Electoral Commission and SCC

Bringing unified communications and collaboration tools under one vendor.

SCC was able to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the organisation and technology.

Adrian Steel

Head of IT Operations at IAG, British Airways’ parent company

The overview

When the Electoral Commission wanted to bring its unified communications and collaboration tools under one vendor, with one single delivery partner, SCC was able to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the organisation and the technology.

The Electoral Commission is the UK’s election commission, created in 2001. It is an independent agency that regulates party and election finance and sets standards for how elections should be run. The Commission’s mandate ranges from the regulation of political donations and expenditure by political and third parties through to promoting greater participation in the electoral process.

The Commission employs more than 140 people from its headquarters in London and devolved offices in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. It is a long-term partner of SCC AVS, SCC’s specialist audiovisual (AV) and unified communications (UC) business, as the incumbent for the commission’s AV installations across its offices.

Bringing it all together

In 2019, the commission decided to move to a single UC solution, bringing together its disparate communications services and platforms under one vendor, with one service partner to deliver it all. As a Government department, the Electoral Commission was required to put the project out to tender, encouraging SCC to submit a response having built a trusted relationship over several years in partnership.

With existing knowledge of the Electoral Commission and an insight into its strategic objectives, SCC set to work long before the tender was released, working closely with Cisco to demonstrate the possibilities with its hardware and cloud-based videoconferencing (VC) and UC tools, such as telephony. This initial phase lasted for several months, with SCC ensuring communication was regular and detailed, to maintain a deep level of understanding of the Electoral Commission’s overall objectives as they developed.

Once released, the tender was issued on a framework, putting SCC in direct competition with a number of other solution providers. As a result of the work SCC had already done in preparation for the tender release, and leveraging its existing relationship with the organisation, SCC was able to add value into its response, addressing specific pain points and frustrations and creating a strong response.

The tender was comprehensive, including 11 VC rooms in four offices spanning the breadth of the UK: eight in London and one each in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. It also included a refresh of the commission’s ageing telephony platform.

Delivering the solution

SCC selected Cisco as its preferred vendor partner due to its specific suitability for Electoral Commission’s requirements. The commission wanted to bring its entire vendor, with one single service provider, which Cisco and SCC were able to deliver, from hardware through to security, which is critical for the Commission as a government department.

After submitting its tender response, SCC was invited to present, at which point the team was able to demonstrate its in-depth understanding both of the Electoral Commission and of the solution. One month later, the commission chose SCC and Cisco.

Beginning in January 2021, SCC delivered new UC calling tools, including desktop telephone and Webex meeting applications, for 180 users, with scalability for up to 220 users. This was critical for the Electoral Commission, who have a requirement to increase capacity during election periods and reduce back down to normal for business as usual. The new solution enables the commission to scale its entire toolset quickly, paying only for services when consumed.

As part of the initial three-year contract, including licenses and guarantees, SCC is also delivering a managed service, all delivered in-house across all UK locations, with on-site visits as required, quickly, to minimise any downtime and maximise productivity for the Electoral Commission. SCC’s managed service includes 20 das of training, delivered remotely to all users, to ensure all new UC tools are used confidently and efficiently.

SCC is installing all hardware and peripherals in the 11 meeting rooms across the UK, with VC and AV installations all complete within three months. SCC was challenged to install the new meeting rooms alongside a significant office refurbishment, giving Electoral Commission employees brand new, state-of-the-art technology and facilities when they eventually return to the office.

Adding value

With the contract tendered, won and delivered throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic, much of the solution was delivered remotely, with on-site installations taking place in strict accordance with government guidelines. The commission’s office refurbishment project was delayed, in turn delaying the installation of new VC and AV meeting rooms, which is where SCC’s bonded warehouse created additional value for the Electoral Commission. SCC’s ability to safely store hardware and deliver to order, when ready for installation, was a significant differentiator.

Within each meeting toom room there is a touch panel, fully personalised to the Electoral Commission’s branding to provide a bespoke feel. SCC also helped enable language services for Welsh speakers in the Cardiff office.

Esrar Ahmed, IT Helpdesk Manager, at the Electoral Commission said: “We have worked with SCC for a long time, historically on a more transactional basis but we always knew of their managed service capability and about the specialism of SCC AVS. We were delighted SCC chose to participate in the tender process and we were impressed with the work they had done in advance of presenting – they were able to articulate a very detailed understanding of our objectives and had developed a solution that very clearly would help us get to where we want to be. “The ability to scale our solution is a real game changer for the commission, as is the transition from multiple support contracts, each differing in length, with different vendors to one single vendor, all supported by SCC. We’re confident we have selected the right partner in SCC and, so far, the project delivery has been outstanding. Both in terms of the technology and the service, including training for all our users, I have received lots of positive feedback and we’re looking forward to developing the relationship with SCC.

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