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Sky has overhauled its customer contact systems to serve its 11.5 million TV and broadband customers.

Sky has overhauled its customer contact systems to serve its 11.5 million TV and broadband customers.

Sky already used Citrix technology to support its outsourced UK and international contact centres, and has now migrated to Citrix for its 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 workplace technology (WPT) team faced a big 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.

Sky had to consider the amount of staff training that had already gone into supporting the existing Windows solution, and the need for agility to flex its capacity at short notice, by being able to quickly add new contact centres as required. It also wanted robust disaster recovery capabilities. As a carbon neutral company Sky also wanted to minimise the project’s carbon impact.

After evaluating several options Sky decided on a solution that would run on Wyse thin client devices. The team developed a custom HTML application that allowed them to control the user experience, simplified the log-in system, while making things "as fast, familiar and simple as possible", said Sky platforms and engineering manager Gareth McGuinness.

The Wyse terminals run only Sky’s VOIP phone client and use Citrix XenApp to deliver a common desktop to users. “User experience has been a main driver for us,” said McGuinness. “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?”

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The system 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.

The time from boot-up to application on the new platform is now just 90 seconds, 600 percent faster than before, and Sky has seen significant savings through productivity gains.

Training requirements were minimal and users still enjoy a 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!" said McGuinness. "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.”

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.

And 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 lightweight, air-cooled devices. At the back-end too, Sky is reducing carbon costs with a "very efficient" high-density virtual server infrastructure.

Sky is now also considering Citrix technologies to enable a bring your own device policy for information workers across the wider Sky business.