Aging desk phones lead to wider look at communications tools

Phones and laptop

When it came time to replace the University of Oregon's 30-year-old telephone system, Information Services decided to take a step back.

"We know people are using Google and Skype, they're texting, they're doing instant messaging, and they're using cellphones," said Chief Technology Officer Matt Riley. "Instead of just buying new desk phones, we wanted to think about what kind of system or systems might better meet the evolving communications needs of the UO community."

To achieve that goal, Information Services, the UO's central information technology unit, is undertaking a project to assess how faculty members, staff and students are currently communicating and collaborating with their colleagues, classmates, students, professors and others. The team also wants to learn about any unmet needs.

For two weeks in April, staff from Information Services and two consulting firms, Presidio and The Northridge Group, will be meeting with leaders and others throughout the university to discuss those topics. The sessions will include one-on-one conversations, small-group meetings and focused observation sessions in units with particularly heavy call volumes, such as the Office of the Registrar.

The project team will also hold several focus groups the week of April 22 to gather feedback from faculty members and students. Anyone interested in participating in a focus group should contact the project team at unifiedcommsprogram@uoregon.edu.

Students and faculty and staff members also are invited to share their feedback through a survey.

Information gathered through the survey, focus groups and other meetings will inform the team's recommendations for future technology systems. Those recommendations are expected this summer.

This project falls under the larger umbrella of the Unified Communications Program in Information Services, which broadly addresses communication and collaboration tools, from telephones and videoconferencing to instant messaging and text messaging.

Future implementation of specific technologies will depend on funding, but the overarching concept is to enable the interconnectedness of current and future systems.

"We have to replace the phone system because it's at the end of its life," said Jessie Minton, vice provost for information services and chief information officer. "But we're taking that as an opportunity to strategically reinvent the way we support communication and collaboration on campus."

"Given how long we expect to own a phone system, we need to try to look into the future and anticipate how we'll use it down the road," Minton said.

Riley encouraged participation from the campus community. "I hope people will take the time to help us understand what's important to them and the UO community so we can make the best choices for campus," he said.

More information is available on the Unified Communications Program website.

Anyone with questions or feedback should contact the project team at unifiedcommsprogram@uoregon.edu.

—By Nancy Novitski, University Communications