Boston Borough Council almost halves telephony costs through move to IP

Boston Borough Council has saved more than 40% of is annual telephony costs by transitioning to a modern IP communications system provided by systems integrator, Foehn. As well as achieving significant financial savings, the Council has been able to make efficiency gains, introduce flexible working, better measure and improve call centre performance, and now has in place a more robust and resilient disaster recovery plan.

Serving the borough of Boston in southeast Lincolnshire, the Council began a major transformation of its ICT that included reviewing its ageing onsite legacy telephony system.

“The move to hosted IP telephony became an important part of the transformation, especially when the Council realized that significant cost savings could be made, but not to the detriment of service delivery,” says Matthew Clarke, Strategic ICT advisor to Boston Borough Council.

Foehn’s IP telephony solution, which followed an initial pilot and now caters for over 200 users across the authority, including three virtual contact centres, is based on the Open Source Asterisk platform. No additional network infrastructure has been required, apart from the provision of Power over Ethernet units to power the new handsets.

“Rather than tie itself into a proprietary big-brand technology, the Council has married good quality open standard SIP handsets with the Open Source Asterisk telephony platform delivered by Foehn,” says Clarke. “This offers the Council great flexibility when considering future development plans, and the Pay-As-You-Go contract via G-Cloud ensures there is no big capital asset to maintain, upgrade, or replace in the uncertainty of the years ahead.”

Previously the Council was spending in the region of £283,000 every five years on its fixed telephony, but with the Foehn IP telephony solution, this has been reduced to £116,000. Another benefit of the new system is that apportioning costs is now much simpler and clearer, with each extension and associated call costs invoiced monthly and directly to the relevant cost centre.

“Although the cost savings are sizeable for a local authority like Boston Borough Council, there are many other benefits that can be derived by switching to a more modern and flexible system,” says James Passingham, Technical Director for Foehn. “In this case, the Council has been able to reduce its spend but at the same time have more features and functionality, including call queuing that provides detailed, real-time visibility of the numbers of calls queued, waiting times, and agent status.”

This insight led to customer service improvements in just two weeks as the Council was able to allocate resources based on emerging traffic patterns. It also paved the way for further transformational and improvements across the Council’s service areas where remote working – in the field, at other council offices and from homes – is now a viable and almost zero cost option.

The new telephony system also provides enhanced disaster recovery capabilities. Having experienced a very near miss in the East Coast flooding of December 2013, the Council has been able to mitigate the risk of a similar event with staff members now able to access the telephony system from any location with an Internet connection.

Before full roll out, Foehn provided Boston Borough Council with a pilot at one of the authority’s small depots that proved that the concept could work.