Executive Summary

Connecting to the Future

Taking advantage of the Internet, Web, and Web services to deliver outstanding voice services to faculty, staff and students at UBC

Report of the Voice Services BPR team

University of British Columbia
Information Technology

January 2006


In 1829, Martin Van Buren, Governor of New York, wrote to the President of the United States:

"The canal system in this country is being threatened by the spread of a new form of transportation known as "railroads"... As you may well know, railroad carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 mph by engines, which in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside. The almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed."

1. Executive summary

The Internet is transforming the way voice and telephone service is provided. Fundamental differences between the Internet and traditional circuit switched telephone networks are leading to the replacement of traditional phone services by new, converged, communication solutions. Instead of requiring dedicated phones, switches and networks, the new solutions are applications, running on computers, and communicating over easily accessed data networks. It will be some time before the change is complete, and the old systems disappear, but radically different new services are available now, some of which are being widely adopted. Voice services at UBC must change to take full advantage of these emerging solutions.

UBC's IT department is responsible for providing voice service to over 12,000 faculty, staff and students, and supports over 14,000 phones and related devices. Reliable, high quality, secure service, with support for 911 dialing, is provided using both traditional circuit switched (TDM) technology, and an enterprise voice over IP (E-VOIP) service. The TDM and E-VOIP services use proprietary technology. Cell phone service at UBC is provided by external vendors.

Offering the new E-VOIP service, in addition to the existing TDM service, has put a lot of stress on voice services staff. The work required to support two very different platforms is increased by the lack of integrated, scalable applications and processes to support new and existing customers. The new design addresses these issues.

In providing TDM voice service at UBC, IT has been similar to a traditional telephone company – a regulated, monopoly service provider, largely immune from direct competition (but not from pressure to provide high quality service at competitive prices). Because of voice services that use the Internet, IT's situation is rapidly changing. A number of free, or low cost, voice over IP (VOIP) services are available using web self-service, and can easily be used on campus. Two VOIP services (Skype and Vonage) and a protocol (SIP) are discussed to illustrate both the challenges and the opportunities confronting organizations that provide voice service today.

Lower cost or free VOIP services cannot currently provide the quality, reliability or security provided by UBC's TDM and E-VOIP services, and they cannot offer either a 5 digit UBC local number or a connection to the 911 emergency network. However, they can offer some features not offered by our current services, and they would meet many of the needs of some users, at a lower cost than our TDM or E-VOIP services.

IT should be the leader in offering new VOIP services and applications, and developing new business models to support them.

Traditional voice service is not going to disappear overnight, and the need to support different services will continue for some years. The total cost of supporting traditional systems should be considered when deciding when to discontinue them.

1.1. The new design

Nine key principles

  • clear management responsibility for voice services is essential
  • a strong focus on customers will ensure staff work together as a team
  • integrated, scalable processes are essential to deliver and support voice services
  • no new service should be offered until there are scalable processes to support it.
  • all voice services should offer highs ratio of value to cost
  • it should be easy select and manage voice services on-line, using web self-service
  • alternatives to web self-service service should be available for those who need them
  • on-line scalable processes will allow staff to provide outstanding service to all users
  • support and tools should be available to help departments provide excellent phone service

Key elements

  • Responsibility - the Director of Support, and an Application Manager, will have clearly defined management responsibility for voice services offered by IT
  • Customer service and teamwork – the Executive Director, ITServices, will ensure that all staff involved in the support or delivery of voice service work together as a team and share a strong commitment to customer service
  • New Processes - new business processes, supported by new, integrated applications, will improve efficiency and provide on-line customer self service:
    • the new processes reflect the following principles:
      • identity – login to myUBC makes user information available
      • integration – myUBC provides a single interface to all information and services
      • tracking – users can follow the progress of any service request
      • reporting – summary and detailed information is available to users and administrators
      • rules – rules are applied to reduce the need for approvals by administrators and allow immediate implementation of requests whenever possible
      • workflow – a workflow engine moves information between people and systems
      • scheduling – any work to be done later is scheduled for maximum efficiency
    • Web services technology and a service oriented architecture will be used to create an integrated application environment to support and deliver voice services
    • other process improvements include: use of PDAs by technical field staff to check and update information a bulk ordering tool for administrators on-site customer service should be carried out by one team
  • Customer Support - a comprehensive, accurate and easy to use website, together with outstanding person-to-person support, will be provided for customer support
    • specific positions will be given responsibility for the accuracy and ease of use of each area of the website
  • First things first – no new product or service should be offered until it can be fully supported with scalable deliver, installation, and support processes
  • New products and services
    • charges for self-service changes should be eliminated as soon as possible
    • soft phones will be supported and made available.
    • a new SIP based VOIP service for staff, faculty and graduate students
    • a limited, free SIP service for students and others
  • Support for departments - voice services advisors will help departments use enhanced call processing tools to provide excellent phone service to their customers
    • a more modern, flexible voice mail system to better meet front office needs
    • contact centre solutions for departments with large call volumes

1.2. The end result

When the new design is implemented

  1. UBC will be a leader in offering faculty, staff and students outstanding, cost effective voice services that take advantage of the Internet to meet a wide range of needs.
  2. Departments will have improved support and tools to help them to provide excellent phone service to their customers.

IT will have:

  1. An extended, cross-functional, voice services team, focused on customer service, together with clear lines of management responsibility for voice service.

  2. Applications, systems and scalable processes it needs to allow staff to deliver and support new services, and provide excellent service and support to all users.