Pioneering enterprise network telephony helps metropolitan council reduce costs by 75 percent and deliver anywhere, anytime working.
Adelaide City Council (ACC) provides capital-city planning, promotes business and cultural vibrancy, maintains the Adelaide Park Lands and delivers community services for 21,000 residents. The council employs 700 staff, who work from 19 premises across the city.
With 700 staff working from 19 different premises, Adelaide City Council wanted to improve internal communications, so staff could collaborate more easily and not have to travel between offices for meetings. As their traditional PABX phone system neared retirement, ICT staff decided to trial a network-based telephony solution, Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Enterprise Edition.
By integrating Lync with Microsoft Exchange 2010, ICT staff enabled colleagues to receive voicemail messages through email. By downloading the Lync app onto their mobile devices, staff gained the communication and collaboration tools to work wherever they were. ICT staff also installed analogue-to-IP gateways so select employees could retain specialist analogue phones, and 3G/GSM gateways to ensure cost-effective routing for mobile calls.
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The trial proved instantly popular and council management set the Lync deployment as a top priority ICT project for 2012. Now, staff are more productive because they travel less, telephony maintenance and support costs have fallen by 75 percent, and a single ICT team provides all technical and telephony support.
Established in 1840, Adelaide City Council (ACC) is the local government authority that caters for the planning, business and cultural needs of the South Australia’s capital city. The Council manages the extensive Adelaide Park Lands and serves the local community needs of 21,000 residents by providing a range of regulatory services, waste, parking management, library and other community services. Their strategic objective is to create a vibrant metropolitan environment for the city’s fast-expanding population of residents, workers, visitors and students
The Council employs approximately 700 staff or full-time equivalents, many of whom are temporary or part-time workers, or contractors on secondment to the council. These staff work from 19 separate sites across the city and relied on a traditional copper wire, analogue PABX phone system for inter-office and customer calls.
As the PABX system approached the end of its supportable life, ICT staff decided they wanted to replace it with a communications system that provided a broad range of capabilities, including instant multi-party voice conferencing and desktop video meetings. Additionally, they wanted the phone system to support more flexible working styles.
“Our Council has an ‘Anytime, Anywhere’ strategy that aims to give all staff the ability to manage council business wherever they are, and whenever they need to work,” says David Carroll, ICT Infrastructure and Operations Team Leader, Adelaide City Council. “To help deliver on this strategy, we wanted to reduce the number of trips staff made between Council offices and the Town Hall. I wanted to give staff a full-blown, rich-media meeting experience at their desktop.”
Anticipating that network-based telephony would become mainstream for large organisations, Carroll had steadily upgraded the Council data network with high-capacity switches during regular asset-replacement cycles. As a result, by 2010, council offices were linked with a 10 Gbps data network that gave Carroll a wide range of telephony options. Replacing a proven PABX system with network-based telephony, however, represented a risk to Council services.
“Before we deployed network-based telephony, we had to prove it would be one hundred percent reliable,” says Carroll. “Second, we had to create a business case that clearly demonstrated value for money. Third, our design had to be adaptable: we had two sites where staff used specialist cordless analogue phones that they did not want to decommission, so our network design had to accommodate them.”
Under the terms of an existing Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, the Council already had client access licences for Microsoft Lync 2010. Carroll therefore devised a business case to trial a unified communications platform with 90 staff in the council’s finance and ICT departments. He gained approval and the trial began in June 2011.
The proof-of-concept comprised twin installations of Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Enterprise Edition, virtualised using Microsoft Hyper-V. To provide an interface with the public telephone network, Carroll installed two NET VX 1200 gateways, replacing desk phones with Polycom CX600 handsets. He deployed the unified communications platform on two Windows 2008 R2 servers, to provide load balancing and hardware redundancy.
“The trial continued during my leave of absence, but when I got back, I was immediately called to my executive manager’s office,” says Carroll. “He told me the management was so impressed with the new system that they wanted me to roll out Lync to the entire Council as a top priority.”
In March 2012, an independent technology consultancy firm audited the pilot to provide the Council with a full risk assessment. This included identifying risk factors, assessing reliability and analysing costs. “The assessment confirmed the viability of the pilot and management approved the rollout,” says Carroll.
During a ten-week deployment, Carroll and his colleagues extended Lync to all 700 council staff, integrating it with the Council’s existing email service, Microsoft Exchange 2010. This enables staff to receive voicemail messages through email and to see their colleagues’ availability within an email message or calendar invite. Lync also enables staff to create instant group Lync meetings, with audio, video and collaboration functionality, all directly from their desktops or laptops, through a single client, wherever they are.
Carroll used a phased deployment approach so that staff gradually became used to communicating differently. In phase one, he replaced analogue phones with digital handsets and provided basic training on how to use presence, instant messaging and telephony. In phase two, staff were taught how to schedule Lync meetings, use the audio, video and collaboration functionality, access voicemail messages, and how to invite external participants to Lync meetings.
The deployment included installing a third-party Matrix GSM mobile phone gateway, which provides lowest-cost call routing for mobile-to-mobile connections through the Lync server. Carroll also installed analogue-to-IP gateway devices, so the Lync server could connect calls to specialist cordless analogue devices that staff used at the Adelaide Aquatic Centre and the Works Depot, which were both owned and operated by the Council.
By mid-2012, Adelaide City Council had become the first major metropolitan council in Australia to replace its PABX phone system with Lync desktop telephony. The new system has drastically reduced telephone support costs, increased organisational flexibility and helped staff work more efficiently.
According to Carroll, Lync telephony proved extremely popular. Many staff have downloaded the Lync app to their personal mobile devices on their own initiative, so they can access Lync services wherever they are.
“Once deployment commenced, we were continually door-knocked by departments telling us why they needed Lync now, regardless of the roll-out schedule,” says Carroll. “That’s a testament to the impact it has on people’s lives.
“Staff tell me that Lync saves them time, because they can always see how to get hold of colleagues quickly. Instant messaging usage has soared. They love getting voice messages via email and the ability to control all call diversions from their mobile phone.”
Dramatically lower telephony costs
By consolidating all communications on a single existing data network, Carroll has dramatically reduced telephony maintenance costs.
“Our biggest saving is in annual telephony maintenance charges,” says Carroll. “Even factoring in the cost of our new VX gateways, our net annual phone costs are a quarter of what they used to be.”
“In addition, we have eliminated phone re-routing costs. Now, connections follow staff wherever they are and as a consequence we are a far more flexible organisation.”
Reduced travel and emissions
By helping staff to work more easily, wherever they are, the ICT team has helped the Council deliver on its ‘Anywhere, Anytime’ strategy.
“Now, all staff can work easily from home,” says Carroll. “In addition, we’ve found it very easy to teach people how to federate, which means that with minimal effort, they can collaborate through Lync with staff in other government agencies.”
“The end result is they travel less,” he adds. “Staff don’t have to move between offices to attend meetings, so business is transacted faster, staff save time, and the Council saves money.”
Simplified technical support
Last, Carroll has been able to simplify his technical support team, because now he doesn’t need to employ dedicated telephony experts.
“I can now manage all of the Council’s telephony from within my existing ICT support team,” says Carroll. “As far as my staff are concerned, supporting Lync is no different to supporting Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Office.”
“This also leads to a cost saving, since I don’t have to get an external vendor on site to fix something or manage an upgrade. Nor do I need to find and retain a dedicated telephony resource.
“Lync telephony has proven popular with everyone and delivers one hundred percent reliability. We will definitely install the next version of Lync when it is released.”
Microsoft Product that was featured
Microsoft Lync Server 2010 can transform your workplace and your workforce, making communication more collaborative, engaging and accessible from virtually anywhere. A single interface unites voice, presence and instant messaging, as well as audio, video, and web conferencing to provide a more intuitive experience, and a single identity makes it easy for users to find contacts, check their availability and connect with them. Lync works seamlessly with Microsoft Office and enriches familiar applications like Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Word, Microsoft SharePoint and more.
The Microsoft Lync 2010 client is available for Windows and Mac, and the Lync mobile client is available for Windows Phone, iPhone/iPad, Nokia and Android devices.
This feature is adopted from Microsoft CityNext