Upgrading Technology While Keeping Focus on Clients
For the countless charitable organizations around the world, one axiom applies consistently: Every penny spent on infrastructure is NOT spent on helping the constituent community. This paradigm is particularly true with the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in the United Kingdom.
Started during the Second World War, the Citizens Advice Bureau was organized by local authorities and experts to offer specific advice in matters relating to life in war-torn Britain. After the war ended, it was apparent that advice was still required on a variety of topics ranging from housing issues, to legal and debt concerns that that are all too commonly raised today.
From its humble beginnings, the CAB has evolved into a complex mix of over 400 individual charities that offer free, confidential and impartial advice to over 2 million people each year through 3,300 different offices across Britain.
Juggling increasingly high demand for services with constricted budgets, CAB offices were desperately in need of the efficiencies offered through modern telecommunications technology – but did not have the budget for such a massive investment.
As with all charities, the management teams at these CABs are constantly looking for ways to stretch their money and offer better service to clients. Reducing operational expenses by leveraging new and often more efficient technology is a key component of CAB’s strategic plan to enhance service while maintain cost structures.
The issues associated with legacy calling features recently came to the surface at the large CAB office in Wavertree, England, not far from Liverpool. The staff in the Wavertree CAB often collaborates with colleagues in the CAB office in nearby Netherley to serve client needs round the clock.
At the heart of the existing network for both the offices are two legacy Nortel Business Communication Manager (BCM) platforms. While each system was limited in the features and advanced applications it could support, CAB management realized that it did not make economic sense to replace these platforms with new IP systems, particularly since the core infrastructure still provided adequate service. Instead, CAB management looked to improve operational efficiency and reduce operational expenses by integrating innovative communications technology at the edge of the network. This approach would deliver new services while extending the service life and value of the existing core infrastructure.
Without any expertise in this area, the CAB turned to Locall.Net, a UK-based provider of telecommunications networking services to develop a complete and modern telecommunications solution. Locall.Net’s first recommendation was to replace expensive ISDN links to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) with Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunks that would carry voice calls across the IP network. Locall.net had previously successfully implemented SIP trunking solutions with Gradwell, a leading independent provider of Internet communications services to UK businesses, and was confident in recommending that the CAB go with Gradwell for this mission critical service.
The adoption of SIP trunking further provided the opportunity to employ Voice over IP (VoIP) technology for all external communications. VoIP and SIP trunking allowed the organization to reduce public-facing telecommunications costs, handle a vast number of internal site-to-site calls, and eliminate the expensive toll charges that previously hampered the organization.
The flexibility and simple configurability of the Sangoma Gateways virtually eliminates any concern about integration of the legacy Nortel equipment with IP routers and wide-area SIP trunking services.
Managing Director, Locall.Net
“CABs are constantly bouncing ideas off of each other and we saw VoIP technology as an opportunity to deliver a simple and cost-effective solution that met their technology, budgetary and organizational initiatives,” commented Sean Gallagher, managing director of Locall.Net. “We were aware that some CAB organizations had tried to implement SIP trunking, but found the experience expensive and confusing. In partnering with a reliable provider such as Gradwell, we were confident that we could meet the goals of the CABs and create a model that could easily be implemented at other CAB sites throughout the United Kingdom.”
The Solution From Sangoma
Locall.Net’s approach was to keep Nortel BCMs at the core of the network, which allowed the CAB offices in Wavertree and Netherley to continue their existing call routing and dial-plan configurations. The BRI lines previously serving to terminate the ISDN service from the PSTN at each site were then cutover to a Sangoma Vega50 Gateway. This solution provides the TDM-to-IP conversion of voice calls and interconnects the BCM at each site to the IP router that terminates the SIP trunks supplied by Gradwell. Not only did this minimize service interruptions and reduce the implementation time, it also eliminated the need for user training, thus accelerating the path to a financial payback.
Locall.Net turned to its trusted hardware supplier, Huddersfield, England-based ProVu, to source the Sangoma Vega Series gateways for the CAB installations. A full-service communications technology provider that offers a broad range of technology integration solutions, ProVu was able to help Locall.Net manage project costs by delivering gateway models that best fit both the current and projected needs of each CAB office.
“The flexibility and simple configurability of the Sangoma Gateways virtually eliminates any concern about integration of the legacy Nortel equipment with IP routers and wide-area SIP trunking services,” continued Gallagher. “The Vega50s are proven to work out-of-the-box with less than 10 minutes of configuration time. This in itself gave us the confidence to eliminate the cost of pre-configuration and testing in our facility and ship the gateways directly to the CAB sites.”
After the installation of the new connectivity solution, CAB staffs were immediately able to automatically route phone calls to appropriate colleagues according to staff availability and varied business hours. Sharing the workload between centers and simplifying the ability of advisors to easily consult with experts at other centers not only improved the organization’s efficiency, but also had a significant impact on the ability to resolve a client’s inquiry in a single call.
”We are pleased with the results that we’ve seen in Wavertree and Netherley, and are confident that this solution can be rolled out to other CABs,” noted Gallagher. “This deployment has proven that a strategic, yet minimal, investment in technology can make both financial sense and substantial operational improvements.”
What began as a cost-saving exercise progressed into an opportunity to offer a more efficient service to clients and improve the work flow for CAB staffs. This simple change in the transport technology at the edge of the network provided tremendous flexibility and cost savings for the two CABs.