Feature Story

Greater Nevada Credit Union Deploys Unified Communications

April 27, 2007

Greater Nevada Credit Union Unifies Branch Locations with Cisco Solution from Partner SOS

Greater Nevada Credit Union (GNCU), headquartered in Carson City, Nevada, was founded in 1949. Today its 12 branches serve 50,000 members, making it northern Nevada's largest credit union.

Like many growing businesses of its size, GNCU's legacy PBX (private branch exchange) phone system was not keeping pace with growth, nor did it provide the high communications standards that the credit union strived for.

As a result of GNCU's growth and expansion, the company was straining under seven different legacy systems in 14 locations, none of which were tied together. Staff and members had to keep track of a long list of phone numbers for the different branches and services, and simple changes such as recording a new outgoing message could take weeks to accomplish. The credit union was concerned about reliability issues, because the system would give erroneous call reporting and randomly drop calls. The limited number of trunk lines filled up quickly, so that members trying to call in would often hear a busy signal.

"Our old system could Cisco® Premier Certified and SMB Select Partner Special Order Systems Inc. (SOS) to design and deploy a new communications solution," says Ron Broaddus, vice president of information technology for GNCU. "I felt that a new phone system would help our employees be more efficient and productive, and would serve our members better."

Broaddus called in a consultant, who in turn recommended Cisco® Premier Certified and SMB Select Partner Special Order Systems Inc. (SOS) to design and deploy a new communications solution. SOS has earned Cisco specializations in advanced unified communications and advanced security, and has spent the last few years increasing its focus on converged network solutions.

"We have really concentrated on developing our expertise in network telephony, and we have highly experienced data and voice engineers on our staff," says Gia McNutt, CEO of SOS. With more than half of its business in the SMB space, McNutt sees part of the SOS role as educating these customers about IP telephony.

"We can show our SMB clients and potential clients that this is not just voice-over-internet technology, but a platform on which they can support and grow their business," she says. "It is really exciting for us to apply this technology to help people solve real business problems."

Broaddus had a good vision of where he wanted to go with technology for the credit union. It was important that he work with the right professional services organization to help ensure that his technology choices were solid and that the investment would last GNCU for years to come. Broaddus chose SOS because he wanted to work with a local company that had the engineering talent both to confirm his technology choices, and to deploy those technologies successfully.

The SOS team started the project by performing a network assessment, and then having another, independent team at SOS review everything learned during the sales process. This helps ensure that all fact-finding was complete and correct. The SOS team then spoke with employees in individual business units to fully understand their networking and communications needs. This enabled them to produce a formal network design and a process call flow. GNCU already had a Cisco data network and routers in place. To leverage the existing equipment, SOS designed and deployed a new Cisco Unified Contact Center Express solution to support 47 agents and three supervisors. The project also included additional Cisco switches and routers, Cisco Unified Communications Manager, Cisco Unified IP Phones 7940G, 7960G, and 7970G. Cisco Security Manager was deployed to centrally provision all aspects of device configurations and security policies for Cisco firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS).

When Cisco Unified Communications was deployed, SOS integrated it with the PSTN (public switched telephone network) gateway infrastructure and the credit union's existing PBX system. This completed the base installation of the new Cisco Unified Contact Center deployment and allowed Cisco Unified Communications and the PBX system to operate as an integrated solution. The integration was key because the two systems had to work together transparently for the five months that it would take to get all branches and locations deployed with Cisco Unified Communications.

To help ensure that all data is secure, SOS deployed Cisco ASA (Adaptive Security Appliance) for perimeter routing and Cisco MARS (Monitoring, Analysis and Response System).

SOS then tuned the re-engineered network architecture to optimize performance and reliability, and to minimize the risk of intrusion. SOS also monitored network operation immediately after the deployment to help ensure that performance reliability levels of service were being met, and that the security parameters and thresholds were not exceeded. The SOS team also provided system administrator training on the operation and support of the network.

With all branches and service centers of Greater Nevada Credit Union now deployed with Cisco Unified Communications, staff and members alike are enjoying the benefits. With the flexibility afforded by unified communications, employees who need to work from home can now do so.

"We have actually been able to retain valuable management staff by being able to offer the flexibility to work from home," says Broaddus. With the accurate reporting tools now available to him, Broaddus and his staff can properly identify peaks in call center activity, and staffing can be adjusted accordingly. Accurate information on call volume, call length, and abandoned calls is readily available for monitoring in real time, and making adjustments is easy.

"The system allows us to quickly adapt to new needs," says Broaddus. "For instance, if reporting tells us that call center activity is high, we can literally set up a new call center in minutes. We can assemble staff in a conference room at a branch, plug in phones, and meet the needs of our members immediately." He notes that this function allows for valuable disaster recovery as well. With the old system, relocating the call center required a tremendous amount of work, including moving or purchasing new hardware. With Cisco Unified Communications, the credit union's entire call center can be switched from the central location to any branch location.

Gone are the days of depending on an outside vendor to help maintain seven different phone systems, improving productivity for both the IT department and member services staff.

"Problem resolution for IT has gone from four days down to four hours or less," says Broaddus. "The staff is more productive, the IT department can concentrate on more strategic projects, and we are saving upwards of US$10,000 per year just on outside maintenance contracts."