Durham County Council

Durham County Council is the local authority of County Durham in North East England. It is one of the largest local authorities in England, with a population of over 500,000 and approximately 15,000 employees. It is headquartered in County Hall, Durham.

In 2010, Durham County Council issued a tender for an integrated telephony platform solution for the newly-created unitary authority, selecting Maintel.

The two partners subsequently embarked on a long-term transformation project which continues to this day, with Maintel awarded a new support contract in 2015.

The longstanding relationship has not only allowed the Council to meet the communication needs of its staff, but to also offer a breadth of new partner services as a result of Maintel’s technology.

For more than a century, Durham County Council operated under a two-tier arrangement, comprising the county council itself and seven district councils. However in 2009, as a result of national reorganisation of local governments, the seven district councils were merged into Durham County Council, forming a single unitary authority.

As a result of this reorganisation, Durham County Council inherited a variety of legacy communications systems and platforms.

In particular, the Council found itself managing a distributed telephone system architecture that meant there was effectively a different telephony system in each building in the county – each with its own supplier or service provider.

Faced with disparate, ageing and even obsolete solutions – and the excessive costs and management headaches it came with – the council needed to appoint a single supplier to deliver a single telephony structure in order to make economies of scale and simplify the support process. The project would also include telephony infrastructure for a contact centre and the centralising of the customer services function. This would involve the complete transformation of its network, replacing its current systems with a single, fully resilient platform that was centrally hosted in the council’s two data centres.

Durham County Council is a very large organisation, with over 15,000 employees, and the new platform would be rolled out to approximately 10,000 users.

Because of the complexity involved in the project – encompassing a number of different sites, organisations and teams – the council needed the roll-out to be undertaken in a very controlled fashion. 

In 2010, Durham County Council selected Maintel in a competitive tender as part of the Government PSN Framework. The tender was for an initial 2+2 contract: the first two years involved the transformation of the Durham County Council network, followed by another two years of technical support. In order to successfully secure the contract, Maintel worked closely with partner Mitel to design a bespoke solution. The resulting proposition was based on Mitel technology, with Maintel leading the implementation.

Within the first three months of the project, Maintel deployed the central telephony infrastructure and applications across the Council’s primary data centre in Tanfield and its back-up location within County Hall, including the set-up of approximately 5,000 new handsets. Maintel installed a fully resilient UC platform using Mitel MiVoice Business, a highly scalable, proven solution that underpins and delivers voice, unified messaging, mobility, presence, conferencing, collaboration and additional applications.

At the same time Maintel also installed Mitel’s MiContact Center Business solution for the contact centre, initially provided for 150 agents. This platform integrates with MiCollab UC, call recording and includes real-time, historical, and customisable reporting tools, highly customisable interactive voice response (IVR) routing, multichannel workflow routing, outbound dialling and messaging and integrations with Salesforce.com and other CRM systems.

Over the next 15 months Maintel rolled out 10,000 telephony handsets to 300 outlying sites. Maintel worked closely with The Council’s ICT team to capture user requirements and provide the most appropriate equipment. It was very much a joint effort, with members of Maintel embedded within the Durham ICT team throughout.

The second phase was the provision of support and the delivery of a number of enhancements to the solution to meet the needs of the council as it evolved throughout the initial contract period. Maintel again supplied a dedicated onsite resource, operating as part of the Durham ICT team, ensuring prompt attention to any potential issues and offering guidance and advice. The company provides a bespoke SLA with enhanced cover for critical sites.
 
This second phase ran until September 2014. The contract was subsequently retendered in the summer of 2015 via the same government framework, and Maintel won a new four-year support contract in September 2015. The breadth and quality of services provided by Maintel have allowed Durham County Council to extend its
partner services in a number of ways. These include providing network and telephony services to a number of schools and social housing partners in the region. 

Speed

Because of the complex nature of the project, the council had set a two-year target for the roll-out of the unified communications platform to its 10,000 users. Maintel actually achieved this full roll-out within 18 months, enabling users to realise the benefits of the new solution sooner.

Simplification

Maintel removed the complexity of multiple legacy telephony systems and installed a fully resilient UC platform, centrally hosted in the council’s two data centres. This move to a centralised and virtualised telephony platform has dramatically simplified the process of maintaining, upgrading and provisioning services.

Consolidation

Since the full roll-out, Maintel has become a central point of contact for all of Durham County Council’s telephony-related issues. When faults or failures were previously discovered when the council had multiple suppliers, it was often confusing as to who was responsible and who should be contacted. Maintel’s position as a single supplier has removed this confusion and allowed queries to be solved simpler and faster.

“We’re delighted with the outcome of our work with Maintel, which has allowed us to work as efficiently as possible, at the lowest cost possible. 

Being able to offer connectivity services to partner organisations has become a particular feather in our cap. We’re always on the lookout for ways to become leaner, more efficient, and use our resources to the best of our abilities.

It is testament to the quality of all of Maintel’s work – from the original planning right through to the most granular of delivery – that we have been able to enjoy immediate and ongoing benefits, and pass on these advantages across the wider local government.”

– Paul Makepeace, Senior Project Manager, Durham County Council

Efficiencies

The Council was so impressed with the efficiencies realised with the MiContact Centre deployment that 12 months later it invested in a second roll-out for additional call handling areas.

The second platform handles calls for the council’s leisure centres, theatres and other customer-facing services that aren’t part of the core council service. This has grown to approximately the same size as the first, approaching 350 agents across both contact centres.

Partner Services

Since winning the council’s retendered contract, the partnership with Maintel has allowed the council to extend its portfolio of telephony services to support partner organisations. Because of the robustness of the service that Maintel has delivered, the council has the confidence to offer partners like schools and housing associations with network, internet and telephony services. This allows the wider collection of public services to benefit from the same efficiencies and cost reductions that the core council has enjoyed.