Sydney Opera House rolling out new comms system

Will facilitate one number calling, greater call centre efficiency and billing

The Sydney Opera House is in the process of moving to a NSC phone system following the end of life of its existing 13 year old combination analogue Siemens and Cisco VoIP system.

The new system, which will service the organisation’s 800 plus staff across three Sydney sites -- the Opera House, Arts Exchange and Customs House – was selected via a targeted tender process that included Siemens, Cisco, Nortel, NSC and Alactel Lucent.

According to Sydney Opera House CIO, Emily Richmond-Jones, the new system will offer greater efficiency of support and new features such as directory look up and the ability to integrate the phone system with the organisation’s BlackBerry devices, effectively achieving a single number for Opera House executives.

It will also feature a call centre management application that includes workforce management tools to help create rosters and ensure the efficiency of Sydney Opera House’s contact centre staff.

A new billing feature will also let the Opera House provide more accurate billing reports clients who hire hire facilities at the organisation, resulting in the better recovery of costs.

The organisation is also looking at integrating the new telephony systems with Sydney Opera House’s ticketing application to provide greater customer service, Richmond-Jones said.

“After the initial implementation, I hope to create a series of follow-on mini-projects driven by business owners as they develop an understanding of the capabilities of the new equipment,” she said.

The new system, Richmond-Jones says, combines a mixture of analogue and IP due to all three of the organisation’s sites being heritage-listed buildings and the difficulties of rewiring and re-kitting the Opera House with new IP cabling and handsets.

“There is an OH&S consideration in that we have handsets high up in the sails of the Opera House and it takes 20 to 30 minutes to climb up there to change them over so it isn’t worth it from a safety or cost perspective,” she said.

The Opera House is currently considering deploying wireless networking to get around the wiring issue, but according to Richmond-Jones, the building’s unique architecture tended to inhibit the transmission of wireless signals

“We actually use two-way radios and pagers due to their ability to travel on lower frequencies which can be more easily received,” Richmond-Jones says.

Richmond-Jones said Opera House was not currently considering running collaboration or video on top of the new phone system as the organisation was not yet “ready to take that step” – it also does not run instant messaging, something she attributes to the Arts sector’s slight lag behind in technological advance.

The organisation has however, oddly, readily taken to virtualisation having fully consolidated its servers and is also working to more closely integrate its internal software systems, such as its electronic booking management system with its financial system.

Richmond-Jones is also priming the Opera House web site for a revamp from “brochure ware”’ to a site that extends the organisation’s cultural events out to a wider audience via features such as the video streaming.

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