Inside a Canadian firm that built the right foundation for unified communications

In an in-depth interview, building industry supplier Vicwest’s infrastructure manager shows how collaboration requires planning and a great partner. First of two parts

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As one of North America’s leading manufacturers and distributors of metal roofs, siding and other supplies, the experts at Vicwest know everything you need to create the best home, office or other facility. Most of Vicwest customers may not realize that the company is becoming equally savvy about the network architecture that can make an organization more collaborative and responsive.

Vicwest, based in Oakville, Ont., is a Canadian success story that is spreading to a growing customer base in the U.S. It has also been a valued Allstream customer of MPLS, SIP trunking and unified communications equipment.

Mick Montgomery, Vicwest’s Infrastructure Manager, recently spoke on the phone with expertIP Editor Shane Schick about how his company has approached collaboration and what the future holds. This interview has been edited and condensed.

ExpertIP: As you continue to evolve your network, how consciously are you thinking about collaboration and developing a unified communications strategy to support that?

MM: It depends on the areas you’re looking at. You have to be careful with a term like UC, because it has so many different meanings. For us, each site has been it’s own silo in terms of existing communications systems and their ability for unified communication. What happened recently is  our Western division, with offices in Delta, BC, Edmonton AB and Saskatoon, SK, wanted to have a telephone system that would allow them to function as virtually one unit. Allstream came into play here. The need was driven by the business and the regional manager and supported by the executive team. We essentially became a resource that helped guide them and brought Allstream in, because they were already a partner with us for a lot of the products we use on the IT side, like the MPLS and such. Allstream brought a solution to the table that the business liked. The goal was to have the different sites be able to communicate with each other essentially like they’re sitting locally within the same building. They also wanted to change the flow of information to the customer, so that they’re not dialing into Site A or Site B.. It means they have better exposure to the customer; they’re able to manage the customer better and make sure the customer is getting to the right person at the right time. Maybe the person in our Delta site that the customer is trying to reach is not available but  a staff member in Edmonton can assist. The customer won’t have to hang up and call back to the Edmonton site as they did in the past.

ExpertIP: Did you know you would be optimizing for VoIP when you initially moved to MPLS with Allstream a few years ago?

MM: We leveraged the MPLS for a few reasons. The voice component wasn’t a requirement at the time, but it was one of those things we always knew we were positioned for, and there was scalability within that service to do it. So when the request came in from the Western side to bring their phone systems together, we already knew we had a solution that would allow us to leverage the MPLS and use the voice capabilities. We have MPLS at all sites but  only three of our locations use the voice services right now. Over time we’ll build on that.

Read the complete interview with VicWest and a host of other best practices by downloading The Enterprise Collaboration eBook: A How-To Guide to Unified Communications, from Allstream.

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