Western Union, founded in 1851 as an American telegraph company, has evolved into a global leader in payment and money transfer services. In 2015, the company transferred over $150 billion in principle for its business and commercial customers. Today, Western Union has over 550,000 Agent locations, 100,000 ATMs/kiosks in 200 countries and territories, a web presence in 37 countries and the ability to send money to billions of accounts. Western Union has more than 10,000 employees around the globe, so keeping them connected is indeed a vital aspect of management.
The challenge – increasing efficiencies and productivity with video conferencing and collaboration: Western Union was looking at how to increase cost efficiencies regarding intra-company travel. The company wanted to enable its more than 10,000 worldwide personnel to efficiently and easily use video conferencing when feasible.
“Our 30 legacy video-equipped boardrooms required a lot of ‘white glove’ service from our IT department for the executives who used them,” said David Levin, Western Union’s Director of End User Technology. “This meant having two dedicated IT employees arrange bookings and equipment set-up, schedule each room’s usage and communications connections to other locations, and ensure that everything was running properly while in use.”
Western Union was determined to expand the use of collaboration technologies to all its employees, which led the company to roll out Microsoft Skype for Business to make one-to-one video conferencing available via camera-equipped desktops and laptops, and also to connect with video-equipped meeting and huddle rooms. While this increased the general availability of video collaboration, interoperability across connecting devices and a centralized network infrastructure posed the next challenge.
“The problem,” noted Levin, “is that our legacy video systems and Skype for Business are not interoperable: they don’t connect easily to each other.”
Going beyond Skype for Business: Additionally, with a large number of people using video conferencing at the same time, and all their paths going through just a few central locations, the bandwidth requirements would be huge, and the traffic and network management issues would be significant. This caused Western Union to review several products as part of a search for a third-party video management solution.
Western Union chose Pexip® to solve these issues and maximize the company’s video conferencing reach with Pexip Infinity, a software-based meeting and interoperability platform. By natively distributing media in multi-site calls, it reduces the amount of network bandwidth consumed, while maintaining native user experiences for all connected clients. Pexip assisted Western Union with integrating Skype for Business with its mix of meeting rooms and users on the road and at home. Western Union encourages its employees to use WebRTC through Google Chrome browsers, as it provides high-quality video, and is completely plug-in free.
“Pexip Infinity stood out as its distributed nature greatly reduces bandwidth demands. At the same time, it provides interoperability between all kinds of legacy and new video conferencing solutions,” said Levin. “As we could deploy it on-premises, we keep the media and network traffic inside our network, and it is very easy for us to guarantee a high level of QoS, something we could not easily do had we used an external cloud service.”
The solution – a virtualized platform in an existing VMware environment: All these elements were combined into a unified video solution named the Western Union Audio-Video Experience (WAVE). The WAVE platform is served to employees via multiple data centers in North America, Europe, and Asia, all running VMware virtualization. This was an environment Western Union already had available, and were very confident with. As a result, the company was able to effectively and easily deploy and support WAVE via its existing infrastructure and without tying up IT time.
Pexip Infinity is distributed across approximately 80 virtual machines around the world, and is currently connecting about 175 video-capable conference rooms – almost all of which are outfitted with Polycom endpoints – with personal users. Rooms range from small breakout rooms equipped with a monitor and camera, to more sophisticated multi-camera boardrooms. WAVE is also available to external employees through Google Chrome browsers for HD video conferencing via WebRTC.
To encourage employee awareness and acceptance of WAVE, Western Union has created a special WAVE task force with trained members across the globe, each of whom can evangelize and demonstrate WAVE’s many benefits to their respective co-workers. “We also kicked off WAVE’s service initiation by holding a beach party at our Denver headquarters,” Levin said. “Most recently, we launched a ‘social media intranet’ well-stocked with videos explaining the many facets of WAVE.”
The result – costs down, productivity up: The company has reduced travel expenses. At the same time, it has built a video conferencing platform that extends to all of its employees, improving work efficiencies while simultaneously reducing the average conferencing spend per employee. Today, Western Union consumes millions of minutes of video conferencing on the Pexip platform each month.
“We have reduced the cost of our white-glove support of video conferences and vastly increased our ability to offer video to nearly all of our employees,” said Levin. “Costs are down, productivity is up, and meetings are kept to their scheduled length due to the inherent control of our solution.”
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