Head south along the coast from Sydney and, if all goes to plan, you'll arrive at Kiama about 90 minutes later. This coastal town is home to more than 20,000 residents and, although traditionally a rural district with a strong background in dairy farming and quarrying, it also has a burgeoning tourism industry and vibrant local economy.
Overseeing the administration of this 259sqkm district is the Kiama Municipal Council, a local government body with distributed facilities that was recently looking to enhance its IT infrastructure.
With council buildings, libraries, a leisure centre and other amenities spread across the district and serviced by an ageing communications infrastructure, the Kiama council brought in CallTime Solutions to upgrade its IT capabilities. Like many regional municipalities that administer sparsely populated territories, Kiama wanted to improve the way it communicated with the community and generally make the experience better for the people it represents.
"Part of the need was to actually establish an informal call centre where they wanted to provide customer service to their constituents," CallTime Solutions general manager, Troy Roberts, said. "Rather than people ringing in to different departments, they wanted to centralise the contact centre group."
However - due to Kiama's existing PBX, cabling and data infrastructure - the council's ability to efficiently service its residents was constrained. According to Roberts, this gave CallTime an opportunity to implement a modern unified communications solution to relieve the pain.
"We replaced their PBX with an IP PBX to cover all of their sites," Roberts said. "In the council there are multiple offices and council buildings such as libraries and community centres. We've put one IP PBX in to provide all the facilities to those regional locations."
The CallTime unified communications solution also involved re-doing the cabling at several of the council's buildings and then testing an upgrade in data switches. The technology part of the solution was rounded out by the implementation of voice and a call centre. The main technologies employed as part of the solution were Interactive Intelligence Software and Polycom IP phones.
"Obviously, the first phases of any project, if it is done properly, is to do scoping and design, which is getting the stakeholders together and understanding all of their requirements," Roberts said.
Another aspect of the strategy, which followed the implementation of the system, was the all-important training of council staff in the new technology to ensure they were able to effectively leverage their new capabilities.
"A lot of it was educating them on the capability and flexibility of our product so they can understand what features they wanted to turn on first," Roberts said.
Indeed, moving from a traditional telephone system to a highly-featured unified communications solution understandably proved to be a minor challenge. To ease the transition, CallTime is undertaking a staged activation of features to help training in the technology.