An IP-based UC solution in order to operate more efficiently

Henley College Coventry is a vibrant and friendly medium sized FE college that provides education and training for approximately 5,000 part-time and 1,600 full-time students. The college has an excellent reputation for vocational courses in a wide range of areas including engineering, hospitality & catering, health & social care, hair & beauty, computing and sport. 

The college decided that in order to meet the future needs of its staff and students, and to reduce its maintenance and telephony costs it needed to replace its existing telephone system. This case study explores the reasons behind that decision, the selection and purchasing process and the results it obtained from the new installation.

Poor communication and rising costs due to out of date phone system

The College had an Avaya Index telephone system which had been out of manufacture for over 10 years. This meant it was no longer supported and parts were expensive and difficult to source. IT spokesperson for Henley College Coventry, Darryl Smith explains “The old PBX was at the heart of our communications system and received around 95% of all calls. But, because the model was discontinued and the operating system no longer supported we felt that we may be placing the college’s communications at risk.”

”Not only that but we had very limited voice mail. Messages could only be accessed via an internal telephone and only four messages could be processed at any one time, so with 200 users, many of which were sharing extensions, it was difficult for students to get in touch with them and this was clearly unacceptable as many critical messages were being lost. With the increasing financial pressure on colleges due to the economic climate and the latest spending review, it is also vital that we can increase efficiency and reduce costs wherever possible. With a new telephone system we hoped to make both short and longer term cost-savings as well as improve efficiency.”

Everything at a glance

  • The Swyx solution offered support for 200+ users, was feature rich, future proof and cost effective.
  • It includes unlimited voicemail which can be forwarded to email and easily retrieved from any location.
  • Reduction of ISDN lines to SIP lines that can be increased/decreased according to work load (e.g. enrolments/holiday periods respectively)
  • Hot desking facility (ability to access personal features like mailbox from any phone)
  • Soft phone capabilities
  • Auto attendant (IVR) enables reception to be centralised – the college has 2 outreach centres less than a mile away
  • Fax to Email (removing the need for a physical device) for each user
  • FMC fixed mobile convergence (wireless mobile phone compatibility, office mobility)
  • Built-in Call recording
  • Reduced space/equipment required because staff can share desks
  • Built in continuity so there is a back-up system if one server fails 

Solution – An IP-based unified communications solution  

According to Darryl Smith, the college needed to make the transition from a traditional phone system to a fully IP (Internet Protocol)-based solution. He explains, “We understood that we needed to utilise the IT infrastructure that we already had in place, as this would make the College operate more efficiently for staff and students alike. For example, we needed features such as auto attendant, individual voicemail accounts, fax-to-email, plus the integration of email, wireless handsets and mobile phones. None of this was available with our existing set-up. We also expected that an IP based system would reduce both our call and maintenance costs.”

The College drafted a Statement Of Requirements (SOR) document that included the following key requisites:

  • 200+ user system that needed to be robust, easily configurable and function rich
  • An all inclusive package with no hidden extras for more features e.g. additional license fees for increased capacity on the voicemail system was not acceptable
  • System to be configurable by own technical staff
  • Reduction in monthly call charges
  • Ability to vary capacity at different times of the year e.g. increased capacity during enrolment and reduced capacity during the summer break

In addition, the college wanted to reduce the number of mobile phones by the use of wireless phones for staff members who only used their mobiles on site.

In order to short-list potential suppliers, the College used a scoring system based on matching basic requirements, additional features and price. The college eventually selected a SwyxWare system from Coventry based IP telephony specialist HBT Communications who already has many customers in the Education sector.

Darryl explains the selection process, “The SwyxWare solution came out on top as they supplied everything we wanted, it was feature rich, future proof and was extremely cost effective. We were keen to understand what our future costs would also be, such as extra handsets etc. These were clearly priced and explained and HBT really understood our requirements. They were always looking to save the College money yet continue to improve our technology and functionality.”

The installation - Minimum disruption

To minimise any disruption, both the College and HBT decided that a phased approach would be the best strategy, allowing users to adapt to the new system gradually, adding new features over time.
Darryl Smith comments, “The initial system took just one week to install and with all features being introduced over a 12 month period, we will have all the functionality that we need. The majority of staff have adapted well and have been quick to learn how to use the new system, however like anything new, some will take a little longer to adjust to the change.”

Key Features and benefits

The college currently has a 200 concurrent license which can be increased as required. This means that up to 200 users can be logged on at any one time, therefore many more staff can be supported as they won’t all be using the phone system simultaneously. Even though the system is still in its early stages of roll out, already the college has taken advantage of the additional features of group ringing, call diverts, voicemail, auto-attendant and will soon be integrating Microsoft Outlook, so staff can dial direct from their address books.  

Is the new system delivering cost savings?

Darryl comments, “The short answer is yes, in many areas, including call charges, rationalisation of redundant telephone lines, improved staff efficiencies and much lower maintenance costs. However, we will only see the full potential after about a year, when we will be using more of the functionality and can see the long-term savings and efficiencies it will bring. ”

“The system has been very reliable and the level of service from HBT has been extremely high. They have performed beyond the levels we expected from them."

Darryl concludes, “The project has been a complete success, and I can’t think of anything but positive points about SwyxWare and especially HBT. Their support has been incredible from day one and will help solve any issues... even ones not relating to the telephone system!”

About Henley College Coventry

Henley College Coventry is a further education college in the city of Coventry, England. Established in 1964, the college provides education and training for approximately 5,000 part-time and 1,600 full-time students. The college has an excellent reputation for vocational courses in a wide range of areas including engineering, hospitality & catering, health & social care, hair & beauty, computing and sport. Study options are available at all levels up to and including higher education.


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