CASE STUDY |
CASE STUDY |With more than 40 sites spread across a catchment area 100km long, communication between the more than 1000 employees of Cairns City Council (CCC) has always been tricky. Migrating to VoIP has delivered large cost savings and some unexpected benefits.
With more than 40 sites spread across a catchment area 100km long, communication between the more than 1000 employees of Cairns City Council (CCC) has always been tricky. With a pending merger with Port Douglas to the north set to expand this area even more, the time had never been better for a major upgrade to the council's information systems.
That upgrade came about earlier this year, as the council began implementing a converged voice and data network that both offer more efficient voice communications, and pave the way for innovative new service delivery options.
Planning for the new network began several years ago, when CCC staff sat down with systems integrator Dimension Data to map out its communications strategy. Every indicator suggested that convergence on an IP infrastructure was going to be an appropriate and increasingly important long-term direction.
Through a series of staggered upgrades, CCC increased its internal network bandwidth, upgraded from single-mode to multimode fibre, and ensured its network was ready to support Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology to power IP phones or other devices.
From the start, the potential cost saving from the upgrade made it a compelling move for the council, says IT infrastructure team leader Rob Dodin.
"The council area is quite a big spread and you can't have PABX lines running over that distance, so each site was different," he explains. "We did an analysis and just on service costs and some local calls, moving them to VoIP – without even taking into consideration the intangible costs of resources and manpower, we were looking at savings of $120,000 a year from VoIP."
Over the course of this year, a range of Cisco Systems VoIP equipment – including Cisco gateways, email, multimedia routers, and model 7941 handsets – was installed across the council's network. Cisco CallManager 5, Microsoft Exchange 2007, Microsoft Identity Integration Server and Dimension Data's IP telephony – Active Directory (IPAD) integration software were all introduced over the newly upgraded LAN and WAN.
|The Cisco 7941 IP phone: integrated with Microsoft Exchange 2007
The new system has delivered considerable improvements to CCC's communications systems, with direct dialling across the council's many sites and calling costs virtually eliminated. Use of IPAD has allowed Cisco CallManager to pull out user and device information from the council's Microsoft Active Directory database, which contains detailed contact and technical information that's managed from a single centralised point.
Centralising user configuration has proven to be a major boon for the council, since changes to the database now instantly propagate from one side of the council to the other. "It's a huge improvement to management," says Dodin. "We had disparate [user] databases in the past, but now we can manage everything centrally through Active Directory."
Equally important have been the benefits CCC employees receive from unified communications – such as having voicemails routed to their email inbox, remote message retrieval, and so on. So far, the council has only implemented a limited set of features, but this will be expanded over time, giving employees even more functionality.
After a successful pilot involving several dozen users, CCC is now expanding the scope of its VoIP rollout and is moving into phase 2 – the implementation of the Cisco Unified Contact Centre Express solution, which will provide interactive voice response (IVR) and intelligent call routing for the council's Central Customer Service Centre, IT service desk, and the Civic Theatre's box office.
By leveraging the CCC's new VoIP infrastructure, this contact centre is expected to significantly improve service across the council's operations. Dodin is already flagging cost savings that suggest the VoIP rollout will have paid for itself within a few years. And, he says, the improvements to communication and process will put the CCC in an ideal position to execute the pending merger with Douglas Shire Council, which will eventually be added to the VoIP environment to produce a seamless unified communications system capable of supporting the merged council's long-term growth.