VOIP: an invaluable asset

When it comes to using advanced technology, 120-employee Goldsmith Agio Helms could teach the mega-sized investment banks of the world a thing or two. Take, for example, the sophisticated, converged network infrastructure over which the Minneapolis-based firm conducts its multinational business. Because it supports advanced applications such as instant messaging/presence, unified messaging, video calling and VOIP, the network lets bankers stay in touch and up to date at all times.

Unified messaging has proved particularly beneficial for Goldsmith Agio Helms, says Chris Ferski, vice president of IT at the firm. Using a simple baseline calculation, Ferski figures the new voice mail system saves 80 percent of people 10 to 20 minutes a day. That's because no one ever has to miss a message again. Employees get notices on their new handhelds when voice mail arrives. Such integration has elevated the level of customer service to an all-time high.

In essence, Goldsmith Agio Helms has become a virtual company capable of unprecedented employee productivity and customer responsiveness. As such, it earns a 2006 Enterprise All-Star Award.

A much-studied choice

Ferski began the network upgrade project shortly after joining Goldsmith Agio Helms in the fall of 2002. "We needed to shave off time in everybody's workday and be more reliable. Those things are of significant value to us, and our old system couldn't support them," he says.

His goal was building a rock-solid foundation for voice, given the company's phone-centric nature. "VOIP was definitely in my mind from the get-go [even though] it was pretty new at the time," he says. "I wasn't sold on the idea that it had to be VOIP, but as we got into the project I realized it was the only choice."

To boost bankers' productivity, Ferski had to be able to integrate desk phones and computers, and enable on-the-fly mobility for phone extensions. That would have been tough without a true IP platform, he says.

To find that desired system, Ferski put five vendors through the wringer, rating them on their ability to deliver 24 critical items. Those included four-digit dialing, call routing, collaboration, network integration and management, as well as product longevity and long-term investment protection. Nortel blew away the competition, he says, scoring 21 out of a possible 24 points.

Sound investment

Last year, Ferski oversaw the firm's migration to an all-Nortel network. Besides traditional Ethernet switches for data, the network comprises the Nortel Multimedia Communication Server 5100 and the Nortel Communication Server 1000 system, which supports CallPilot unified messaging. The firm spent between US$200,000 and US$400,000 on the overall infrastructure, Ferski says.

Based on productivity gains alone, Ferski says the firm will see a return on its infrastructure investment in less than three years. For Goldsmith Agio Helms, convergence is a safe bet indeed.

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