Derek Singbeil and his IT team are just about as close to Santa Clauses as you can find in the City of Edmonton’s 11,000-person staff complement.
Among the many other things they do, they deliver their ‘gifts’ – smaller monthly phone bills – to everyone who manages a City budget.
With the ongoing conversion of land-based phones over to Cisco VOIP (voice over internet protocol) phones, the telecommunications and mobility services team lead and his colleagues preside over a cumulative saving on phone bills since the conversion began that should top $1 million by the end of 2014.
And that figure will continue to rise as the last 3,000 of the old system phones are retired in the coming few years. All told, there are 8,700 land-based phones in the corporation.
“Every day, we live the definition of ‘doing more with less’. Our job is to innovate, to stay on top of changes in telecommunications so the City can receive better service, preferably for less money,” says Derek.
The City’s VOIP conversion project was kicked off several years ago by then Chief Information Officer Kate Rozmahel (now GM of Corporate Services). After a successful trial within IT, it was progressively expanded at the rate of several hundred phones each year.
The VOIP phones have countless advantages over the old Centrex phones, says Derek.
Each of the old phones, he notes, required a dedicated wire per phone, while VOIP phones simply need to connect to the City’s secure network. They also provide lots of additional features like voice messaging via email.
“The old phones cost us $300 to $400 just to purchase, and $120 to install. Every time we needed to move phones – and the City moves phones often – it was another $120 for a technician’s time.”
“Our basic monthly fee for the old phones was about $35, plus long distance, plus feature add-ons like voice mail. All-in, the monthly cost per phone was $42.85.
“Starting in January, the Cisco VOIP phones will cost just $18 a month including voicemail, other features, and the ability to move them for free by just plugging them into the network at their new location. And in 2016 when we start buying the phones instead of leasing them, that monthly cost will drop to around $15 – almost a third of what we’d be paying if we stayed with the old system,” says Derek.
Savings like that are the reason why, despite the fact that the City’s telecommunication numbers (number of phones, usage) increases at about 5% a year, its telecom costs keep falling.