Kennards leaps from $300K software project to VoIP

Australian icon Kennards Self Storage completed a $300,000 storage software implementation last month and now has its sights set on overhauling its communications network by signing a $50,000 IP telephony deal.

Managing director Sam Kennard told Computerworld that the company played a role in developing an enterprise-grade software package for Storman.

“About two and a half years ago we wrote a brief for the type of software we needed, because there was nothing out there,” Kennard said. “Storman had an idea and we helped fill in the gaps making it the best solution for us.”

Kennard said the Storman implementation is the first commercial sale for the company, which has typically been targeted at the small business self-storage sector.

Storman is now in use in 29 Kennards locations across the country, and the project included the purchase of new desktops and servers.

“The software replicates [data] into the head office where staff can perform audits, make payment queries, and generate reports,” Kennard said. “Storman also supports e-mailing of invoices and automatic credit card billing.”

Kennard conceded that although the company was a late adopter of IT, it has been “more aggressive” over the last 10 years.

“IT is a hugely important part of our business,” he said. “For example, the integration of our security system with customer management gives us competitive advantage. Each storage unit has access controls so we can manage customers - if they have paid their bills they will be let in and if they haven’t, they will be locked out.”

The attitude propelled the company's move into a telecomms upgrade.

Kennards’ IT manager Georgie Culverson said the decision to buy an Avaya IP Office VoIP gateway was the result of an ageing, inflexible PABX.

“Our current system allows only one on-hold message for the whole office,” Culverson said. “The Avaya IP Office has caller ID, and supports call rollover from our locations to the customer call centre. We can see calls as they come in and the PC component of the system can prioritize calls and set numbers to ‘do not disturb’.”

Culverson said the new system will be coming online soon and will facilitate the roll out of IP telephony to all Kennards’ centres due to a halving in price of VoIP deployment. At least 80 handsets are slated to go to IP once the deployment is complete.

“I’d like to see it happen with the next new centre so we can get IP telephony in there, trial it, and roll it out in other centres,” she said. “I’m particularly interested in softphones as all the centres have wireless so staff can make calls with their notebooks.”

Kennards uses Lotus Notes databases for its operations manuals to avoid keeping hard copies.

“We have a unique business model as we have very [geographically] dispersed small teams so we can’t afford to hire IT specialists in every location,” he said.

Culverson added that when she started 10 years ago Kennards was “all pen and paper and we’ve come a long way since then”.

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