The “teething problems” encountered by government social agencies’ voice-over-IP system (Ministry shrugs off VOIP ills) were a consequence of deploying it quickly, says the Ministry of Social Policy’s IS co-ordinator, Neil Miranda.
Miranda was speaking at the system's official launch last week. The Cisco-based VoIP system was rolled out to 8000 users in the ministry, Child Youth and Family service and Department of Work and Income within three weeks.
But Miranda still thinks a fast deployment is preferable to a slow one. “There is inevitably pain in deploying a new system,” he says. “If you are going to have pain, you would rather it was for a short time than a long time.”
Long deployments, particularly those integrating two systems, present an opportunity for “demands from both sides” for enhancement and problem-fixing to the current systems while deployment of the new is going on. This complicates the course of the project, he says.
Moreover, user trust in a system is adversely affected by having to run old and new systems at the same time for a protracted period, he says. No one wants two phones or two screens on their desk for long.
The problems – of calls not getting passed through or being misdirected, voice-mail messages banking up without being delivered – were minor and transitional, Miranda says. “I could count them on one hand.”
MSP ran the design, development and deployment of the system on behalf of the other two agencies, with Miranda as joint project manager.
In terms of voice over IP integrated with a digital IP network, the New Zealand implementation is the largest Cisco network implemented outside the vendor’s own campus, says David Tucker, Cisco’s general manager of business development – over from the US for the system’s official launch.
The major benefit of the system is efficiency and ease of use, says the other MSP project manager, Peter Williams. There is an effective cost saving, if not an actual one, Miranda says. The departments had 6000 phones and this number was raised to 8000 for the same cost. “So there would have been 20 to 35% increase in cost if we’d [handled the growth] in the old way.”
VoIP brings the telephone system into line with a long-established IP standard in the agencies and their predecessors, Winz and the Department of Social Welfare.
“We adopted IP as standard six years ago,” Miranda says. “By adhering to the same standard, we can supply a more efficient and reliable service to our customers.”