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Case Studies

We connected 1,000 users onto a single, integrated and future-proofed platform

1,000 users connected across nine NPTC campuses using Conversant's Teams platform. “They gave us a completely integrated, future-proof platform – with a personal touch”

NPTC Group of Colleges

Connecting and enabling one of the largest education providers in Wales

Conversant:

  • Provided a resilient, secure and future-proofed communication platform
  • Reduced support staff overhead and improved efficiencies
  • Increased user mobility
  • Enabled agile working habits
  • Introduced free internal calling as standard
  • Integrated Office 365 with Teams – everything in one place

“Conversant offered an integrated, future-proof platform – with a personal touch”

The story

NPTC Group of Colleges is one of the largest providers of Further and Higher education in Wales, covering a third of the county across two colleges and nine campuses, from Newtown in the North to Port Talbot in the South. Formed following a merger in 2013, NPTC Group offers a wide range of further education courses including A levels, BTECs and other vocational courses, right up to BSc and BA level.

A single telephony system which would connect the campuses and be agile for future needs

As the group became larger, its old legacy phone systems were no longer fit for purpose, and indeed the merger had left the group with two competing systems (Cisco and Avaya) which left NPTC to fill the service gaps. There were no spare lines, so lines needed to be reallocated, and making holiday alterations was a challenge. When one of the systems hit a hardware failure, it was time for change.

Therefore, the brief was to replace them with a single telephony system, bringing everybody onto one platform for all their communications, saving time and creating efficiencies, as well as future-proofing the Group’s communications.

The challenge – finding the right integrated system

Many education providers use JISC systems, but with the Group’s need to connect so many sites and integrate voice with the benefits of Teams – calendar functions, video conferencing, chat, file storage, data sharing and even teaching – they felt this would be too restrictive.

As the NPTC Group had already bought into other Microsoft solutions (Windows 10, Office, Outlook, OneDrive, SharePoint) and was using Teams for video conferencing, a ‘Teams Plus’ solution made sense. The pandemic had changed everything, leading to the Group being ready to take the plunge and move everything into a single, integrated Teams-based platform, which previously they hadn’t considered.

Bringing staff and students together

Colin Bevan, head of Information and Learning Technologies, and also lead computer programming lecturer said:

“When we had the legacy phone system, the focus was purely on office use; staff communicating with staff. As we moved to Teams to facilitate online classes due to Covid, we started to realise that the same system could reach our students, and bring everything under one roof, as it were, on the same platform. 

The new system, under Teams, could also be used as an online classroom, in addition to the ongoing internal call and information sharing purposes. This was particularly useful, as we might have a teacher isolating, or, as we come out of Covid, a teacher based in one campus able to teach a class in another online.”

The Group was already an experienced Moodle user, which facilitates learning programmes but cannot provide an online classroom, and so Microsoft Teams and Office 365 became the main methods of communications within the organisation for both staff and students. Physical phones and handsets were being used less and less, and this in itself became an enabling factor for change.

Implementation – smooth and seamless, with a personal touch

After an extensive tender and procurement process, involving 19 tenders and 6 firms chosen for presentation, the two highest scoring bidders were both Microsoft Teams based solution providers, and Conversant was awarded the contract in June 2021.  

Bevan said: “The thing that set Conversant apart was the personal service; they really went the extra mile. They were the only firm to arrange a visit to talk to our users and understand the requirements from the horse’s mouth, visiting all the areas that needed to be connected, from the restaurants and theatre to IT and HR departments, and understanding their needs and concerns. The larger bidders didn’t bother. 

We felt no amount of advice and training was too much to ask, and the assistance we received during the implementation phase meant that when it went live, the process really was smooth and seamless.”

Champions were identified with the Group campuses to support staff during the implementation, and following extensive testing, the new system went live in December 2021.

An integrated interface that staff and students can use, with greater efficiency

The goal was to replace its two legacy phone systems with a unified communications solution that integrated with college systems. Conversant’s solution has included a full package of user set up, hardware, contact centre management and analytics.

New non-geographic phone numbers have been issued to staff and departments and call forward has been set on the old public facing numbers. These lines will be terminated at the end of the existing contract.

Bevan said: “We are delighted, as our staff can now make and receive phone calls on any device, PC, laptop, tablet in work or when working remotely.  

Moreover, changing the call flow when the college is closed or during holiday periods has become extremely easy, and reporting statistics enable us to effectively manage calls and tweak the system as and when required. We are seeing far more efficiency, and far fewer problems.”

The package
  • Teams Direct Routing for 1,000 users which enables them to use Teams as their phone system
    • Conversant Calling Plans with bundled minutes
    • New geo- and non-geo phone numbers
    • Number porting services
  • All staff issued with Teams-certified headsets and/or handsets
  • A contact centre management system installed to handle calls and provide inbound and outbound call services, including:
    • English and Welsh language options
    • Call waiting times and numbers
    • Welcome message and forwarding/divert options
    • Place in queue
    • Call back, divert and redirect
  • Feedback and data analysis services to aid supervisors and provide management information, including:
    • Average/specific call length
    • Calls taken/missed and busy/fallow periods identified
    • Agents available/time agents spend online
  • Teams analytics and reporting software to provide information on activity outside of the contact centre

NPTC use all Conversant solutions inside their Microsoft Teams application interface

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