and flexibility to the business in a cost effective manner. Our long standing partners, PFH, played a key role in implementing the new solutions through the evaluation, planning and implementation phases and their project management and technology implementation skills and experience were invaluable to us. We now have a platform of core technologies from Microsoft and other vendors that enable business growth, more effective business operations and improved cost management with reduced support overhead.”
Core Technologies Used
- The key technologies used to deliver this solution were:
- Office 365
- Lync 2013
- Mediant Gateways;
- Dialler and call centre systems from Enghouse
- PFH Cloud
- HP Servers & Storage
- Windows Server 2012r2
- Exchange 2013 / 2010