Now in our fourth month since the kickoff of the phone replacement project, we wanted to provide the university community an update on the progress. The current phone system at both Dallas and Plano campus locations has been active since the early 90’s. The phone replacement project will deliver new network-based phones to all SMU faculty and staff while modernizing aging campus infrastructure in support of the new phones and calling features.
Currently, our efforts concentrate on behind the scenes work assessing SMU’s network and the cabling running through the walls to your desktop. Additionally, we have started a call center pilot with the IT Help Desk. All of these pieces serve as a prerequisite to handset deployment, so it’s not readily apparent that progress is being made.
As we replace our traditional telephone system with a Unified Communications model, that is, one that includes voice, video, calendaring, email and contacts, a thorough network assessment is critical. With the new Unified Communications platform, Skype for Business, our faculty and staff will not just receive a replacement phone. They will also receive an enhanced set of additional features and functionality via Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). We are using a product called IR Prognosis that verifies our network has the needed capabilities to support the new VoIP enhancements. With over 100 buildings on campus to inspect, this is a time-consuming task, and it is anticipated that the cabling and network assessments will continue through May 2019.
As part of our network preparation, we will confirm that the campus e911 location services are ready and accurate. Since phones will be plugged into a data port instead of a telephone jack, it is critical that the caller’s location is reported accurately in an emergency. Each employee’s data port will be inspected and verified that the location information is accurate to at least the level of the building name, address, and floor.
In addition to Skype for Business, supplementary call-handling software is being installed to manage the call centers throughout SMU. The IT Help Desk has recently received a preliminary version of the software and testing is underway. Configuration, testing, and debugging will continue through the winter.
A small pilot deployment of the new phones is expected during the summer of 2019, and the replacement of phones for all employees are scheduled for deployment by the end of summer 2020. A project timeline and updates may be found on the Phone Replacement Project website.