Collaborative Partnership with NCSU
In fiscal year 2014-2015, UNCG Information Technology Services (ITS) is due to refresh our voices services infrastructure, which is the equipment required to support traditional phone handsets on the desk. As we began to plan for this refresh, ITS began to consider questions such as “Do our faculty and staff still need and/or want traditional voice services as a primary means of communication?” This question is especially relevant, considering there are a wide variety communication tools available today including email, chat, video and smartphones (in addition to traditional phone handsets on the desk).
In early 2014, ITS sent a survey to UNCG faculty and staff to help us better understand what communication tools our campus needs. The survey response was overwhelming: 1,144 responses. Of those respondents, 68.8% indicated that traditional voice services were “essential to have” and 25.5% indicated that they were “valuable to have” (94.3% total).
Once we had this data, ITS began evaluating new options for voice services at UNCG. We looked carefully at collaboratively managing services with various partners, as well as options for outsourcing voice services to a cloud provider. Our goals were to identify a solution for a new five-year service model that would:
- substantially drive down voice services rates for faculty and staff
- avoid rate increases to the greatest extent possible through the next five year period
- be seamless to most faculty and staff (no change required)
- streamline the UNCG Voice Services operation by leveraging additional staff resources external to UNCG
We are pleased to announce that we have entered into a collaborative managed services agreement with North Carolina State University (NCSU) that we believe will allow us to achieve these goals. In this partnership, NSCU will provide management of the voice services infrastructure and UNCG will continue to provide end-user support to our faculty and staff.
Recognizing the value of combined economies of scale, NCSU is working to develop a system-wide managed voice over IP (VoIP) service that they plan to offer to other campuses within the UNC System. As the flagship adopter of this new service model, UNCG will be able to reduce voice services rates for our faculty and staff and provide better service, while working collaboratively within the UNC system to help build a shared service for the benefit of the greater whole.
UNCG and NCSU will begin jointly developing an implementation strategy in July 2014, with target goals of moving our six call centers (6-TECH, Financial Aid, CFNC, Admissions, Parking, University Switchboard) to the new managed service in the fall and winter of 2014 and the remainder of campus by summer of 2015. We expect most of campus will not notice the transition.
Part of our efforts to streamline operations and contain costs will include the gradual phase-out of analog phone service. ITS has announced a sundown date of June 2018 for faculty and staff analog phone services at UNCG, with the expectation that at the next five-year refresh cycle (2019 – 2024) all faculty and staff voice services will be VoIP based.
We will also begin a project in fall 2014 to evaluate unified communications tools (chat, video, presence, desktop/mobile calling) that can be fully integrated with UNCG voice services. The goal of this effort will be to provide UNCG faculty and staff with a suite of inter-connected communications tools that are very cost effective, are high availability/high performance, leverage users’ single university identity and directory information, and provide connectivity with other communications systems worldwide using industry standard protocols such as Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP).
ITS will continue to explore emerging communications technologies and providers as service offerings are in a constant state of change in this market space. We will also continue to actively pursue solutions to further reduce costs while improving service for our faculty and staff subscribers.
If you have questions or need more information, please contact 6-TECH at (336) 256-TECH (8324) or 6-TECH@uncg.edu.