Case Study: Insurance Australia Group, Australia

Hurrairah bin Sohail finds out how Insurance Australia Group overhauled its office in Sydney, Australia with a clear vision to not only improve experiences now but also for the future.

Insurance Australia Group [IAG] is the largest general insurance company in Australia and New Zealand. It decided to undertake a complete overhaul of its office in Sydney and for this purpose engaged Optus to assist. Pro AV Solutions served as the integrator for the project.

IAG’s standardisation of its videoconferencing platform was the core decision that guided the project. In addition, simplicity and ease of use was a key requirement for the meeting and collaboration spaces. Another consideration was providing the users at IAG a range of spaces that enabled different forms of collaboration.

A perfect example of the vision in action is a meeting space that features a dual-screen Cisco MX700 as a multipurpose, teleconferencing system which has been paired with a Shure MXA910 ceiling array microphone system. This setup covers the entire gamut of videoconferencing services that IAG required.

While the system may look simple on the surface, a fair amount of integration work went into making sure optimal performance was achieved.

Bobbie Anders, project manager at Pro AV Solutions [NSW], says: “There was a lot of custom API work that was required to integrate the Cisco system with the Crestron systems that had also been put in place. We worked with the client workflows and implemented them according to their requirements.”

The ceiling microphone is a deviation from other meeting rooms at IAG where you can find table-top microphones instead. Regarding the selection of the Shure product, Clayton Pickering, senior project manager for infrastructure delivery, group technology, at IAG, says: “Cisco has a similar product [ceiling array microphone], but during our review process we found the Shure microphone to have superior performance.” Anders from Pro AV Solutions says: “The ceiling array microphone was particularly suited for this space. We could configure the nodes and expand or reduce the area being covered. Working with the product was not an issue, we actually integrated them with the Cisco units.” Anders continues: “The only issue we had was at the start. The microphones were too sensitive. They were picking up table noise such as the shuffling of papers. The space has a lot of hard surfaces and that was a challenge as well. We specifically tweaked the configuration of the microphones to make sure that these issues were rectified.”

Other meeting rooms feature even more simplified systems. Some are equipped with Cisco Spark, while others rely on Cisco Webex for videoconferencing.

However, IAG is not looking at these meeting rooms as places that will remain static. With the help of Crestron Fusion and a range of sensors, IAG can examine in detail the exact usage of these spaces. Anders from Pro AV Solutions offers further details: “The rooms have been linked with Fusion and sensors have been integrated into the spaces so you can detect room occupancy, how long the users were present and much more. This data can then feed back into the business and provide concrete metrics regarding the spaces and all of that is enabled via Fusion.”

Pickering from IAG says: “This is the exact type of data we wanted because we want to make informed decisions regarding how we design the next building. What rooms work and what type of rooms don’t? How long are certain spaces being used for?”

The data-driven approach is already proving to have an impact. Pickering explains: “We’re seeing that open space areas are massively underutilised while meeting rooms are at maximum utilisation. This means that we have to find a way to make open space areas more engaging for people. Numbers don’t lie. Maybe it is the open nature of the spaces when people are looking for more private spaces for confidential discussions. We now have the data to guide us when we are making decisions for the future.”

IAG also features an extensive digital signage system across the premises. Pickering details its intended function: “We needed the digital signage system to have a way to disseminate messages and content across the site. For example, if we have performance reviews taking place, that information can be displayed via the digital signage. We have an internal communication team and they handle all the media and content for the system.”

An Exterity distribution system along with BrightSign media players comprise the digital signage system.

Anders from Pro AV Solutions says: “We use an Exterity distribution system for the client network and this handles all the digital signage content along with Foxtel for viewing. For more complex spaces, such as larger meeting rooms, where switching is required we use Crestron NVX to distribute the video over the network.”

Town hall

Pro AV Solutions has delivered AV for the town hall space at the IAG office which is flexible and multi-functional. From internal gatherings to dining events, the AV systems had to be able to handle a range of use case scenarios.

A set of Sony projectors provide visuals in the space. Pickering from IAG says: “The idea was to have different settings for the town hall for different events which meant that the AV systems had to be as flexible as possible. With projectors, we were able to provide displays on two sides of the town hall which means that the space can be used in two different orientations.”

Pro AV Solutions faced some hardship in installing the projectors and Anders details: “Finding the ceiling space for the projectors was a challenge. We had to change some of the lifts to fit the space while making sure that the throw distances were right. In the end with some careful selection of lenses it all worked out.”

Video is distributed over the IP network with Crestron NVX encoders and decoders. Anders says: “The NVX boxes have fans but they still run quite hot. We tried to avoid putting them in the floor as much as possible to make sure there were no issues.”

Audio is provided by Crestron ceiling speakers, amplifiers and Avia DSPs with the signal being transmitted via analogue. Tight ceiling speaker placement ensures that the town hall has adequate sound and Anders says: “This is a large open space with a lot of hard surfaces. Our speaker placement ensures that we have proper coverage.”

Regarding the selection of the Crestron DSP, Anders says: “The audio for the town hall was not complicated, we do not have an extensive deployment of microphones, and the Avia DSP worked well for this particular environment.”

A range of floor boxes with inputs allow additional equipment, including a mixing desk if required, to be brought in to augment the installed AV systems.

Williams Sound infrared hearing augmentation is also deployed. Anders from Pro AV Solutions says: “We find that induction loop has its own set of advantages, but it requires a lot of design and coordination to implement in particular spaces. This town hall has a raised floor, so that posed an issue for putting in an induction loop which led us to the option of infrared.”

Boardroom

Careful thought and consideration went into the design and installation for the main boardroom at IAG. Pickering details: “We went through many different iterations for the boardroom, with different sized desks and different technology.”

The most dominant feature of the boardroom is a circular table. The integrator had to take this fixture into account when deploying AV systems.

Cisco telepresence and cameras, along with two Samsung 85-in panels, serve as the display and conferencing system.

Getting the best out of this system was not simple.

Pickering narrates: “The particular shape of the boardroom and its size posed some problems. We started speaking with Pro AV Solutions about how to overcome the challenges. We focused on making sure that all the participants in the room could be seen and covered by the Cisco cameras, the microphones could pick up audio. We had to juggle a lot of variables, such as the fire sprinklers, furniture and requirements from the business and the architects. But our core focus always remained on the experience in the boardroom. Not just the near-end but also the far-end. It took a while, but I think we were able to get the right mix in the end.”

Cisco PresenterTrack helps out in making sure that all the participants are accurately captured and framed during videoconferencing.

Audio decisions were also influenced by the table in the boardroom. Anders from Pro AV Solutions details: “We had initially planned for a specific number of microphones. But due to an error on the builder’s part, there were 20 holes cut into the table for microphones. It was cheaper for IAG to increase the number of microphones than procure a new table, so all our audio designs changed.”

He continues: “We were initially going to use a Crestron Avia DSP, but with the additional microphones we needed to expand the DSP and eventually went with a QSC Core DSP. We upgraded the system halfway through the project and added more microphones.” The microphones in question are Shure MX310 gooseneck microphones.

Crestron controls the room environment and is integrated with the Cisco system. As can be expected with any change, there was an adjustment period for IAG to get accustomed to the new AV systems. Jon Anderson, senior project manager for integrated client services at Optus, says: “There was a bit of a learning curve in the first few months and Pro AV Solutions provided concierge services to help IAG through those weeks and teach them how to use the space.”

Anders from Pro AV Solutions details: “Once we finish a project, we generally offer our clients a service to ensure that they have a smooth transition. This includes appropriate training which was important for a project like this where a lot of users were being moved on to a completely new way of interfacing with technology and getting used to a new setup.”

Pickering from IAG affirms: “We engaged the white glove support for the first few months because it was a big step up for us in terms of where we came from and where we are now with respect to technology. The service helped us alleviate the initial issues with the change until everyone was comfortable. If users are uncomfortable with the systems we now have then they will just go back to the old way of doing things.”

Regarding the overall outcome of the project, Anderson from Optus says: “Off the back of this project, IAG has decided to upgrade a number of its offices across the country. The switch to Webex has really kicked this off from an IT perspective. The ability to enable VC across the entire company and the entire country with the same user experience and the same functionality is what is driving this, the fact that it is a system that doesn’t add complexity.”

Pickering from IAG concludes: “Certainly, Webex has been very stable and that is the biggest thing for us and the platform we were using was proving to be unstable. The stability Webex brings is helping us change how we work. For example, now if someone is working from home or in the office, they are enabled to perform in similar ways regardless.”

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