Suncorp mulls work-from-home contact centres

Liz Tay | Jul 23, 2012 7:00 AM
Trims the fat with desktop rollout.

Suncorp is aiming to retain more contact centre workers with an enterprise-wide virtual desktop rollout that would enable staff to work from home.

Since announcing a thin client strategy last year, Suncorp has installed its One Desktop Anywhere virtual desktop environment on 5000 refurbished PCs and 1000 bring-your-own machines.

A Suncorp spokesman told iTnews that the rollout had reached one in five staff as of last week, with a view to reaching 100 percent of staff by the end of next year.

General manager of enterprise engineering, Terry Powell, said the technology was making staff “a lot more productive” by allowing them to access corporate applications from any machine at work and home.

“It allows our business leaders to be a lot more flexible around their workforce,” he told the BankTech conference on Wednesday.

“We can have those conversations now to say, we’ve got a 42 percent attrition rate within our call centres and it’s costing us a lot of money.

“One of the key reasons for that is we have a lot of single parents, who find it hard to get to and from work. By giving them the flexibility to be able to work from home and perform a call centre job, we’re probably going to retain our staff a lot longer.”

Powell did not disclose the number of Suncorp contact centre staff who worked from home on One Desktop Anywhere machines, noting that it was “not something that we actively track”.

He said Suncorp’s virtual desktops had reached its business technology, real estate, human resources, finance, procurement, marketing, group legal, risk and finance divisions.

Project staff were in the process of issuing the virtual desktops to 60 personal and life insurance staff, “profiling” the life insurance division and “in early days” of talking to banking, he said.

Treasury was likely to be the final division to move from Windows XP desktops to the One Desktop Anywhere environment, he said.

“We’re actively hoping to get 100 percent of the organisation done within the next 18 months, but priorities are around being able to free up real estate, so we’re driven a bit by those leases,” he said.

Last year, Suncorp’s executive general manager Paul Cameron said the virtual desktop program would allow it to have “eight desks for every ten people”, saving $10,000 per desk.

Powell estimated the savings per desk to be $15,000.

“There are some days where everyone comes in and there [are] no desks,” he acknowledged.

“We have concierge laptops that connect to the wireless network, and [staff] can pick those up and go and work in the kitchen.

“There are massive real-estate savings to be gained; we recently closed [a building] in Brisbane and it’s millions of dollars a year. It’s $15,000 per desk.”

Suncorp's virtual desktops run Windows Thin PC (a thin client version of Windows 7) with virtual applications, including Microsoft's Lync unified communications software, delivered via Citrix technology.

They come in three flavours — standard, pro and developer — and tap into a pool of NetApp storage, Dell Blade servers and Cisco networking equipment in Suncorp’s data centre.