Arts Victoria slashes telco costs with VoIP

Victorian government agency rolls out VoIP platform and reduces telephony bill by over 50 per cent a month

Arts Victoria has realised savings of more than 50 per cent on its monthly telephony bill after rolling out a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) solution earlier this year.

The organisation dropped a hosted Telstra PABX deal after a government white paper approved the use of an NEC VoIP platform.

In March, Arts Victoria corporate development and facilities manager, Nicci Dillon, won an 18-month battle to be able to implement an NEC SV8100 Communication server solution with standard DtermIP handsets and a Zeacom Q-Master customer contact console for an outlay of $20,000.

After a two week trial with five handsets, the organisation deployed the VoIP system for its 90 staff, ending months of internal debate and cutting the $7500-8000 monthly bill down to $2500.

"It took about nine months of getting our IT providers and Department of Premier and Cabinet IT mangers to grasp the fact that I was allowed to do it, because I just kept hitting brick walls," Dillon said. "They didn't understand the technology; they were a bit afraid of it with firewall issues and so on. We eventually got through all of that. But [from the start] it was a good 18 months before we actually got to the rollout stage."

The rollout was also hampered by staff churn and concerns over securing the platform. The introduction of a new IT security head during the planning stages who didn't believe the organisation's Lotus Notes email platform could be secured over VoIP, for example, resulted in a stalemate.

"That took a bit of dancing and quite a few meetings till we got him to the point of taking a look," Dillon said. "We eventually got him through it and then he left."

Since the rollout, however, Dillon claims the benefits have been significant. Arts Victoria is part of the Department of Premier and Cabinet but is located in a separate building, so it has eradicated the charges imposed by Telstra for the 30-odd local calls it makes daily to the department. It also meant no more line and handset rental costs.

"Calls we made to other government departments and our own home department were made easy because they were internal," Dillon said. "We had that bonus and could then become part of the whole of government telephone directory, which is a five digit call. We had all our numbers listed on the standard government listing which we didn't have before. We actually came back into the fold and got all the benefits that would give us."

All of Arts Victoria is in one building on the ground floor, which also helped save on the initial outlay. Additionally, the organisation was given free support from its new service provider, CenITex, after migrating away from a Unisys contract.

"All of what the VoIP offered us was a way into the future, even with our front reception. We have now got Zeacom software which is console based," Dillon said. "Our receptionist can now see who is in, who is not, if they are on phone — it is just a one click transfer of calls. And it is all managed from the PC, which is brilliant for us because we had no idea with what we used to have. You would transfer calls through and just hope. If they bounced back you wouldn't know and it was quite embarrassing."

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