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COMMUNICATIONS AT BOEING

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CASE STUDY 1

UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS AT BOEING

The Boeing Company (http://www.boeing.com/), headquartered in Chicago,

Illinois, is the world’s largest manufacturer of military aircraft and

commercial jetliners. Boeing has more than 159,000 employees working in

70 different countries who require effective communication to develop and

build some of the world’s most complex products using components from

more than 22,000 global suppliers.

The company’s workforce is one of the most highly educated in the

world. Most employees hold a college degree and many hold advanced

degrees. Collectively Boeing employees have very broad and deep

knowledge that can be harnessed to solve problems and design next

generation products.

Like many major corporations, Boeing has experienced an uptick in the

number of employees who work remotely or travel the majority of each work

week. Boeing’s engineers number in the thousands and are purposely

scattered worldwide to support the company’s global operations.

Boeing organizes its employees into work and project teams. Given the

company’s size and geographic footprint, many of Boeing work’s teams

include globally dispersed members. Engineers on the same team may be

separated by multiple time zones and thousands of miles. Time zone

differences and distance frequently present teams with communication

challenges when they are faced with time sensitive issues that must be

resolved quickly.

http://www.boeing.com/

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Additional communication issues are associated with the sheer breadth

and depth of Boeing’s knowledge base. When faced with questions about a

particular part included in one of Boeing’s new airliners, an engineer can be

challenged to identify the right person in the company to contact for

answers.

Collaboration Technologies Boeing knows that continual innovation is important to its long term success.

It also recognizes that effective communication among its employees,

customers, and suppliers is an important enabler of continual innovation.

Boeing has traditionally relied on a variety of systems to facilitate

collaboration among its employees and business partners. As illustrated in

Figure C1-1a, Web conferencing, audio conferencing, desktop sharing, and

mobile voice and data services have been used by Boeing employees to

facilitate communication among geographically dispersed team members.

Historically, these capabilities have been provided by different third-party

providers who were selected on the basis of their ability to provide high-

quality communication services at competitive rates.

By the mid-2000s, Boeing had begun its migration toward unified

messaging and unified communications. At that time, instant messaging (IM)

was one of the more popular messaging services used Boeing employees. At

Boeing, IM has traditionally been supplemented by Web and audio

conferencing services as well as by desktop sharing services. The capabilities

provided by these services are especially important when answers to

complex questions are needed. During the mid-2000s, more than 100,000

employees used conferencing services each year. As you might expect,

conferencing services represented a significant percentage of Boeing’s

annual communication expenses.

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As collaboration technologies, the desktop sharing and conferencing

systems worked well alone, but it was not easy to get them to use them

simultaneously for a virtual team meeting. To use them in combination

required scheduling conference rooms equipped with at least one phone lines

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and data drop. It also required reserving conferencing time with one or both

service providers, getting all locations logged in to each service, and

performing some quick set up tasks and tests at the beginning of each

session. Hence, while it was possible to use multiple collaboration capabilities

at the same time, this was not easily or transparently done. Advanced

planning was needed at all locations to have satisfactory interactive

conferencing and desktop sharing sessions.

Over time, it became increasingly more apparent to Boeing that a

superior collaboration platform was needed. While the company’s

subscriptions to third-party services did support collaboration among

geographically dispersed team members, Boeing began to feel that it needed

something that was both easier and more robust to achieve the levels of

collaboration, innovation and responsiveness that it aspired to have.

Converged Network Project In 2008, Boeing signed a $400 million contract with AT&T to consolidate its

existing voice and data networks into an IP-network. Boeing began using

AT&T’s WAN services, audio conferencing services, and wireless voice and

data services. Moving the bulk of its communication facilities to a common

IP-based network infrastructure enabled Boeing to roll out unified messaging

services to more of its employees. The converged network project also set

the stage for its subsequent move to unified communications.

To better serve its mobile workers, one of the first enterprise-wide

applications that Boeing deployed on its converged IP network was

Mircosoft’s Office Communication Server. This was implemented to provide

desktop sharing, VoIP, audio conferencing, instant messaging, and presence

capabilities to all of its workers worldwide. This quickly became a popular

supplement or alternative to the company’s traditional collaboration services.

Boeing subsequently made the decision to upgrade to Mircosoft’s Lync

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Server to enable its employees to leverage enhanced presence, ad hoc

collaboration, desktop sharing, and online meeting capabilities.

Boeing’s collaboration capabilities before and after the creation of the

converged IP network are illustrated in Figure C1.1. It is important to note

that Boeing continues to subscribe to many of the collaboration services that

it used prior to implementing its unified communications solutions. Hence,

UC is best observed to be a supplement not a replacement to the

collaboration systems that were already in place.

One of the key changes associated with Boeing UC system has been the

ability of employees to use the same softphone headset to support both

office and mobile phone calls. Phone capabilities follow the mobile worker

who can specify which device to route calls to on the fly. Their Boeing phone

number is always the same whether they are in their office, at home, on the

road, or working on the other side of the world. Detailed presence

information about team members is provided via Lync’s location and activity

feed capabilities. Supply chain partners are also able see the presence

information of their key contacts at Boeing; this facilitates their interactions

with engineering and maintenance teams at Boeing.

UC Benefits Boeing’s converged IP network and unified communications capabilities

enable employees share information and knowledge more quickly and

effectively, regardless of their location. Boeing’s geographically dispersed

engineers use these systems to share expertise with one another just as

they could if they were in the same place at the same time. The ability to

support unified communications capabilities over the converged IP network

facilitates knowledge sharing and has become an important facet of Boeing’s

collaboration and knowledge management strategies.

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The company’s unified communications system enables employees at

remote locations to have the same capabilities that have in their home

offices. Virtual teams benefit from being able to adjust their interactions to

the communication mode that makes the most sense. For example, they are

able to transition from instant messaging to a voice communication and/or

desktop sharing session depending on what the situation requires. The UC

system’s enhanced presence capabilities also provides real time information

about the current availability and activities of other Boeing employees so

that they can be brought into conversations about how to address time

sensitive problem issues about parts, maintenance issues, or assembly line

delays.

Boeing has benefitted from increased productivity and efficiency at both

the individual and team levels. Its UC capabilities and converged IP network

have also helped the company rein in its Web and audio conferencing costs.

Prior to the UC implementation, Boeing experienced double-digit growth in

costs associated with Web conferencing. Web conferencing continues to be

widely used by Boeing employees, but the annual costs associated with Web

conferencing have leveled off as employees increasingly use UC desktop

sharing and audio conferencing capabilities instead of third-party

conferencing services.

Boeing’s annual costs for audio conferencing services have decreased by

more than 15% since implementing the UC system. While Boeing still

subscribes to third-party audio conferencing services, these are being used

less frequently for team meetings as the result of the company’s UC

capabilities.

The UC system has been positively received by Boeing employees. It is

widely viewed as a platform that facilitates collaboration in an engaging

manner. Boeing continues to have the reputation of being one of the world’s

most innovative companies and its decision to implement unified

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communications on a converged IP network demonstrates its commitment to

deploy technologies that enable innovation.

Discussion Points 1. Some virtual teams at Boeing have discussions focused on military

aircraft. Do some Internet research on UC security mechanisms and identify and briefly describe several that Boeing should have in place to ensure the privacy and integrity of such discussions.

2. To what extent do the UC benefits experienced by Boeing mirror

those of other firms that have deployed UC capabilities over converged IP networks?

3. To date, Boeing has not implemented the full range of capabilities

available through UC systems. If you were the CIO at Boeing, what additional UC capabilities would you implement? What benefits would you expect Boeing to derive from deploying these capabilities?

Sources [MICR10] Microsoft Case Studies. “Boeing Expects to Lower Costs and Improve Productivity with Messaging Solution.” March 16, 2010. Retrieved online at: http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Case_Study_Detail.aspx?casestudyid =4000006703. [MICR11] Microsoft Case Studies. “Boeing Promotes Knowledge Sharing for Global Workforce with Communications Solution.” April 29, 2011. Retrieved online at: http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Microsoft-Lync-Server- 2010/Boeing/Boeing-Promotes-Knowledge-Sharing-for-Global-Workforce- with-Communications-Solution/4000009654. [REED08] Reed, B. “AT&T snags big Boeing voice/data contract.” NetworkWorld. August 12, 2008. Retrieved online at: http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/081208-boeing-att-contract.html

http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Case_Study_Detail.aspx?casestudyid=4000006703
http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Case_Study_Detail.aspx?casestudyid=4000006703
http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Microsoft-Lync-Server-2010/Boeing/Boeing-Promotes-Knowledge-Sharing-for-Global-Workforce-with-Communications-Solution/4000009654
http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Microsoft-Lync-Server-2010/Boeing/Boeing-Promotes-Knowledge-Sharing-for-Global-Workforce-with-Communications-Solution/4000009654
http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Microsoft-Lync-Server-2010/Boeing/Boeing-Promotes-Knowledge-Sharing-for-Global-Workforce-with-Communications-Solution/4000009654
http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/081208-boeing-att-contract.html
  • Collaboration Technologies
  • Converged Network Project
  • UC Benefits
  • Discussion Points
  • Sources

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