13 July 2016
By their nature, local governments are not based in central hubs. Of course, they may occupy town halls, headquarters and main buildings. But for the most part, their offices are spread out over cities and counties, with premises that range from purpose-built supersize offices, to single floors in shared buildings. And that’s not to mention remote workers in rural districts and mobile employees who work across regions.
Because of the dispersed nature of local government, communications infrastructure has often presented a challenge. In addition, the changing nature of central government policy and the need to always be available to the public pose significant demands. The public sector needs to be accessible, efficient and always on – promises that traditional, fixed-line telecommunications systems cannot keep.
To accommodate the needs of modern local government, IT leaders within the public sector should look to how hosted telephony can suit their communications needs.
Locations, locations, locations
There is no typical government office set-up. Each council or city plans its office estate based on staff numbers, population and the geographical make-up of their region. Basically, what works in Hertfordshire might not in Carmarthenshire.
Accordingly, local governments need systems that work with how their offices operate – and that will ensure the same service level across all sites.
Hosted is ideal because it’s cloud-based and, as such, not reliant on physical infrastructure. A new office can be connected to the network literally within minutes, while remote workers can continue to make and receive calls as if they were in the office, through a mobile phone, or soft client on their desktop, wherever they are.
Grow and scale
Local governments are always subject to central government policy, budgets and priorities. Because of that, they are frequently exposed to cost saving measures, or new initiatives, that inevitably require opening, closing or repurposing premises.
With physical, fixed and static telephony, this can cause a real headache for the IT department. Closure requires specialist staff to remove lines, wires, hardware and to manage the changes in the number estate too. Expansion rests on installation. And, repurposing means a call to the supplier to change where a number is directed and the equipment the user needs, sometimes resulting in costly call forwarding charges.
On a hosted system each change can be done in-house by the IT department, via a simple and easy to use web portal. It’s also instant, meaning one less thing to worry about during periods of local government change.
The public is the priority
Local government is held to account perhaps more than any other organisation in the UK. The general public wants to know that their council tax money is being spent wisely and that services are being run efficiently. For those in charge, that’s a big responsibility. They need to provide excellent public services and ensure that the people using them are enjoying a positive experience.
Part of that is easy access to customer-facing departments and representatives within local government. And a poor telephony service will attract complaints.
Unfortunately, legacy systems are always likely to let the public down and cause headaches for local government leaders. They are unreliable, so in times of crisis the phone tends to be the first thing that goes, taking days to get back online. And there is no number rationalisation. So a member of the public dealing with a particular representative will be sent to voicemail if that person is out of the office – even if they are available on mobile, or at a different office location.
Through number rationalisation between mobile and fixed-line, hosted telephony completely rules out this problem making inbound call management simple and more effective. While the former is mitigated by built-in business continuity – with a service in the cloud there is simply less to go wrong (and so less to fix) on the ground.
13 July 2016 | Sam Winterbottom
The views in this article are the personal views of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Gamma.