The VoIP implementation is based on a Cisco solution implemented by vendor partners Optus and IBM subsidiary Cerulean. The network core is also composed of Cisco equipment, although it was built by outsourcer EDS. AT&T provided the wide area network (WAN) services.
Holden's VoIP project was one of two announced yesterday by Cisco, the other being a deployment of 4,500 phones at Geelong-based Deakin University. The university plans to use the technology's advanced features like video conferencing, but a spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on the rollout.
Holden's technology efforts -- including the VoIP project -- are centred on its new Port Melbourne-based state of the art headquarters. The new facility has been operational since May, but Holden's IT team had been planning the technology infrastructure since mid-2003, according to an internal case study document. It houses around 1,500 employees who had previously been spread around six or seven separate buildings.
Jaydeep Solanki, the Holden manager in charge of the overall program and author of the case study, said the switch to IP-based telephony had delivered greater freedom when rearranging employees' roles.
"For example, the flexibility of IP communications has meant we can easily reconfigure a team of two or three hundred people," he said in a statement.
The executive told ZDNet Australia while the project had encountered "teething problems" in areas such as hardware configuration, these were ironed out during an initial two-week pilot project involving some 30 employees.
"There were no major issues," he said, acknowledging the project had received support from two Cisco engineers flown over from its parent General Motors' head office in Detroit.
Solanki said employees were moved into the building and onto the phone system in weekly batches of 200, starting in May and lasting about eight weeks.
While Cisco eventually won the right to provide the hardware for the project, Solanki revealed his company had negotiated with both the vendor and its archrival Nortel.
"They were neck and neck," he said, adding that in the end Cisco had "a slight technical advantage over Nortel".
While the VoIP solution will initially be used for basic IP telephony and call centre functionality, Holden is also examining the potential to add videoconferencing into its arsenal.
Holden's technology showpiece also includes 17" Hewlett-Packard LCD monitors supplied by Volante, a centralised room booking system based on Lotus Notes, sensor-driven lighting, and multi-function printers from Fuji Xerox that can also photocopy, scan and fax pages. The devices eliminate paper-based faxing due to their integration with Holden's e-mail systems.
Meeting rooms were also equipped with audio-visual equipment from IBS AV in an effort to further eliminate paper use. Consultancy Ajilon was also brought in to assist with technology program management.
The human factor
Acknowledging its workforce needed motivation to get used to the new technology, Holden turned over leadership in this respect to its human resources department, who appointed a dedicated change manager to work with the technologists.
In addition, each department appointed their own change coordinator -- a total of 26. Those staff started meeting fortnightly and later weekly to coordinate their efforts.
An internal Web site was established to provide information to employees about their future workplace, and top-level buy-in was proven through a bi-monthly bulletin sent from Holden's local managing director to all employees.
But it wasn't all roses for Holden's employees -- they each faced mandatory technology training from Pollak Learning Alliance before they were even allowed to step foot in their new building. A particular sticking point proved to be the need to give away personal or departmental printers, fax machines and meeting rooms in favour of shared resources.
However ultimately Holden's efforts in this area paid off. "The communication plan worked and all employees had enough clarity on what to expect ... it helped create a good enthusiasm about the prospect of moving into a brand new office," wrote Solanki in his case study.
Renai LeMay travelled to Cisco's Networkers conference on the Gold Coast as a guest of Cisco.