SMB Company Optio Software Moves from Standard PBX to Cisco Unified Communications; Realizes ROI and Improved Business Benefits
An SMB software company contracts with Cisco Partner NSPI for technology assistance in moving the company's network and phone system as part of a major headquarters remodel. The NSPI account manager shows the company how investing in moving old technology may not be the smartest move.
The company reviewed the capabilities of Cisco Unified Communications and saw how it not only would save the company money on its communications cost, but would allow employees to work in new and dynamic ways, bring visibility into company operations, and provide a platform for future growth and new applications.
January 8, 2007
Optio Software develops and sells software solutions that enable organizations to achieve speed, accuracy, functionality and quality in their document processes. With 170 employees, this SMB-sized business has headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia, and sales offices throughout the US and in the United Kingdom and France.
The company had an existing Siemens PBX phone system running on 3Com that it was reasonably happy with. With remodeling occurring in the headquarters building, which included relocation of the company's computer room, Mark White, IT director for Optio, started out just looking for technical help in re-wiring and physically moving the existing phone system.
Cisco SMB Select Partner NSPI Recommends Switch to IP Communications
Network Services Plus, Inc. (NSPI), a Cisco Premier Certified Partner and Cisco SMB Select Partner, has earned specializations in Wireless LAN and IP communications. NSPI is focused on the SMB market, and has enjoyed a long relationship with Optio Software and knows its business well. When Mark approached NSPI about moving the phone system, the NSPI solutions team recommended not just physically moving the old system, but investing Cisco Unified Communications. NSPI engineers and account managers had spent about 18 months educating themselves on IP communications for small businesses, and deployed the technology in its own offices. But in spite of NSPI's expertise and its strong relationship with Optio Software, the solutions team figured at that point they had about a 10 percent chance of Optio going with a whole new IP technology solution.
"At that time, we just weren't seriously considering a new phone system," agrees White. "But I knew IP communications was coming on pretty strong. I didn't realize how much it was in the mainstream until I started talking with solutions integrators. The quality of service and installations were higher than I thought." NSPI utilized the Cisco NOW (Network On Wheels) Van to demonstrate IP technology and Cisco Unified Communications, and worked with Cisco ROI sales tools to demonstrate the business improvements and cost justification for investing in Cisco Unified Communications.
At that point, Mark was becoming Cisco Unified Communications believer.
"I realized that our old phone system was very basic and just provided a dial tone," White says. "Cisco Unified Communications would provide us with call management that would help our business, and it would unify the company including our remote sales people in North America and Europe." He met with company executives and went over the benefits and cost-savings that Optio Software could realize with IP communications. They reviewed both the hard-dollar savings in long-distance and administration costs, and less quantifiable savings earned through improved performance and business processes. Executive staff agreed the company would benefit from visibility into its European sales and support organizations, but the cost still seemed prohibitive. The NSPI IP solutions team utilized a Cisco ROI sales tool, and while the numbers convinced the CEO that IP communications was a solid business investment, he still needed sold on IP as a communications technology. Since sales people depend so heavily on their phones, he was concerned about system downtime or connection issues. He wanted assurance that an IP telephony system would be stable and around for a long time.
"Once he understood the solid foundation Cisco Unified Communications would provide for future projects and how stable the technology is, he was ready to move ahead," says White.
New Cisco Unified Communications System is One Piece of Huge Headquarters Remodeling
Once the executive team signed off on the project, the NSPI solutions team and Mark got to work designing the Cisco Unified Communications system. There was a lot going on with the headquarters building that would affect the design and deployment: floors were being remodeled and built out, permitting for other construction was in process, generator and electrical systems were being planned and installed, and it all had to be carefully coordinated to come together at the end of the remodel.
"Just the Cisco Unified Communication system itself is a good-sized project for a company of our size," notes White. "We were also gutting and remodeling two floors -you name it, we were replacing it. It was almost like starting a brand new company." The massive coordination effort paid off. In the weekend that the Cisco Unified Communications system went live, 95 percent of the employees were moving from one floor to another, a new computer room was coming online, and new electrical, generator and rack systems were firing up. Employees found their offices, the network was up, the Cisco Unified IP Phones 7941 were running, and employees were able to work productively right away.
The employees had an opportunity to receive training on the new phone system the week before the deployment. With the system up and operating, they enjoyed discovering the features and functionalities of the new phones.
Cisco Unified Communications Provides Visibility Into Company Operations
"We're a technology company so our employees were very comfortable exploring the phones and their capabilities," says White. "They like the different ring tones and being able to see who missed calls are from, and they really like Cisco Unity Unified Messaging that allows them to access voice mail messages via email." But the biggest fans of the new solution are in Optio Software's support department. Cisco Unified Communications is providing improved visibility into the company's operations. Managers can now see what is happening with calls in their department such as statistics on wait times and on abandoned calls so they can better utilize staff. They can also see that calls are routed and handled properly. The system provides information to help support making changes such as providing additional training, justifying additional hiring and moving people around to make better use of company resources
"This is a big investment for an SMB-sized business," says Stephen Moss, chief operations officer at NSPI. "In order to be successful in the SMB arena with this technology you have to look carefully into the customer's business and make sure the technology will clearly and directly enhance their business. Talented solutions sales people is also important because you need to sell these solutions knowing that the implementation will be done correctly with the highest quality. It's a team effort."
NSPI engineers and sales people have spent the last 18 months studying IP communications technology for small businesses. It has worked closely with Cisco for assistance in reaching out to the SMB community, such as conducting call campaigns targeted at small businesses, and also on its COVAD-hosted solution. Moss says many people he's meeting with in the SMB market are like Optio Software: technically savvy and open-minded to innovation.
"We're still on the leading edge of IP communications but it's getting more mainstream every day," says Moss. "Businesses that are innovative and open to new technology are seeing the real benefits Cisco Unified Communications can deliver, and demand for it is growing."
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