When London property law firm Forsters moved buildings, Andrew Meade, the group’s IT director saw an opportunity to save money and support time by running the firm’s IT and phone systems over the same cables.
“When we moved we had an opportunity to change our phone system,” says Mr Meade. “The old PBX just wasn’t up to the job. In our previous building we had copper wire and a PBX running cheap and basic £15 phones. That was fine, but when we moved we immediately saw we needed to run only one network cable.”
For £120,000, the firm bought a MITEL IP PBX, 150 handsets and three years’ of technical support from integration firm Matrix. The package also included software for voicemail tools, such as unified messaging – an automated service that reads e-mails out aloud as if they were voicemail.
“We don’t really do that now but that’s our choice,” says Mr Meade. “The ability to listen to e-mail over voicemail is a huge plus. There’s also the ability to use [Microsoft] Outlook as a telephone directory – you can dial from Outlook. From a user perspective, that would be something they use all the time.”
Having a converged network means members of the IT team can service phones from their desks, which has saved time.
“The old system was old school,” he says. “With this we have had to call for support only two or three times. We wanted a system we could manage without having to traipse around the office fiddling with handsets. The software is much easier and setting up users is too. You can almost do it from the manual.”
Once the network cables were installed in the building, it took relatively little time to put the phone system in place.
“We did it in a weekend, starting on a Thursday. We shut up shop at 4pm. It was all new hardware but fairly simple to put it in place,” says Mr Meade.
Although the company discourages it, the system means employees can work at home and receive calls as if they were at work.
And with the ability to include videoconferencing and cordless telephony into the network, the IT team was convinced it had found better value for money than competitors could offer.
“We did take a look at the Cisco system but they wanted almost double what we were prepared to pay,” says Mr Meade.
“But functionally they are very similar. It wasn’t difficult to convince the board.
“We’re moving ahead with the times. We’re a law firm and have to have the new toys before anyone else, so on that level it works. There’s also a definite improvement in clarity.”