Simple technology takes SMEs a long way

NSW Scouts get prepared with IP telephony

When relocating, most organizations make a point of not leaving anything behind. Not the NSW branch of Scouts Australia. Describing its IT infrastructure as "ancient", the organization literally abandoned its old phone system with plans to start afresh.

With a new start and new office Scouts Australia decided to keep it simple. That meant moving to an IP network.

Scouts NSW is a non-profit organization with around 40 paid employees across the state and more than 20,000 members, who are all volunteers.

Admittedly, Scouts NSW assistant chief commissioner communications and development Peter Oliver wasn't sure its IT could even survive the move. "Previously we had an NEC voice system which was very tired and getting quite clunky," Oliver said.

"We decided to update our entire infrastructure, which would put us in a better position to provide much better member services."

Scouts NSW chose Australian IP telephony integrator, NSC, to deploy an Avaya IP network for the branch as part of its state office IT upgrade.

"We went to market in August last year and did the whole 'three quote scenario', but other vendors excluded themselves quickly from the process by not understanding what a small organization needed," Oliver said.

"NSC came up with a good price and demonstrated in the requirements and analysis stage that it wanted to understand what Scouts was all about. It went out of its normal area of operations and helped us quite a bit."

Implementation started and was completed in October last year, with Oliver claiming that apart from some ongoing configuration work, the system has been up and running since day one.

"The downside for us at Scouts is that we don't really have people that are technology savvy, so we don't have support and often have to rely on the vendors," Oliver said.

And the biggest benefit of the project?

"It enables the staff to be very flexible within the teams they work in, and you could never have done that with the old system," Oliver said. "It's given us a lot of flexibility in managing the loads that come in."

Scouts NSW CEO Graham Bargwanna agrees the project has been a success.

"The adaptability of the technology and the fact that Scouts could take calls at the old site one day and move directly to the new site the next denoted a smooth rollover," Bargwanna said.

"Our staff really appreciate the new options and are experiencing a quantum leap from what they had."

Bargwanna believes IP infrastructure has transformed Scouts NSW into a virtual organization, where all staff and volunteers are now contactable no matter where they are located.

As Scouts NSW is a state-wide operation, head office is the only point of contact for all regional members, but with the wide dispersion of members and volunteers across the state, traditional face-to-face meetings are not always possible.

For this reason, Scouts relies on regular teleconferences between volunteers coordinated through office staff as its key communication strategy. The solution has also meant better call management and service capabilities, which ultimately enhance customer service.

"On the old system, we had to outsource conference calls because the network could not handle more than two participants; we have streamlined this process," Bargwanna said.

"The new infrastructure is capable of managing the system internally which means more efficient call management, happier customers and reduced costs." The benefits, he said, go beyond updating redundant technology and future-proofing the organization.

NSC chairperson Craig Neil said SMEs are realizing the affordability of IP networks and are benefiting from the business applications the technology offers.

"The deployment of IP technology by Scouts NSW is a reflection of the increasing use of a single converged network in the SME market," Neil said.

"As costs for deploying an IP network have come down, the SME market has increasing access to the unlimited number of converged voice and data applications that solve business problems.

"This has enabled all types of organizations, regardless of their size, to lift their reporting, management and service capabilities."

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