Local councils in New South Wales and Victoria are invited to participate in a free trial of Microsoft’s Lync unified communications (UC) system with Sydney-based integrator Computer Systems Australia (CSA).
Tweed Shire Council on the NSW far-north coast is one participant, and according to information systems and projects supervisor, John Bruggy, the trial will help determine the business case for unified communications in addition to the existing hosted IP telephony service.
“We recently installed a Telstra IP solution for our telephony system so the next stage of that is looking at OCS [Lync] and how we can incorporate it,” Bruggy said.
No decision to purchase has been made by the councils, but Bruggy believes “quite a few will want to evaluate it”.
“Being a regional council there is the opportunity to be able to communicate with neighbouring councils,” he said. “We have regular IT department meetings between councils so we could take advantage of cost savings with Web conference meetings.”
Tweed Council will meet with CSA at the end of the month to get the trial underway, which is fully hosted and doesn’t require any on-site infrastructure.
The council is already using Telstra-supplied Polycom handsets to place calls over its IP network.
Troy Green, director of technology and corporate services, at Tweed Council said the organisation has toyed with Microsoft’s OCS in past, but Lync is next-generation technology and he is keen to see if business efficiencies can be achieved with better presence features.
“Our workforce continues to mobilise this can help deliver that and there are national digital economy goals for government services and want to have the right tools to be able to deliver that,” Green said, adding the NBN will be a big enabler of connectivity in the region.
Green said cost will be a factor as to whether the Council goes ahead with a UC project, but it recognises the potential improvement in its contact centre, videoconferencing and telecommuting.
Another participating local government organisation is Coffs Harbour City Council on the NSW mid-north coast.
CSA’s strategic business development manager for government, Sarah Cunningham, is managing the three-month trial which the company claims is the first large-scale trial of Microsoft Lync to be conducted within local government in Australia.
Local councils taking part in the trial will be given a USB stick that allows them to test Lync in a “plug and play” manner, according to CSA.
To demonstrate the communications platform, councils will be invited to participate in one of four webinars to be hosted by CSA and Microsoft during August.
“With local government managers under pressure from rate payers to reduce costs, they are looking at ways to reduce telephony charges, eliminate unnecessary travel and improve staff productivity,” Cunningham said.
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