Porirua raises the bar with Nortel unified comms

Unstable legacy systems 'triaged' for integrated UC

Porirua City Council services 50,000 residents and 3000 businesses for simple tasks such as rate payments through to more complex emergency situations like burst water mains. In an effort to boost its organisational efficiency and customer service the council deployed a Nortel unified communications (UC) solution.

Having been with the council for five-years, it was only last year that information systems manager, Peter van der Burg, was able to hire his dream team and make critical enhancements to its UC system.

Speaking at the 2009 Gartner Symposium in Sydney, van der Burg said the legacy systems were unstable, and likened the UC upgrade to a triage process of stabilising a hospital patient. It needed to upgrade its existing Nortel Meridian network to provide communications to its 20 sites, including a newly established events centre.

"When you've got a reliable but old network, and then prepare to make this massive leap forward about 10 years in technology, you just don't want to do that by yourself, and you want to get advice and put a lot of consideration in," van der Burg said.

Nortel stepped in to aide the council put a platform in place for fully integrated unified communications including voice, email, IM and presence.

van der Burg explained that the well being of its residents is Porirua's number one concern, and the main driver for improved technology is "operational excellence and customer service".

"We don't want to fit the standard council image, we want to have excellence in our customer services, and operational excellence in behind it," he said.

"Councils hold a lot of information that we have to keep forever, so it's about having technology that can gain access to the right information at the right time, for the right people, for the right purpose."

The council identified UC as an enabler for these business drivers. It also needed to better service 30 percent of its 350 staff, who work remotely, and set the business up for convergence of communications and business applications.

Upgrading the council's existing voice solution to Nortel's latest UC portfolio, including Communication Server 1000 (CS 1000) and upgrading its existing contact centre technology to Nortel's Contact Centre (CC), was a cost effective approach for van der Burg, who leveraged the council's ICT investments rather than perform a 'rip and replace.'

"We got smart with our existing technology and decided that perfectly good phones and systems don't have to be dumped and if parts of the PABX fail that support the old digital or analogue phones, we'll just replace them with our VoIP phones," he said.

The council anticipates the upgrade will drive up customer service quality, as the employees take advantage of the integrated voice, email, fax and instant messaging.

Along with the UC upgrade, Porirua City Council also upgraded its existing Microsoft NT4 server and Exchange 5.5 to Microsoft Server 2008 and Exchange 2007.

The final step will include an upgrade to the council's Nortel Contact Centre to the latest Contact Centre 7.0 revision to take advantage of full Microsoft OCS functionality and call centre integration across the business.

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