IP telephony brings cost savings to Walsall

By Martin Courtney
24 Aug 2009 View Comments
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Housing group consolidated five call centres into one

The Walsall Housing Group (WHG), a not-for-profit set of companies providing housing and community services in the West Midlands, has realised cost savings of £3,700 per month by replacing an older private branch exchange (PBX) telecommunications system with the latest Siemens IP telephony platform.

And after going live with Siemens OpenScape voice and contact centre platform in April 2008, Forrester Consulting has estimated the organisation could achieve total savings of £567,000 over a five-year period on call costs, third-party support, and maintenance fees.

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The estimated 121 per cent return on investment (ROI) is more difficult to confirm however, given WHG's reluctance to specify the sum initially invested in the new telephony system.

"As well as removing internal call costs, additional savings have come from the man hours saved from not having to transfer individual phone numbers, and on the support side," said WHG head of information services Phil Pettifer, who has been able to dispense with third-party support and employ a single IP telephony specialist to handle helpdesk enquiries from between 350 and 400 users spread across 11 offices in the Walsall area.

"There are also savings on cabling costs because we no longer have hardwired network links for telephony, which we reckon will save us around £200,000 over five years."

Analyst Forrester Consulting was commissioned by Siemens to conduct an independent assessment of ongoing cost savings specifically for WHG. Based on the first 12 months' performance, Forrester estimated that over a five-year period, WHG will also save £73,000 on IT services support, £133,000 on simplified system administration and a total of £161,000 on the cost of telephone charges incurre d from transferring colleague phone numbers between offices.

Part of the reduced administration costs comes from the consolidation of five different contact centres into a single central facility, something not possible with the previous PBX, said Pettifer.

A small amount of money was spent on integrating OpenScape with WHG's existing housing management system, but this was "straightforward", he said. And because the group had installed a fibre-optic network some years before, no network upgrade to handle the extra IP voice traffic was required.

"The bandwidth to each office varies according to the type of traffic, with full replication running at 1Gbit/s and normal office-to-office links at 10-100Mbit/s, but we have had no problems with quality of service or latency," said Pettifer.

The majority of WHG staff use IP desk phones, meaning training costs were minimal. But up to 36 contact centre staff use additional functionality designed to speed up call resolution and enable managers to track customer demand and agent performance.

"The best thing about it is the flexibility – it allows us to move people from one location to another at the drop of a hat without having to move kit, redirect numbers or worry whether there is a usable telephone for them there," said Pettifer.

"We also like the business continuity aspect, which allows people to work from different offices or from home if necessary."

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