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Local councils embrace unified comms

Local councils embrace unified comms

Improved customer service and internal communications reported

Investment in unified communications (UC) technology appears to be working for most of New Zealand’s local government sector, according to the findings of a survey by the Association of Local Government Information Management (ALGIM) and local UC provider Zeacom. The online study includes responses from 33 IT managers or CIOs from local councils.

The local government sector has ongoing plans to continue investing in UC technologies, with 85 percent of councils surveyed indicating they will increase their spending at an average of $73,000 each over the next two years.

Seventy-six percent of councils surveyed have already implemented some form of UC, ranging from IP phones to enhanced contact centre tools. These councils have spent an average of $125,000 on UC to date.

Fifty-nine percent of councils using UC reported improvements in work efficiencies for end-users. Forty-three percent of councils with UC also reported improvements in customer service levels, better communication between different divisions, faster internal communication and fewer delays.

ALGIM chief executive Mike Manson says UC has proven itself as a valuable tool for local council operations.

“UC is helping our members overcome business challenges associated with the responsibility for providing a wide range of specialist services to diverse stakeholders with finite budgets. It is good to see that UC is being viewed as a strategic tool that improves the quality of service, boosts productivity and therefore reduces costs,” he says.

The majority of councils surveyed already used VOIP, IP PBX, calendar integration with Presence and voice queuing technologies at contact centres.

The UC features most rapidly adopted by councils are Presence, Unified Messaging and Microsoft Outlook integration with voicemail. More than 42 percent of councils surveyed have already implemented one, if not more, of these features and another quarter of the councils planning to adopt at least one.

Local government IT managers felt that gaining budget approval was the greatest issue when implementing a UC project (58 percent), followed by gaining buy-in from management (39 percent) and users (also 39 percent).

However, Presence, one of the cornerstone UC features most likely to be adopted by councils in future, has been well received by council staff to date.

Forty-eight percent of councils have already implemented Presence and a majority of those reported that updating Presence is now a regular (27 percent) or semi-regular (30 percent) work practise for their end-users.

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