Unified communications boosts merged NZTA

Mergers offer opportunities for ICT change

Mergers can upset the best planned IT projects, but they can also offer unexpected opportunities to help manage change.

Land Transport New Zealand was about to replace its phone system in 2007, when the government decided from August 2008 it would be merged with Transit New Zealand to form the New Zealand Transport Agency.

The scope of the project changed, to merge two phone systems into a single system based on Cisco’s Unified Communications System Release 6 – comprising call processing, voice mail, presence status, conferencing, video telephony and network switches.

It was fortunate that both former organisations used TelstraClear, rather than two separate telcos.

An internal team was formed to work with TelstraClear and with IBM, which came up with a design for the single system.

“We’re near the end of the rollout,” says NZTA deputy CIO Para Ganeson.

“It should be completed by the end of the year.”

What has made it a complex exercise is the merging of two sets of offices. Currently, there are around 20, which Ganeson says should be reduced to around a dozen.

“There were difficulties in the scale of the merger. This is only one stream of work and has had to be rolled out at the same time as forming a new organisation. Previously, both organisations had PSTN/PBX, which were quite disparate in each region.”

An immediate advantage of the new system has been having a directory structure in each phone. Although people from the different organisations don’t necessarily know each other, they have immediate directory access.

“Desk-to-desk video conferencing has also been very useful,” Ganeson says. “There is a lot of video conferencing going on every day between Wellington, Palmerston North and Auckland.

“We’ve got big teams in those areas and they’re conferencing together as often as three times a week.

“We’re capturing usage through Cisco’s Call Manager to gather metrics. We haven’t done a full analysis yet. But there are tangible savings on tolls, probably up to $300,000 a year immediately.”

He says the cost of the system, including maintenance for three years, is around $1.6 million.

“The key lesson we’ve learned is planning. You have to have a robust lab over a period. You can’t rely on the suppliers when they say they will do it.”

The downside, he says, is that if the Cisco system goes down, it takes everyone out.

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