It’s a problem that many businesses face, but don’t talk about: When your telephony system has to support offices across geographies and jurisdictions, you can end up with a rat’s nest of contracts, hardware, and support agreements.
You needn’t be an international player to run into this problem. Canadian Specialty Metals (CSM), a leading distributor of stainless steel and aircraft-grade aluminum across Canada, faced this issue because of the fragmentation of telecommunications carriers in the eight provinces where the company has offices. That means six contracts to manage and eight hardware platforms to support.
As CSM has been in operation for more than 50 years, the private branch exchange (PBX) platforms in its offices were, in some cases, 15 or more years old. So when the opportunity arose to work with telecommunications and network partner TELUS on a pilot for the company’s Edmonton, Alberta office, CSM jumped at the chance to see what a Cisco Powered™ cloud-based VoIP platform could offer the company.
Benefits of cloud migration
While the Edmonton office was running on an end-of-life analog PBX telephone system, its networking equipment ran on TELUS’s multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network, thereby presenting the companies with an opportunity to piggyback voice services onto the data network. CSM migrated its 26-seat operation to the TELUS Cloud Collaboration platform in November of 2014, and the benefits are already making the business case to roll it out across all eight locations. Benefits experienced so far include:
- Wireless headsets allow customer service staff to check warehouse inventory without putting callers on hold.
- Incoming calls not handled by a receptionist are now forwarded to available salespeople.
- Sales representatives can have incoming calls forwarded to their cell phones when they’re out of the office.
But the benefits the Edmonton branch is reaping only scratch the surface of what a full-scale rollout could provide.
“I’m on the phone to long distance locations at least 10 times a day,” Chris Heeschen, IT manager for Canadian Specialty Metals, says. That’s one person out of a 200-seat operation. By implementing four-digit extension calling across offices, Heeschen figures TELUS Cloud Collaboration can help the company save $25,000 a year.
Virtual meetings save time and money
The platform, based on the Cisco® Hosted Collaboration Solution, is also a foundation for rolling out other cost-saving technologies. The 20-odd managers that have to crisscross the country for quarterly meetings will, in the future, be able to do so virtually via teleconference. Heeschen estimates that’s at least another $25,000 in savings.
Then there’s the value brought by refocusing IT resources on other projects.
“We spend about 15 percent of our time dealing with telecom issues,” Heeschen says. By getting out of the telecom management business, CSM’s small IT department can focus on other projects. Already, a virtualization initiative scheduled for completion in 2016 is 85 percent done.
And backend business processes benefit, too. A three- to five-year plan has CSM consolidating on a single vendor and a single contract.
“Accounting will love that,” Heeschen chuckles.