By Andrew Dacombe, Head of Enterprise Mobility, Telefónica

Telefónica S.A. is a Spanish broadband and telecommunications provider that supplies communications, information, and entertainment solutions to more than 315 million customers across Europe, the United States, and Latin America. It is the fifth largest mobile network provider in the world. Andrew Dacombe, Head of Enterprise Mobility at Telefónica, talks about the company’s journey to realizing its unified communications vision with Microsoft Lync at the center.

With 140,000 employees who speak six languages and work from 26 countries, communication is critical, especially in the fast-moving and highly competitive telecommunications market. At Telefónica, we have been on a journey to implement a unified communications (UC) vision in which employees can collaborate anytime, anywhere, from any device.

Two years ago, Telefónica was using many different versions of Microsoft collaboration technologies—Office Live Communications Server, Office Communications Server, and Lync Server—for instant messaging and internal conferencing, and a mix of third-party tools for audio conferencing and external conferences. We had islands of great technology, but none of it was connected. You could only talk to someone who was using the same technology, which was a problem for an organization with employees and partners in 40 countries.

We knew that we had to solve the problem from the employee perspective; we could not force tools on our staff. We started with what employees already had, used, and knew, which was Microsoft Office. Lync options are right there in the Office applications, so we decided to standardize on the latest release of Lync as the center of our UC vision.

Our value proposition for Lync is in how many things that it does and does well. No single product out there meets every single need of every organization, but Lync is a great product that meets the majority of our business needs and is incredibly multifaceted in terms of what it can do.

We are using Lync to remove technology islands and give our people more freedom and choice, which lets them more easily blend their personal lives and work. They can connect where, how, and as they like—at a concert on their mobile, at home on a tablet, or in the office on a desktop. You may start a Lync Meeting in the office on your desktop computer. If you have to leave work to pick up your child, you can join the meeting using Lync Mobile—with a single touch. The ability to move between devices is huge and is really important to people; it leads to happier, more productive employees and makes Telefónica a more attractive place to work.

Are there productivity savings here? Absolutely. Here is just one example from a multinational team in Telefónica. When their weekly meetings started, everyone dialed into a managed conference service that costs about a euro a minute for each participant. Before long, these meetings began stretching to two hours because of the time it took to email documents around and the distractions that are inherent with audio calls.

We moved these meetings to Lync Meeting—which includes audio, video, and content sharing—and almost overnight the calls dropped back to one hour. People could view and share presentations in real time and see one another. You could see other team members and whether they were engaged. The whole experience was more collaborative and made people more accountable. It’s hard to put an exact amount on how much we saved by doing this, but it was a significant amount, and we’re just one of 300 to 400 global teams that meet on a daily or weekly basis.

While we see the opportunity for additional savings by removing extraneous technology such as dedicated room conferencing systems, audio conferencing products, and the associated support and IT management, we remain focused on the benefits to employees, who love the flexibility that Lync provides. We’ve deployed Lync 2013 to 30,000 employees in Europe and Latin America and have plans to continue our deployment of either Lync 2013 or Microsoft Lync Online to the remainder of our 140,000 employees in 2014.

People lose interest very quickly if you put a flawed tool in front of them, so we take pains to get new technologies right the first time. Lync meets the fundamental needs of our employees by allowing them to communicate and collaborate globally.