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A Power Tool Approach To Unified Communications

Black & Decker is planning on expanding its Avaya IP telephony infrastructure overseas after success in migrating its communications infrastructure.

Power tool retailer Black & Decker on Tuesday said it is planning on unifying six of its European call centers and offer connected services across its company based on the success it's had with migrating to Avaya's IP telephony services.

Karen Dean, director of global telecommunications for Black & Decker, said her company's evolution from time division multiplexing (TDM) systems to a server-gateway communications infrastructure was a reality experiment that ended up in the company's favor.

"Before the RFI [request for information], we went through a laborious process where we made two lists comparing current costs and future costs," Dean said during her keynote at the VoiceCon show in San Francisco. "We assigned the task to a representative chunk of the network and scoped out the data, maintenance, and voice models. None of this was customer facing, but the impact was felt just the same."

Dean said Black & Decker plans to start the migration in the fourth quarter and expects to reduce its lease and maintenance costs by 20%.

The company's migration from basic IP telephony to unified communications is going to be a bit more costly as Dean noted that Black & Decker will now spend more on software, management, and maintenance than it did before.

"In the old days, we could own 10 PBX systems configured a little differently and that would be fine," she said. "My advice now is to rigidly define your parameters up front. We thought that the [IP] addressing was going to be the same and it wasn't. We implemented what we thought was going to work and ended up with three or four versions."

Avaya won the contract over Cisco, which included a la carte hardware purchases and call-center applications. Dean said Avaya's other advantage was the company's ability to centralize servers and messaging with the potential to expand its WAN capacity.

"The highest opportunity for us is saving on roaming costs by using soft [software-based] phones," Dean said. "In our sourcing organization, there are workers that travel to our centers in China and the Czech Republic. Some come home with $3,000 cell phone bills. We're looking at implementing soft phones for our European offices. They are ready for prime time."

One unexpected benefit was using Avaya's infrastructure as part of product development Black & Decker did for its DeWalt hardware division. The MobileLock product was developed as a wireless anti-theft alarm that includes a GPS locator with four programmable sensors that send out automated calls, text messages, or e-mail if someone tries to steal a tractor or other piece of equipment, for example. The messages are sent over a Sprint network and to an Avaya server that notifies the owners.

"At first I was very hesitant to use our customer service network for a product, but it works great. One police department was able to retrieve hundreds of dollars in stolen equipment in just a month," Dean said.

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