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Hidalgo County Case Study

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Case Studies

ShoreTel helps Hidalgo County realize Texas-size savings

Hidalgo County

Escalating expenses for an inadequate system

Hidalgo was paying about $900,000 a year for a traditional phone service that offered no centralized management features and lacked the ability to monitor or control additional lines.

Budget-friendly, modern telephony solution

Hidalgo leadership was challenged to provide an increasing number of public services despite shrinking budgets. Escalating telephony costs and limited features were not enabling the county to meet either goal.

The old telephony system was simply inadequate and hindering customer service. It did not provide voicemail or transfer capabilities, and there was no central directory of staff telephone numbers.

“Operators did not know the phone numbers for transferring callers,” explains Renán Ramirez, chief information officer for Hidalgo County. “So if someone dialed the wrong department looking for license plate information, whoever answered the phone would not know where to transfer the call. This resulted in a lot of complaints from residents who felt they were getting the runaround.”

“Our telephone engineer suggested we take a look at the ShoreTel Unified Communications (UC) system, since it did not require specially certified experts to manage,” says Ramirez. “During the demonstration, the ShoreTel UC system came up very quickly and was obviously simple to manage. Having full control of the phone system was vital to our ability to quickly expand, and we were confident the simplified management of the ShoreTel system would help to reduce our skyrocketing phone costs.”

ShoreTel slashes costs by more than 60 percent

Hidalgo County began with an implemen­tation of 800 ShoreTel IP phones, expanding to more than 1,500 phones, about 100 ShoreTel Voice Switches, and four voicemail servers. “ShoreTel was very responsive and very agile,” says Ramirez. “The equipment arrived and was deployed very quickly—within a month it felt as though we had been running it for years.”

Even more impressive, Ramirez adds, were the incredible cost savings: “The costs to Hidalgo County for the phone system went down from about $900,000 a year to about $400,000 a year since deployment because we can handle changes in-house, and make calls through the network using ShoreTel’s least-cost call routing feature, instead of having to go long distance across the county.”

The first deployment of the ShoreTel UC system was in the Commissioner’s office. At that time, staff had to write notes to one another because the precinct did not have voicemail, yet alone presence information. “With the ShoreTel UC system, the receptionist uses ShoreTel Operator Call Manager and simply drags incoming calls into the right voicemail box,” states Ramirez. “This makes sure a message gets through, even if the user forgets to set their call-handling modes.”

ShoreTel’s robust UC features foster better communication

Today, almost the entire county has been converted to the ShoreTel UC system, with about 40 workgroups set up, each with a direct-dial number and four-digit dialing. Furthermore, all directories are now accessed on the phone itself, giving staff instant access to up-to-date, accurate information.

ShoreTel’s workgroup capabilities enable the county to establish, monitor, and manage call queues, forecast peaks in traffic to ensure appropriate staffing levels, and answer calls in a timely manner. “I can see the number of calls coming into a workgroup and determine if more users need to be logged into the workgroup to handle the load,” explains telecommunication manager Eli Gracia. “The system offers us unprecedented transparency, and it’s incredibly easy to use.”

“HAVING FULL CONTROL OF THE PHONE SYSTEM WAS VITAL TO OUR ABILITY TO QUICKLY EXPAND, AND WE WERE CONFIDENT THE SIMPLIFIED MANAGEMENT OF THE SHORETEL SYSTEM WOULD HELP TO REDUCE OUR SKYROCKETING PHONE COSTS.”

Renán Ramirez, Chief Information Officer
Hidalgo County

ShoreTel holds up in hurricane territory

For Ramirez, one of the largest benefits of the ShoreTel UC system is the control his team now has over county communications. Since the system is easy to manage, he has had to allocate only one member of his seven-person team to manage the phone system, and any issues are diagnosed and resolved quickly and easily. This ability to address issues efficiently and make changes in real time has translated into real cost and time savings.

The reliability of the ShoreTel UC system also is a huge benefit in this hurricane-prone county. Since the distributed architecture is not server-dependent but based on voice switches, it therefore is not prone to the kinds of hardware failures inherent with servers. The county is expected to be the first line of defense in case of an emergency or natural disaster, and the ShoreTel UC system has enabled staff to develop a disaster plan for communications that enables them to publish an emergency number for citizens to call for information and quickly set up a command center if necessary.

Scalability is also important to deal with spikes in traffic. “It is easy to set up a phone bank and add say 20 extensions for one month, then remove them later,” says Ramirez. “We were able to relocate about 60 users in one day and respond quickly after a hurricane caused devastating flood damage. ShoreTel has given us the flexibility and reliability we need to be both responsive to the citizens of Hidalgo County, and fiscally responsible.”

This flexibility means that as the county continues to grow, Ramirez’s staff can quickly get phone service to new sites, and convert existing sites. Working with its ShoreTel reseller, Lee Gonzalez from Lava Concepts and Consulting, Hidalgo plans to add another 26 sites throughout the county to the ShoreTel system, and expand its capabilities. “We’re evaluating the potential benefits of implementing a fax server and switching to ShoreTel Converged Conferencing, which will help us drive down costs even further. The benefits of ShoreTel are truly Texas-sized,” concludes Ramirez.

“SHORETEL HAS GIVEN US THE FLEXIBILITY AND RELIABILITY WE NEED TO BE BOTH RESPONSIVE TO THE CITIZENS OF HIDALGO COUNTY, AND FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE.”

CHALLENGE:

  • Reduce skyrocketing communication costs and take control of a sprawling phone system that was costly and time-consuming to maintain, and did not offer modern features such as voicemail and call forwarding.

SOLUTION:

  • The ShoreTel UC system included 1,500 ShoreTel IP phones, 100 ShoreTel Voice Switches, and four voicemail servers.

BENEFITS:

  • $500,000 cost savings per year
  • Centralized control and management
  • Robust UC features
  • Business continuity in case of a disaster