When the University of Melbourne’s VoIP platform was reaching end-of-life in 2014, the school didn’t just see the challenge of replacing a phone system, but the opportunity to provide a platform for state-of-the-art collaboration.
“Our backend was quite old, and it was due both for software and hardware upgrades,” says Niranjan Prabhu, the university’s acting CIO. “We wanted to enable many future collaboration applications, like instant messaging, presence, click-to-call, soft-phone, videoconferencing, and so on, that a cloud solution offers.”
With 13,000-plus endpoints, a call volume of 30,000 per day, and about 100 moves, adds, and changes every month, the system was approaching its design capacity. With almost eight full-time equivalent (FTE) staffers devoted to maintaining the system, the Information Technology Services (ITS) department didn’t have the resources to implement the advanced desktop and collaboration features that an IP telephony infrastructure enables.
With a cloud-based telephony solution—and a “cloud-first” strategy for adding new services—the university freed up three FTEs to:
- Provide more value-added IT services
- Reduce its power consumption and carbon footprint
- Reduce maintenance costs
Just as important, though, was a seamless transition for users.
“Throwing technology at people doesn’t work,” says Brett Looney, head of innovation at Amcom, an Australia-based information, communication, and technology services provider.
Under the plan developed by Amcom and the university—built on the Amcom Cloud Collaboration platform and delivered as a Cisco Powered™ cloud service—reception and contact center employees would experience no impact to their user environment as the backend transitioned from a physical environment to a cloud-based virtual environment. University and affiliate staff would simply have to re-record voicemail greetings. Other unified communications and collaboration features, including high-definition video, would be made available on demand.
Supporting business outcomes
The strategy involved a service catalog grouped by foundation services (telephony and desktop features), advanced collaboration features, support for mobile collaboration (including call forwarding, messaging, chat, and conferencing on mobile devices), and premium support packages for university leaders. Moving these services to the cloud allows ITS to focus on supporting business outcomes rather than maintaining on-premises hardware and software.
The university’s current investment in the project is roughly $1.422 million USD. Given hardware, software, data center, and people costs, that’s a projected savings of about $1.5 million over three years, Prabhu says.
The university stands to save more money when Amcom Cloud Collaboration is integrated with AARNet, which provides communications and collaboration services to Australian universities and vocational colleges. AARNet connects more than a million faculty, staff, students, and researchers across Australia and the Asia Pacific region, allowing cloud-based access to a spectrum of research resources over a free network.
And in a competitive international education market, those capabilities are critical.
“Collaboration is a key aspect of universities’ strategies,” Prabhu says, adding that ease of use and digital experience make that strategy a reality. “It’s not necessarily about the numbers. It’s about the people communicating to serve students better.”