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23.09.19

Justify your new communications system, it’s not that difficult

Foehn discuss with Public Sector Executive how they go about addressing the unique challenges of presenting an appealing communications system setup for public sector clients.

 

Over the past twenty years, we’ve worked with organisations of all types across both private and public sectors. From accountants to zoos, we’ve covered the A to Z of vertical markets.

Each organisation has its unique requirements and operational issues that need to be addressed by their new communications system. Normally, the conversation starts by highlighting these challenges, typically customer service or employee productivity, then moves on to expenditure and return on investment. Costing is normally a ‘bottom up’ rather than ‘top down’ process.

With public sector clients it’s different. Invariably, early conversations involve budgetary, investment and cash-flow limitations and it often becomes apparent that prolonged financial discussions internally have delayed the project before we received the call.

Met with the embattled IT manager who has survived several rounds with the finance department, we have to demonstrate how a cloud phone or contact centre can generate rapid and significant return on investment, before moving on to operational issues.

Winning the battle with budgets

Of course, this scenario is a generalisation and, more recently, forward-thinking public sector organisations are broadening their view of the bigger picture when it comes to the benefits of cloud communications and the return on investment achievable.

Equally, there is little doubt that the unrelenting pressure on public sector budgets is not going away. Against a backdrop of the much-publicised central government funding cuts of nearly 50% since 2010-11, local authorities continue to face stretched resources and insufficient budgets, particularly in the area of social services.

It’s encouraging to hear the recent announcement of a £3.5bn funding package for councils, representing the biggest year-on-year increase in a decade, but political uncertainty does little to raise hope of immediate improvements in the future.

Underneath the headline pessimism, though, there is some progress, if not optimism, in the specific funding of IT projects through the Government’s digital marketplace.

READ MORE: Cloud communications: making the case for investment in cost-saving technology

READ MORE: Six years on: Taking stock of G-Cloud 11

The G-cloud procurement framework, now is in its eleventh iteration (we have been accredited on the last six), has seen consistent growth with a throughput of £1.2bn last year and a total of £5bn since 2012.

At the same time, the past four years has seen exceptional growth in purchases through the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework aimed at providing government buyers with outsourced individuals or teams to help in the ‘agile’ production of digital services and systems.

The overall picture points towards a surge in large digital transformation projects commissioned by the larger central government departments. However, it would appear that the smaller local authorities and ‘wider public sector’ organisations have less IT spend and continue to be shackled by budgetary constraints. How can these organisations break the vicious circle of improving productivity to make the savings and release budget to pay for the productivity solution?

Assured return on investment

Cloud communications is a good starting point, particularly if you are running an old PBX-based system or even any VoIP or hosted system more than 10 years old.

That might sound like something we’d naturally say, and yes, there’s no denying that the technology market is awash with other applications and productivity tools that can help your organisation work better for less. But when the RoI calculations are done, there are very few solutions that can compare with the savings and efficiencies delivered by a modern cloud phone or contact centre system.

396 PSE Foehn Feb18 shutterstock

From the low-cost, maintenance-free cloud architecture, to the power of collaborative working, to the faster resolution of calls through the contact centre, the cost efficiency of cloud communications is exceptional. No other technology offers more benefit for each pound of investment.

The very nature of the technology and its investment is substantially risk-free. Deployment is fast and non-disruptive. Moves and changes are simple. Scalability, ease of integration and automatic upgrade to the lest technology, all combine to future-proof your investment. Also, systems specifications can be changed to suit your changing demands in the future. For example, your contact centre requirements today may focus only on voice, but you want the flexibility to add web chat or omnichannel capabilities in the future. Cloud communications delivers all this.

Real savings

All of these considerations came together recently for our client Ceredigion County Council, serving some 75,000 residents with a wide range of critical services. Faced with budgetary pressures, Ceredigion had previously adopted the approach that ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’.

Knowing the service enhancements available from a cloud contact centre, Greg Jones, Ceredigion Customer Services Transformation Project Manager, decided that simply maintaining the status quo wasn’t enough: “We liked the approach to costings.

“Everything concerning pricing was transparent and we particularly liked the flexibility of the pay-as-you-go, per-user approach. This is valuable because of uncertainty about the final number of users to be recruited to the team and the rate of build-up.”

READ MORE: How can cost-conscious organisations benefit from an imaginative provider?

Within a period of six weeks, the system was in service and a team of new agents operational. This rapid implementation, with negligible impact on day-to-day operations and minimal demand on client resources, is typical of cloud communications deployments.

Sometimes, there are other, less conventional ways of meeting a fixed budget. For our client, the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board, exceeding the budget threshold would have triggered a requirement to undertake a laborious government tender process.

To help avoid this delay, we reduced professional services costs to fall within budget by training and mentoring the in-house AHDB team in a DIY approach that reduced set up and deployment costs. 

Apart from the benefits, the hard cost savings of cloud migration were demonstrated at Boston Borough Council, where we replaced legacy telecommunications with our cloud phone system for 200 users. This reduced costs by more than 47% (£57,000 annually down to £27,000), whilst also providing users with all the advantages of a cloud phone.

Don’t be scared

For local authorities and smaller public sector bodies, cloud communication offers big rewards, both financial and operational. Implementation can be rapid, with negligible impact on day-to-day operations and minimal demand on client resources.

However, this often comes as a surprise to organisations that unnecessarily fear investment, and disruption in the workplace. By delaying the move, these organisations are missing out on the huge gains in productivity and customer experience that cloud services and digitisation can deliver.

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