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Houston Chronicle upgrades call accounting.

The Chronicle is Texas's largest newspaper with a daily circulation of 450,000 and over 600,000 on Sunday. Our staff of 2,400 people is dispersed throughout 12 buildings in Houston, a remote printing site and several news bureaus.

In 1978, the Chronicle had installed a multifunctional telecomm system based upon a Datapoint minicomputer and an AT&T Dimension switch. It was a neat package that did it all: routed outgoing calls, distributed incoming calls, kept call records, issued reports and even had a directory.

All of that activity, and more, is now being performed by our combination of Rolm and Northern Telecom switches and the call center management and telecomm management systems from AAC Corporation.

The Datapoint system was as good as we could buy at the time, but the Chronicle is now fully digital, having migrated in stages to become primarily a Rolm shop but with NT SL-1 switches at a number of remote locations.

The transition to the current system began in 1990 with the installation of a Rolm 9751 CBX for automatic call distribution and AAC's ACD Time Manager system to help us manage it.

The next stage was the transfer of long distance switching from the Datapoint to the Rolm CBX, which was accomplished in 1991 by installing 48 tielines between the Dimension switch and the 9751.

We have many people on the street - reporters and sales people - who have regular need to call the office. Many of them travel, and rather than supply each one with a credit card, we give them code access to an 800 number. Codes are assigned by individual rather than extension number, which allows them to call from any extension, with the switch keeping an accurate record of their calling activity.

Everything is done by the switch. It's more convenient and cheaper, but we are careful with the 800 numbers. They account for $10,000 of our average $35,000 monthly long distance bill.

Since we have never experienced significant abuse or misuse, call accounting at the Chronicle is primarily used for cost allocation and control, with extension reports detailing individual and departmental activity. Traffic report summaries support decisions that relate to network modifications, such as substitution of foreign exchange lines when appropriate for areas using dial-up long distance.

AAC's premise-based Telecommunications Utilization Management Service was installed in mid-1991. TUMS did everything we needed and the detail and accuracy that became available to us immediately was impressive.

The accounting department was impressed with the forced balancing capability, which enables them to zero-out the phone bill every month.

Initially, it was installed with the host personal computer accepting SMDR data directly from the Rolm switch, but with the switch sending a constant stream of data, we had to have the PC on line always. We bought a Tadpoll-Net remote pollable data collection device from AAC, and it was one of the best decisions we made. It holds a week of data, but we poll it twice a week and dump and drain it over a dialup line.

One thing conspicuously missing after the Datapoint's departure was the employee directory, which had run as an independent software system on the minicomputer.

We have four console operators and a security staff, all of whom had frequently looked to the directory for current employee information. AAC technicians helped us to format and build a directory that could be maintained on the same PC that we use to run TUMS and which could be transferred to the Time Manager's multiuser Xenix system for use by the console operators and the security staff. It supports up to 32 terminals.

A department screen shows everyone in each department. When an extension number is displayed, everyone who can be reached on that number is listed. if only part of a number is available, everyone whose number includes that part is listed. And if more detail is needed, the computer can display a full screen of work-related information on each Chronicle staff member.
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Author:Arnold, James
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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