Some employees can't get enough of online poker. Others prefer online soduku. Nobody, it seems, likes to play telephone or e-mail tag.
IT administrators at the Vancouver mining company Teck Cominco Ltd. didn't comment on the first two games, but they discussed how they managed to put an end of the last one by using unified communication (UC) technology.
With mining staff located around the world from Alaska to Peru, Teck Cominco wanted to a cost-effective way to streamline its various voicemail, wireless and e-mail messaging capabilities to keep employees connected in or out of the office.
Unified communication -- a method of integrating communication streams such as fax, data, e-mail, voice and video within a single inbox -- is ideal for companies with geographically dispersed staff.
In the past, a lot of time was wasted when people left messages on multiple connection points (desk phone, mobile phone, e-mail and fax) in attempts to contact a specific person or set-up a team meeting, said Vern Kasdorf, IS program director for Teck Cominco.
"If you were the caller, you had no real idea which communication channel would yield a connection. If you were the receiver, you wouldn't know you had an important message until you got back to your desk," Kasdorf said.
The set-up generated a lot of downtime, he said.
To consolidate the company's e-mail and voicemail under a single platform, Tech Cominco hired Bell Business Solutions.
The integrator recommended that the mining firm consolidate its servers and upgrade to a system based on Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 with Unified Messaging (UM) and Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007.
The company already had an existing licensing agreement with Microsoft and upgrading to Exchange Server 2007 would leverage existing IT investment, according to Peter Hass, of Bell Business Solutions. "Other options were just too costly, complex and disruptive. They needed a quick ROI (return of investment) and a system that can grow with the business."
This strategy meant that Teck Cominco didn't have to migrate to a new platform but rather "extend" the software they were already using. IT administrators and employees in offices and mine sites needed minimal training. About 100 users were migrated to the new system in four hours. Unified messaging allowed employees to access voicemail, e-mail, calendar and contacts over any phone and provided voice messaging and fax delivery to the workers' e-mail inbox.
"The system eliminated the messaging silos and seamlessly connected all communication devices," said Erin Elofsen, unified communication and collaboration product manager for Microsoft.
A speech-enabled automated attendant that answers calls can be accessed through touch tone menus or speech recognition feature. The system also has the ability to convert text to speech which allows phone users to have e-mail, calendar, personal contacts and other information read to them over a handset.