Lifeline to take more calls with VoIP

Telephone counselling service Lifeline expects to be able to answer the phone more often as a result of installing a new Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony system. The new technology is currently being rolled out and is scheduled to reach all of Lifeline's approximately 60 locations nationally by sometime in September, the group's IT manager Steve Tucker told ZDNet Australia by telephone this week.

Telephone counselling service Lifeline expects to be able to answer the phone more often as a result of installing a new Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony system.

The new technology is currently being rolled out and is scheduled to reach all of Lifeline's approximately 60 locations nationally by sometime in September, the group's IT manager Steve Tucker told ZDNet Australia by telephone this week.

While the business case for VoIP migration is usually based on cost savings or extra functionality, Tucker said Lifeline simply wanted its 4,500 to 5,000 volunteers to be able to answer more calls.

"The way Lifeline operates currently, is that it picks up calls from certain areas around Australia, which are divided into call catchment areas, and it delivers those to your nearest available centre," he said.

"In the same way that you'd ring up and order a pizza."

One of the limitations of the current system provided by Lifeline's telecommunications carrier is that it cannot redistribute calls significantly outside the area in which they were made.

Tucker said the VoIP move would allow Lifeline to automatically redistribute calls over its internal network to areas where its volunteer counsellors were free to take a call at that moment.

Phase one of the project is due to go live in September and will replicate the functionality of Lifeline's current system, with some benefits.

"We'll be able to share calls amongst more centres, but still keep them regional," said Tucker. "If we see the benefits from that, we'll take it to the next stage."

Lifeline is using Cisco hardware throughout its network and has signed up systems integrator Getronics to help with the rollout.

But Tucker advised fellow IT managers and CIOs considering similar rollouts not to take their systems integrators' skills for granted.

"Don't merely rely on the integrator to do all the work for you. All of the common sense questions around IP telephony, you have to ask yourself as well," he said.

"Ask yourself and your carrier all the Quality of Service questions, go through the common checklist."

He advised CIOs to make sure they understood the system they were intending to implement, so that knowledge could inform future internal decisions during implementation.

As part of the solution, Lifeline has also contracted Sydney-based integrator Attain IT to put in an Oracle ID management application for single sign-on and user management benefits.

The ID management rollout was about 33 percent implemented, according to Tucker, who said he initially had four key requirements for the solution:

  • Single sign-on capability for multiple systems
  • Integration with Microsoft Active Directory or the LDAP standard
  • A high degree of user self-service
  • A very granular and flexible ruleset

"Recognise that change management of the users is a significant part of this process," the IT manager advised others examining ID management rollouts. "Have a road map planned out for how you're going to deal with that."

"Don't expect that just to follow and fit in with how the project runs ... because at the end of the day, it has to be an approach which the users are going to be comfortable using."

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