When Karen Andrews first began evaluating convergence as a way of modernizing Broome County’s telecom system, the costs looked formidable. And she had only a vague sense of the operational benefits that the rural New York county might gain from such technology.
Now that the initial stages of the county’s rollout are complete, Andrews projects annual savings of up to 70 percent on hard telecom costs. Plus, the productivity gains delivered by the county’s unified communications system lets it preserve its services to the public — and even roll out some new ones — despite a 3 percent annual staff attrition rate driven by declining tax revenues.
“UC transforms the way people work,” says Andrews, the county’s assistant director of IT. “Its impact on the efficiency with which we do business on a daily basis has definitely exceeded our expectations.”
Broome County employees benefit from a Cisco Unified Communication Manager platform in many ways. Thanks to its presence features, people no longer have to get up from their desks to see if someone else is in the office. They can also use instant messaging to get a quick answer from a colleague, instead of waiting an indefinite amount of time for an e-mail reply.
With the new UC system, even something as basic as dialing a number has changed from the relatively complex action of looking up the number and punching it manually on a phone to simply mouse-clicking on someone’s name. It’s also much easier for county staffers to use features such as conference calling and call forwarding right from their desktops, as opposed to using various obscure codes with the old system.
“Some users like PC-based calling so much that they don’t even use their handsets anymore,” Andrews notes. “The Cisco UCM interface makes everything so intuitive that people make a lot more use of the capabilities we’ve made available to them.”
Along with many useful productivity gains, Broome County’s move to UC also delivers hard savings. A big chunk of the savings the county realizes comes from no longer paying a fee for every line serviced by its former carrier. Instead, it now consolidates the Voice over IP traffic from all of its lines to just a handful of Primary Rate Interface connections to its new IP-based carrier.
The estimated annual savings on line charges alone that Broome County will see over the next five years from its new UC system
SOURCE: Broome County, N.Y.
Also, with its old service, the county had to pay $50 every time it needed to make a change in its service. Now, Andrews and her staff can handle moves, adds and changes themselves. In addition to saving money, this internal control lets them execute changes much faster.
Broome County gains even further savings because its new IP-based carrier offers free long-distance calling as part of its package deal. This reduces the county’s monthly phone bill, and eliminates the need to restrict employees from making calls that can help them get their jobs done more efficiently.
Andrews says Broome County plans to pay off its UC equipment over five years. At the end of those five years, Andrews estimates that the county will start to reap as much as 70 percent savings annually from the combination of reduced line charges, the elimination of change fees and free long-distance service.
“UC can be technically challenging to implement, and not every user will ‘get it’ right away,” admits Andrews. “But once you complete the journey and your users really start taking advantage of the technology, the rewards for your effort are tremendous.”
Words like flexibility and adaptability are often abstract concepts in print, but they can be very concrete realities — especially when disaster strikes.
The heavy rain that fell on the heels of Hurricane Irene forced Broome County, N.Y., staff to abandon one of its main facilities. Thanks to its UC implementation, staffers kept working from alternative locations and from home. Calls were simply rerouted wherever necessary, and many users took advantage of IM and presence tools while working from their notebooks.
In another instance, a construction accident similarly forced county workers to relocate temporarily. Again, the immediate control provided by Cisco’s UC management tools let the affected departments quickly make alternative arrangements for their displaced staff so that services to county residents were not adversely affected.
“Private- and public-sector organizations alike find that they must ensure their ability to rapidly respond to any kind of contingency — whether foreseen or unforeseen,” says Rich Costello, senior research analyst for IDC's enterprise communications infrastructure service. “Time and time again, we are seeing that converged UC infrastructure can play a central role in enabling them to do exactly that.”