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More than a phone: creating a unified communications strategy: key considerations for updating campus communications systems.


Vice President




Vice President, Public Sector




Director of Information Technology

Brescia University (Ky.)


A University Business Web Seminar Digest * Originally presented on April 12, 2016

Many colleges and universities face challenges when it comes to their phone and communications systems. Outdated phone systems offer limited capabilities and often consume time and resources due to support and maintenance requirements. By moving to a unified communications platform, institutions can not only replace aging campus phone systems, but go beyond voice to unify all communications in a streamlined and more reliable desktop application, encompassing voice, email, fax, video and chat. A unified communications platform will also allow institutions to integrate even more advanced applications in the future, which can further enrich the student experience both on and off campus and enable new levels of collaboration between students, faculty and administrators.

In this web seminar, an administrator from Brescia University in Kentucky and two industry experts discussed how to develop a unified communications strategy that can benefit the campus community both today and in the future, by reducing costs, improving collaboration, and enriching teaching and learning.

Brian Moore: We've been providing unified communication (UC), primarily voice and video collaboration for the better part of 10 years. We're focused on customer outcomes and customer success, not just delivering technology to the marketplace.

We look at engagement from the student lifecycle perspective. How can we have an impact on recruitment, admissions, retention or graduation? How do we engage with alumni after they leave the school? Integrated communications can play a significant role in that engagement.

At Jive, we have a very integrated approach to communications. As you are looking for a UC provider, it's imperative that you look for one that has an integrated approach so they can look at your needs and the timing of those needs and deliver solutions--not just technology, but real solutions to problems that you are trying to solve today, and solutions that enable you to anticipate future needs.

Instead of building the technology and trying to convince a customer to use it, we've taken the approach where we engage with our college and university customers to ask them what their needs are, knowing that we have the technology to meet those needs.

Taking a comprehensive approach to unified communications--particularly using a cloud model--enables seamless and gradual implementation, so you can solve the most urgent problems first, and make the transition easy for your campus users. Because with adoption of any new technology, it doesn't matter how great the technology or the implementation is--if you don't get buy-in from key stakeholders the project will not succeed.

Creating a unified communications strategy for your campus involves looking at your current environment and asking very simple questions: What are the requirements of your communication platform? Is it only to communicate across campus? Is it to be part of a better security management or emergency response solution? Is it more important to improve student engagement because the way we communicate with students has changed?

With a unified communication cloud-based platform, you are able to pick and choose the features and capabilities to deliver the outcomes that you need. You don't have to do everything at the same time.

Sean Berg: We live in the most interconnected time in human history--a tipping point where BYOD, mobility, cloud, big data and social media have all come together to remove barriers that have traditionally prevented effective collaboration across the campus and even across the globe. This environment is enabling new capabilities.

Our environment is also much more virtual than ever before, allowing people to connect and collaborate from any location, at any time, across any distance and on any device. And high-definition voice and video devices support rich connectivity for audio and visual content and real-time collaboration.

All of this rapid innovation and change has led to what we call a virtual classroom, essentially a learning environment that can be created anywhere and everywhere at the same time. So how do you keep pace with this rapid change in the technology arena?

It starts by embracing collaboration tools and practices, and by encouraging teamwork and advanced innovation to accelerate the learning process. It's not just about adopting a tool or a set of tools, but how to create a strategy that drives your decisions about technology adoption.

We have a unique perspective on this topic, one that is built on three pillars that we believe are driving the future of collaboration.

1) Workspace. Traditional lecture halls and classrooms are giving way to small study halls, open spaces and distance learning around the globe. It's never been more important to enable people to create their own workspaces via secure connections from anywhere, on any device and at any time.

2) Experience. In the future of collaboration, technology doesn't get in the way. Rather, it is high-quality collaboration with technology that delivers a reliable, intuitive, consistent and seamless experience across all devices. You are not collaborating for its own sake. The work you are doing involves collaboration, and the technology is operating in the background to enable that collaboration.

3) All-around workflow. When collaboration tools are accessible to everybody and integrated into daily learning activities, higher education transforms in a way that enriches the experience for both educators and students.

Chris Ford: Our IT department at Brescia University is fairly small; we have four people on staff. We are committed to providing service to our faculty, staff and students--whether they are online students or on-campus. We work in various areas of IT, including networking, hardware, voice, data communications and software services for the entire university. So we're pulled in many different directions.

With our previous phone system, whenever we had to make any changes, we had to call the provider. There was no integration with applications such as our CRM, our student information system or other key programs. There was very little that we could do in-house. So we decided that we needed to find a different phone system.

We started by looking at VoIP phone system options, and that's when we found Jive. And even though we've been using the Jive system for our campus phones for two years, we're just now starting to fully integrate some of their more advanced capabilities, such as desktop presence and chat.

The nice thing about the presence in chat is that there's also a mobile client. You can actually text back and forth and receive that on your mobile client at the same time. With the mobile client, your cell phone becomes an extension of your office phone.

Our campus users--particularly faculty, administrators and staff members--appreciate features such as the "Do not disturb" option on the mobility client, which users can set up based on their physical location. In other words, you can set your mobile phone to accept calls to your office phone, except when you're in your office, so you don't have three phones ringing at once. Or, when users are at home, their mobile phone automatically switches to "Do not disturb," so their office calls go to voicemail instead.

Another nice thing is the Contact Center, which enables us to see real-time what all is going on with the call queues. We can see how long it's taking for calls to come through, the average speed of an answer and other details. That enables us to decide if we need more people on staff to answer calls in certain departments, for example.

As we continue and use more features in the future, I can anticipate that we will be integrating even more into our SIS system or CRM, and adding click-to-dial functionality. We're looking forward to the future. Originally we were looking for a new voice system, but we ended up finding a new, comprehensive communications platform.
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Publication:University Business
Date:Jun 1, 2016
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