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Cheshire Constabulary has said that using unified communications (UC) has proved a real benefit to the organisation, by helping both frontline officers and backend staff work more effectively. However, budget cuts are hampering the technology's rollout.
Speaking at the IP Expo event in London on Wednesday, Andrew Robson, technical infrastructure manager at the force, said that UC was seen as the key platform for the organisation to move towards a more agile and mobile-centric way of work.
"Unified communications will underpin our move to mobility and agility," he said. Robson elaborated by explaining that the firm had been using a system from ShoreTel, first installed in 2010, to help provide a number of benefits for staff.
"When the system first went in we had people calling us up asking if they could have it installed. This was because it had Caller Line Identity (CLI) so they could see who was calling them," he said.
Another benefit has been the ability to ensure calls can be pushed through to mobile devices, Robson explained. "We’re also able to use the four digit extension code we give to officers as a direct link to their mobile phone. This means, for example, insurance companies can speak to police officers directly, rather than having to go through switchboards or leave deskphone voicemails," he said.
"They can speak direct to officers on the roadside by bouncing the call from the ShoreTel system to Airwave [the mobile network used by police forces]. This may not sound like much, but it is a big plus and it works well."
Overall the organisation is installing ShoreTel phones across the region at a rate of about 100 to 200 every fortnight, with plans for 2,500 installations by April next year.
Robson said this would have been done sooner but the organisation is facing another round of budget cuts which has slowed down the rollout. "We have not stopped because the technology is bad but because we wanted to make sure the money we were spending is going in the right direction," he noted.
However, the organisation is keen to continue to use UC tools to try and cut costs and improve services, with plans afoot to use the ShoreTel service within new areas of the business.
"We’re also about to start using the Mobility Router service for senior officers so we can take away their expensive desk phone and just route everything to their BlackBerry. This should cut down on costs as all calls are handled over the data network," Robson said.