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Harris County Department of Education Case Study

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Case Studies

ShoreTel VoIP gives Harris County Department of Education a lesson in how to save $500,000 in less than two years

Expensive leases and service contracts

Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) had a managed PBX system from AT&T. The system did not offer the lowest operational costs, since so much equipment was leased and service outsourced.

A VoIP system that was more cost-effective

Because communications are so critical to serving the community, HCDE wanted to ensure that the telephone system was always reliable and costeffective. The organization was using a managed PBX system from AT&T and leasing the phone equipment. Also, a service contract was in place to handle routine moves/adds/changes and other administrative tasks.

To reduce costs, the organization wanted a VoIP platform that enabled simpler in-house management, greater ease of use, and long-term cost reductions. Jim Schul, chief information officer for Harris County Department of Education, and his team drew up a governmental request for proposal, and received bids from numerous vendors, including Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, and AT&T.

“It was our plan to deploy unified communications (UC) and simultaneously save costs. We were really looking for a VoIP solution to improve our communications capabilities, as well as our long-term costs. We had a telecom partner, Total Technologies, who turned our attention to ShoreTel,” says Schul.

HCDE chose ShoreTel due to its ability to manage the platform, ease of use, tight integration with the network, and a distributed architecture that provided excellent recovery time objectives (RTOs) to meet the district’s business continuity plans. “We saw outstanding cost benefits and savings with ShoreTel,” explains Schul.

Finding the Overachiever in ShoreTel UC

The ShoreTel UC solution for HCDE is based on the power of IP business communications, and comprises ShoreTel Communicator, ShoreTel Conference Bridge, ShoreTel Director, ShoreTel IP Phones, and ShoreTel Voice Switches. The solution was implemented across 30 HCDE locations with more than 1,000 ShoreTel licenses.

With ShoreTel, everyday business communications are made infinitely simpler by bringing together an open phone platform with UC and contact center functionality, as a single easy-to-deployand-manage solution. The ShoreTel system is highly scalable and includes both a fully redundant, distributed architecture and intelligent core software, with advanced UC capabilities to streamline workflows, capitalize on real-time communications, and reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO).

ShoreTel Communicator is a star pupil at HCDE, with all the necessary tools to effectively handle the diverse ways that people want to work. Communicator provides an intuitive interface and Softphone capabilities to simplify day-to-day interactions for employees who require the flexibility to move between voice and data features on the desktop or from Web and mobile environments. Communicator delivers tight integration and instant access to Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Outlook directories, contact lists, and other important business programs.

Also at the head of the class is ShoreTel Conference Bridge, a progressive and thoroughly tested service appliance with integrated audio and web features, instant messaging, and one-click scheduling. Conference Bridge gives HCDE staff on-demand conferencing and easy ways to upload documents or add participants during calls, record conference calls, and generate call summary reports.

“IT WAS OUR PLAN TO DEPLOY UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS (UC) AND SIMULTANEOUSLY SAVE COSTS. WE WERE REALLY LOOKING FOR A VOIP SOLUTION TO IMPROVE OUR COMMUNICATIONS CAPABILITIES, AS WELL AS OUR LONG-TERM COSTS.”

Jim Schul, Chief Information Officer
Harris County Department of Education

ShoreTel Director provides the single-pane management and real-time visibility for all the voice applications across HCDE locations. The reliability of ShoreTel’s architecture helps HCDE achieve 99.999 percent availability for mission-critical business continuity, and ShoreTel Voice Switches coordinate support for all the ShoreTel IP Phones and Softphones. Schul was particularly impressed by the ShoreTel system’s ability to meet stringent RTOs. An RTO is a vital component of the overall business continuity for the organization and its external customers.

HCDE purchased annual maintenance support services from ShoreTel and technical support from Total Technologies, including train-the-trainer sessions and multiple end-user training sessions. AT&T participated in the implementation as well, coordinating with the Total Technologies project manager.

“One of the many nice things about ShoreTel is that it’s really maintenance free, so we don’t have many support calls. The phones are really impressive, the speaker quality is amazing, and users immediately loved their new ShoreTel capabilities. Being able to access and share directories, personal call information and call management—all received big thumbs up,” says Schul.

Matriculating with honors in cost savings

HCDE continues to evolve its educational offerings for the betterment of its children and community. Now it can add significant cost savings to its list of accolades, thanks to the ShoreTel implementation.

At the outset of the VoIP solution search and evaluation, Schul had conducted a cost-benefit analysis of potential vendors. “We’d projected a $500,000 savings over three years with the ShoreTel implementation. Instead, we achieved those savings in half the time. That’s fantastic savings for HCDE and its constituents. We reduced the cost of doing business with a lower TCO. We have simplified how we administer the phone system. We can now perform the moves/adds/changes ourselves rather than having to pay third-party services, so we not only eliminated phone service contracts and the leased equipment costs, but we also reduced the number of telephone lines and trunks needed,” states Schul.

Employees at HCDE also are pleased with the usability improvements since ShoreTel joined the class. “We have seen improvements in employee productivity and customer satisfaction. They have greater accessibility to tools that promote realtime communications; they have the integration of their directories and calendars, and a general cohesiveness for communicating. We plan to stay with ShoreTel into the future,” Schul concludes.

“WE HAVE SEEN IMPROVEMENTS IN EMPLOYEE PRODUCTIVITY AND CUSTOMER SATISFACTION. THEY HAVE GREATER ACCESSIBILITY TO TOOLS THAT PROMOTE REAL-TIME COMMUNICATIONS; THEY HAVE THE INTEGRATION OF THEIR DIRECTORIES AND CALENDARS, AND A GENERAL COHESIVENESS FOR COMMUNICATING. WE PLAN TO STAY WITH SHORETEL INTO THE FUTURE.”

CHALLENGE:

  • Harris County Department of Education was using an AT&T managed PBX system, leased phone equipment, and was paying for a service contract. To reduce costs, the organization wanted to move to a true Voice over IP (VoIP) platform.

SOLUTION:

  • ShoreTel provided a VoIP solution that included ShoreTel Voice Switches, ShoreTel Communicator, ShoreTel Conference Bridge, ShoreTel IP Phones, and ShoreTel Director.

BENEFITS:

  • Rapid ROI of $500,000 over 1.5 years
  • Lower TCO with simpler administration
  • Elimination of phone service contracts, leased equipment, and a reduction of telephone lines and trunks