The customer

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service undertake a number of activities, all aimed at making Staffordshire communities safer and stronger. Responding to emergencies is the Service’s first duty but the it also recognises how important it is to help prevent fires in the home and work places.

The Service runs a number of programmes designed to inform and help members of the community to protect their homes and business premises. Whether it’s educating children or raising awareness of road safety among drivers, what the Service does can have a significant impact - reducing risk and saving lives.

Resilient communications needed for 1,000 employees across 35 locations

It is a complex organisation, comprised of just under one thousand employees across 35 locations.  As such internal communications and collaboration is complex but essential.

 

The challenge

The Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service was coping with a complex unified communications infrastructure with several elements that would no longer have vendor support. The on-premise Cisco IP telephony infrastructure on which its internal communications depended needed to be brought up to date and to a position where it could be properly supported.

Complex, legacy infrastructure of emergency service to be updated before ‘end-of-life’ support

For emergency services, unsupportable infrastructure is immediately untenable. Emergency services’ performance and ongoing durability are regularly audited and any outdated technology could compromise Staffordshire citizens’ safety. In addition, the impact on compliance and productivity should a fault occur would, at best, be time consuming and expensive, and at worst, tragic.

Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service therefore had only limited time to identify an alternative, deploy it and achieve a compliant and supportable infrastructure. It was important that any replacement technology met precise functional, cost, and ease of implementation requirements and, considering the trigger for the project, was also future proofed for many years to come.  Public services are in a state of flux so any system also had to have a high degree of operational and commercial flexibility.

 

The solution

Given its requirements, the most suitable approach for the Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service would be to exploit cloud-based functionality. This would allow the organisation to deploy new, scalable and flexible technology without relying on CAPEX investment.

KCOM recommended deploying KCOM Workplaces, its Collaboration as a Service (CaaS) offering, comprising a unique suite of cloud-delivered enterprise grade communications, collaboration and contact centre services. 

The user experience for this would be familiar to the team at Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service as KCOM Workplaces is based on the same Cisco telephony it already used but critically, would be deployed through the cloud with several functional enhancements. This would remove much of the need for additional training, especially for front line users. KCOM Workplaces would also be able to re-use the organisation’s prior investment in Cisco LAN / POE and IP telephones and system applications, adding to the inherent cost-saving arguments of a cloud deployment.

The flexibility that a cloud model would provide would be particularly beneficial to the Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service should organisational changes be needed in the future. The ability to scale up and down as required, or to move premises easily, would be vital.

A cloud-based approach meant ease of implementation plus assured resilience and flexibility.

In a similar vein, the adaptability of a cloud approach meant that the Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service would also be able to transform end-user experiences at its own pace, rather than introducing wholesale changes all at once. Unified communications, collaboration tools, mobility tools, video, contact centre and centralised SIP trunking could all be gradually introduced as appropriate and necessary, and with individual customisations to improve user comfort and familiarity. It was recognised that the multi-instance approach of KCOM Workplaces provided a secure environment that could also be customised to the specific needs of the organisation.  KCOM Workplaces has now given the organisation the capability to roll-out collaboration tools on a much wider basis including mobile devices where the Cisco Jabber client is being installed on mobile phones and tablets.

“What made the proposal from KCOM ideal for us was their close appreciation of our existing infrastructure and cost saving requirements,” commented William Lloyd, Head of ICT at Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service. “We recognised that a cloud-based approach was the best way to achieve our objectives, especially ease of implementation and flexibility. KCOM’s ability to build upon and reuse the remaining viable infrastructure was a welcome added bonus, both in terms of avoiding additional investment and user training.”

KCOM Workplaces was quickly deployed over four months to both main office locations at Stone (HQ) and an additional 34 other sites around the county – a total of around 1,000 users. The system was successfully set “live” in June 2016, KCOM provides the PSN to all of Staffordshire County Council including district councils, Health and Fire and Rescue.  KCOM Workplaces is PSN compliant, so is a natural choice for local customers.  KCOM’s delivery architecture with service offered from a resilient pair of data centres locations, gives 99.99% resilience – a key requirement for emergency services.

KCOM has since provided 24/7 and fully ISO:20000-compliant managed services to ensure ongoing support and uptime. This is delivered through UK-based Network Operation Centres (NOCs), while still enabling local control where Staffordshire Fire & Rescue wishes to make its own moves, additions and changes.

 

Results

“The most impressive thing about migrating to this new service is that no one noticed,” said William Lloyd, Head of ICT at Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service. “We have achieved great resiliency to our systems while ensuring we have the flexibility to make changes and benefit from future technologies without any disruption in service.”

As one of Cisco’s most valued partners, KCOM efficiently replaced several outdated legacy systems, each with a single point of failure, with a bespoke, off-premise solution with added functionality and more detailed levels of failover.  As new innovations become possible the team at the Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service can quickly and easily adopt and implement them to improve their ways of working.

KCOM’s solution future proofed a significant proportion of the Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service’s  communications roadmap, whilst still being cost effective and affordable

Feedback from fire officers and managers alike commented on the time and effort saved now they are able to record meeting and training sessions and distribute via email rather than relying on physical meetings with station, watch or crew managers.

One fire officer said:“It [the new tools] offers a perfect solution straight out of the box and I’m really excited about using it.”

Internal communications are revolutionised through the use of robust video conferencing and broadcast functionality that allow management to address teams directly.

“The support we received was second to none,”said Mark Ash, ICT Integration Specialist.“KCOM really went above and beyond.  Their engineers and consultants were so knowledgeable and supportive.  If someone was to ask me about moving to a KCOM managed system, I’d definitely say yes.”

To Emergency Service organisations such as Staffordshire Fire & Rescue the communications system is a critical and integral part of business operations; it must provide the maximum amount of flexibility, both commercially and technologically (i.e. the availability of features and functionality both now and in the future).

With this in mind, KCOM’s solution future proofed a significant proportion of the Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service’s communications roadmap, whilst still being cost effective and affordable. The solution, a bespoke, secure, multi services cloud environment, is a unique suite of enterprise grade communications, collaboration and contact centre services delivered via an agile ‘as a service’ model, whereby there is zero capital outlay and all services are paid for on a “Per User, Per Month” operating cost basis.

Benefits to the Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service:

  • Simplified moves, adds and changes with VOSS provisioning tool
  • Removed the cost of new technology releases
  • An IL2 accredited service
  • Removed complexity of UC licensing
  • A purpose-built solution fully-dedicated to Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service’s business
  • Predictable financial outgoings
  • The ability to consume “Unified Communications on tap” – migrating from IP Telephony to advanced UC functionality and productivity savings at a time to suit the organisation. This provided an instant return on investment, traditionally one of the challenges in justifying a UC investment
  • Advanced flexibility to access new applications and productivity-enhancements at a time to suit
  • Reduced infrastructure and data centre management costs with significantly less on-premises physical equipment
  • Reduced cabling as voice, data and other services to any user location can be provided over a single cable
  • Space saving as the use of extension mobility and hot-desking requires less office floor space