An online survey co-sponsored by a unified communications (UC) vendor suggests the use of UC in councils is likely to rise.
Last November the Association of Local Government Information Management (ALGIM) invited New Zealand local government to comment on their current and planned usage of UC. Zeacom and ALGIM jointly developed the survey .
But of 85 New Zealand local authorities, only 33 responded – 39 percent of councils – and Zeacom concedes UC early adopters are probably over represented among these respondents.
Nevertheless, early adopters’ views on the benefits of UC implementation projects do provide useful information to councils yet to implement UC, say the survey sponsors.
Most of the councils currently using UC features have deployed mature technologies such as voice over IP, contact centre voice queuing and IP private branch exchanges. Seventy-six percent of respondents have made some investment in UC; on average around $125,000.
As many as 85 percent of respondents say they expect to increase their investments in UC within the next two years, on average by an additional $73,000. More than three-quarters of local council respondents say the main decision-maker in implementing a UC feature is the IT or IS manager. The early adopters say the UC features that have had the greatest impact on council operations are VoIP, contact centre voice queuing and Outlook calendar integration.
The greatest barriers to implementing UC features, they say, tend to be financial or people-related, rather than technical problems. The main barriers, say respondents, are obtaining budget approval (58 percent), winning management buy in (39 percent), gaining end-user buy in (39 percent), lack of technical infrastructure (27 percent) and lack of technical expertise (21 percent).
Zeacom’s marketing manager Jason Roberts says there is a clear opportunity for UC resellers in local government, in that the research shows many councils want to improve their customer service and trim costs. “They already have the pre-existing environment, but need help to implement the software applications on top that improve services,” says Roberts.
Because the foundation technologies of VoIP and UC are mature, it’s “relatively easy”, Roberts suggests, for resellers to up-sell advanced software and hardware to provide rich functionality.
“Customers expect council contact centres, and even individual workers, to know them and recall all previous conversations and information when they make contact. So councils need real-time presence information overlaid with business automation – such as CRM integration with interactive voice recording solutions and the use of call centre technologies such as call-back, priority queuing and enhanced routing. These all increase quality customer responses, while making more efficient use of staff time.”
Roberts says the gains reported by local government – including end-user efficiencies, improved customer service levels and faster internal communication with fewer delays – are a useful endorsement of UC for organisations in other sectors.