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Dauphin County Digitizes Communications, Pivots to Cloud with Avaya Cloud Office

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Dauphin County CS

Like so many organizations in 2020, Dauphin County quickly discovered the weaknesses in its legacy phone system during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its existing system, which was 20+ years old, was unfit for business continuity in the face of unprecedented events and had no remote working capability. County users unanimously voted for Avaya Cloud Office compared to another vendor solution for its ability to seamlessly integrate with the way the county was progressing and needed to work.

86%

Users chose Avaya

1,000 +

Employee Users

Challenge

  • Remote and mobility challenges (the county had no remote work capabilities prior to Avaya Cloud Office)
  • Needed greater agility to adapt and respond to unprecedented events
  • Lack of features and functionality

Value Created

  • Transitioned from a legacy phone system to a flexible, feature-rich, cloud-based solution.
  • Unlocked a breadth of new features and functions that added great value including voicemail-to-email and breakout rooms for the county courthouse. 
  • County workers can use Avaya Cloud Office in whatever way works best for them depending on their needs, duties, and location.
  • Overall, the county was able to successfully transition from a 25-year-old on-premises phone system to a flexible, modern cloud-based solution. 

When Elizabeth Parry began her role as CIO and Director of IT at Pennsylvania’s Dauphin County, one of the first items on her agenda was to install a new phone system. The county’s existing phone system was nearly a quarter-century old and needed a major tune-up to meet the needs of its 40 departments and over 280,000 citizens. Elizabeth joined the county in the summer of 2019 with the intention of investing in a new and improved on-prem system. Little did she know the county was on the cusp of one of history’s most tumultuous periods. COVID struck and the county needed to shift its focus to transitioning 1,600 workers to telework in three days. The transition, while overall successful, saw some bumps in the road when, for example, the county’s courthouse system went down on more than one occasion. The limitations of being on-premises were clear.

After being put to the test, Avaya Cloud Office was voted for by 86% of county workers for its simplicity, ease of use, and functionality.

“After I picked my jaw off the floor, we had to get our team in action with a defined plan,” she said. Up to that point, Dauphin County’s work policy was simple: if you’re not at work, you’re not working. No one had laptops, and the county’s aging phone system lacked the functionality to transition to users’ homes. “Avaya graciously gave us Avaya Spaces licenses, and we used it heavily until we were able to find a permanent solution,” Elizabeth explained. That permanent solution ended up being Avaya Cloud Office® by RingCentral which, after being put to the test in comparison with a different vendor, was voted for by 86% of county workers for its simplicity, ease of use, and functionality. “The solution spoke for itself,” said Elizabeth. “It checked all the boxes our users needed it to check and more.”

Avaya Cloud Office delivers simple but valuable functions we were missing. It’s like going from a 90’s station wagon to a Tesla”

— Elizabeth Parry, CIO at Dauphin County

A Unique Vetting Process and a Unanimous Decision

Dauphin County used its complimentary Avaya Spaces licenses for several months at the height of the pandemic and even into the summer of 2020 as employees returned to the office (during this time the county used laptops it was able to purchase from COVID funds specifically made available through the CARES Act). As offices reopened and a new phone system was back on the table, it became clear to Elizabeth those solutions of old would no longer do. The county needed a solution that would fit into the new normal of how business gets done post-pandemic. “We needed something that could very seamlessly integrate with the way the county was progressing and needed to work,” she explained. All signs pointed to the cloud.

The Dauphin County team began talking with different departments to learn what they wanted and needed. It was important to her that all end-users were involved in the decision-making process. From there, her team began assessing different communication and collaboration solutions - Avaya Cloud Office being one of the final two.

Post-pandemic, Avaya Cloud Office continues to be used for court officials, lawyers, and citizens who had been summoned.

It was at this point she had both vendors come in for some friendly rivalry. Guidelines were established in which each vendor would have to perform a set of specific use cases (i.e., general work, work as an executive assistant, video conferencing, mobile functionality). Elizabeth brought in county employees including commissioners, department heads and elected officials, executive assistants and more who were asked to use each system in these day-in-the-life scenarios. It was important to Elizabeth that an average user used each system versus an expert from each vendor showing what a system could do.

At the end of each trial run, users were asked to take a five-question quiz on usability, functionality, and other system features. The final question was straightforward: which vendor did you like better? Avaya Cloud Office came out on top, as 86% voted by trial users. The buying process began, and the solution was purchased through PEPPM where Avaya partner RingCentral was on the contract ensuring the best available price and a smooth purchasing process. Once the contracts were in order and signed, the solution was officially rolled out in the summer of 2021.

Avaya Cloud Office has opened our users’ eyes to what’s possible and to think about the process"

— Elizabeth Parry, CIO at Dauphin County

From On-Premise to a New Cloud Solution

“Going from a 25-year-old phone system to Avaya Cloud Office was a trip,” said Elizabeth. “It gave me great joy in my role as Director of IT to see our workers excited about the new features and functions that were available to them.”

One of the most-loved features, albeit simple, is voicemail-to-email. “It has been so helpful to have voicemails within emails that can be forwarded to others if needed,” Elizabeth explained. Another helpful feature has been sequential ringing; many employees appreciate that the system rings in multiple different places at the same time so there is always coverage and increases responsiveness. Other customizations like setting when users’ phones can ring (day/time) have been helpful, all of which was unavailable with the county’s on-prem phone system. “Employees can take their phones home with them if needed. They can set their office hours and their phone won’t ring outside of those hours. Avaya Cloud Office delivers simple but valuable functions we were missing."

One of the more interesting ways Dauphin County has used Avaya Cloud Office is on the judicial side. How do you make a court work when you’re not in a physical court? This was the dilemma Elizabeth and her team faced during COVID. Thousands of citizens summoned to court could not go into an actual court room as they normally would. The county adapted by using Avaya Cloud Office to create breakout rooms for court officials, lawyers, and citizens to gather. Citizens and their lawyers could meet in one breakout room, lawyers and judges in another, and another breakout room could act as a virtual waiting room as individuals waited to be addressed.

We needed something that could very seamlessly integrate with the way the county was progressing and the way our workforce had to work. Avaya Cloud Office spoke for itself. It checked all the boxes our users needed it to check”

— Elizabeth Parry, CIO at Dauphin County

Avaya Cloud Office also gave non-IT users more freedom to customize their system, which was a major change from its previously limited system. For example, departmental heads had to call IT anytime they wanted to change their menu. Now, users have the authority to change messages, menus and more, creating more self-sufficiency and productivity. “Avaya Cloud Office has opened our users’ eyes to what’s possible and to think about and customize their processes. It has been great to see,” said Elizabeth.

Last but not least, Elizabeth made it a goal to eliminate traditional faxing. “This was difficult for workers who had been faxing with paper for decades, but once they understood the concept of eFax, the process became simple.”

Prepared for Whatever Comes Next

Work at Dauphin County now looks a lot different from when Elizabeth was first onboarded. Regardless of who’s working, what their role is, or what unforeseen events occur, Dauphin County is prepared with Avaya Cloud Office available on their laptops or personal mobile phones using the Avaya Cloud Office app if needed. Finally, one pandemic later, Elizabeth has been able to fulfill her mission of giving Dauphin County workers a modern phone system contributing to improved employee and citizen experiences.

About Dauphin County

Dauphin County is a county located in south-central Pennsylvania. As of the 2021 census, the population was 287,400. The county seat and the largest city is Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's state capital and ninth largest city. 

287,400

Population in 2021

1,700

Employees

1785

Established

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