Irish Wheelchair Association looks to the future with cloud telephony

Business Objective: Reduce costs and improve efficiency
by phasing out end-of-life telephone infrastructure and moving to the cloud

The Challenge

IWA serves a dispersed and varied set of stakeholders, including 20,000 members and 2,300 staff, which includes 57 offices and a multitude of remote workers. Communications are essential to IWA to coordinate its teams and to ensure its services are always available to its users, but its legacy telephony infrastructure was reaching end of life and growing expensive to maintain. IWA needed a way to reduce line rental costs and to make and transfer calls more efficiently. IWA wanted flexible call routing and management, better value and capabilities to fully support a mobile workforce.

The Response

eir has been a long-term provider to IWA and understood that its communication and collaboration needs were evolving beyond a traditional switchboard setup of PBX and ISDN lines. It worked with the association’s ICT team to bring IWA’s infrastructure in a new direction, one that embraces cloud telephony and, importantly, delivers better value for money while also adding new features. In 2018 IWA began its migration to eir Collaborate, which is now set to be deployed across a variety of sites and centres, including community day resource centres, local offices and a regional campus site that houses its National Mobility Centre. The latter is IWA’s business-critical call centre and the eir Collaborate solution is scalable to integrate with this high-volume contact centre environment.

eir managed the rollout of the solution with a streamlined deployment process to minimise disruption. eir’s knowledge of IWA’s existing telephony and broadband infrastructure provided important insight that informed the process.

“eir’s pre-site checks, planning capture calls and migration scheduling all helped IWA successfully migrate IWA sites to the eir Collaborate hosted voice solution,” said Michelle Abbott Fenlon, ICT Strategic Services Manager for the Irish Wheelchair Association. She added that additional support material, including end user guides, back-end training and assistance from the eir account manager helped ease the migration.

The Results

More than 100 IWA team members now use eir Collaborate across 15 of its sites and further deployments are underway. For making and receiving calls, IWA uses handsets, headsets and the eir Collaborate desktop and mobile app, to meet the specialised needs of each user. The team is now benefiting from new features such as mobile extensions, ‘follow me’ calling, soft client and the ability to transfer calls between sites.

Innovatively, eir Collaborate integrates with and supports IWA’s critical 1800 number phone service, which is available to IWA personal assistants and care staff working in the community. Staff use the number to get in touch with an on-duty nurse for medical queries and support. By diverting IWA’s 1800 number to the eir Collaborate solution and using the Call Forward Select feature, IWA can now pre-schedule and automate the out-of-hours routing of these vital calls to match the roster of available nursing staff.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought about the requirement to make rapid changes to call routing and support staff with remote working at short notice. eir Collaborate facilitated those changes quickly and easily. It also facilitated new local Freefone support lines with hunt groups to handle high call volumes.

“Responding to rapid site changes needed during Covid-19 has been much easier for sites where the eir Collaborate solution has been deployed,” said Michelle Abbott Fenlon. She adds that the HSE and IWA joined forces to bring a new community-based testing service for Covid-19 to vulnerable adults in the community. “All of this has a key dependence on our ability to communicate effectively and efficiently,” she said.

The Benefits

Management and control of user accounts, call routing, IVRs and hunt groups have been simplified, saving time and money. The pre-scheduled, automated out-of-hours Freefone routing, to coordinate with staff rosters, has reduced manual tasks for the IWA clinical team, freeing them to focus on clinical support. The ICT team now has control, via the eir Collaborate portal, to respond to any on-the-fly changes should staff availability change.

Michelle Abbot Fenlon notes that convergence of voice onto its data lines has delivered real financial advantages. “Through the eir Collaborate solution we can now deliver voice services over our existing data feeds, converging and reducing our line rental footprint while also lowering our annual operating and telecoms costs,” she said. “We now have a slick, standardised approach to telephony deployment that meets our user requirements, offers resilience and reduces risk.”

Benefits at a glance for Irish Wheelchair Association

Staff mobility and remote working supported now and into the future with an evergreen, scalable cloud solution providing feature-rich core enterprise telephony services across handsets, desktop and mobile apps

Flexibility, agility and reduced manual tasks due to easy real-time and automated management features through an online portal; including user management, hunt groups, IVRs, voicemail and call routing

Business continuity options in the event of a disaster or outage

Cost reduction due to a low-cost flat rate SIP call bundle and the removal of PSTN/ISDN line rental, PBX maintenance and costs associated with moves, adds and changes

Predictable billing with an opex model and reporting capabilities, which also aid with managing resources and costs

Improved capability to handle emergencies including the critical communications aspect of IWA’s Covid-19 community response.

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