AG recently unified its call centres. Can you tell us about the project and its background?\nMaltIt has really been a process that we have gone through over the last two or three years to take us from a traditional telephony environment through to where we are now. It has been a fairly long process but we have taken it fairly slowly and cautiously, making sure we could realise the benefits as we went along, rather than going with a big bang and hoping it worked.\nWhen you implement this sort of project you really are changing a lot of things across the business \u2013 there is an impact on business processes, an impact on systems \u2014 and there\u2019s an impact on our people. So we do have to take things at the right pace and make sure that everybody is tied into the process.\nIT is very aligned with the business \u2013 it sounds buzzwordy but we tie in very closely with the business and we understand what they\u2019re doing, we know where their pain is, and it really is a cooperative approach. I think that is one of the things that, as an organisation, we take a lot of pride in. It\u2019s not \u2018the business\u2019 and \u2018IT\u2019 \u2013 it\u2019s the business.\nAG is probably best known for Budget Direct insurance, isn\u2019t it?\nIt is our best known brand. We do provide insurance services for a number of partners as well. And that is an area we see a lot of growth in over the next few years \u2014 it is certainly an area in which we have seen a lot of growth overseas and we think that will continue.\nWhat was the impetus for the move to full Avaya IP telephony?\nWe opened a second call centre on the northern side of Brisbane. Having two call centres was always part of our strategy from a disaster recovery and business continuity perspective. We had run the existing call centres almost as if it was two \u2014 it had two floors and each was survivable from one another \u2014 but we wanted to extend that to a second call centre and to apply the same sort of rules. Each floor needed to be able to run autonomously in the event of something going wrong.\n[The solution] provided us a lot of benefits around handling that sort of disaster recovery situation \u2014 what would happen, how it would fail over and how resilient it was along the way \u2014 and from that perspective we were very happy with the outcome. We have had a couple of minor issues that have meant we have briefly gone into the failover situation and the good part is that often the business units don\u2019t know that anything\u2019s gone wrong. They don\u2019t know that a network link has gone down \u2014 it just seamlessly transitions to another server and continues on.\nWe sell something that is quite intangible. It is only when somebody needs to make a claim that they realise the benefit from insurance, so we need to make sure that, regardless of what happens, we are there to give them that benefit at the end of the day.\nWe had done a little bit of IP but we weren\u2019t doing a lot of call trunking across our own network. This project really enabled us to really move to that full virtualised environment \u2014 particularly virtualised around the contact centre \u2014 allowing the right person in the right place to take the call regardless of where it enters the network.\nOne of the things we were very proud of was our response to the Melbourne and Perth hail storms. The technology enabled us to get people on the ground, operational, with a full suite of telephony and technology services to start assessing people\u2019s homes and cars and having them feel better about what is normally a fairly traumatic situation.\nWhat else was significant about the implementation?\nWe have gone forward with a very tight integration into our back-end systems as well. For us, it is not a telephony system, as such. We really have gone they way of tying everything completely into our back-end systems and back into the business process. It\u2019s not just a case of \u2018here\u2019s a telephone on your desk\u2019.\nHow long did that process take? It can be quite a big chunk of the initial planning stage, can\u2019t it?\nIt is, but often \u2014 and it\u2019s a little bit daring \u2014 but sometimes you have to deal with it first because I don\u2019t think you always know what you can use that type of integration for until you have a little bit of it, and then it snowballs along and you have people come to you saying \u2018could we do this?\u2019 For me, that\u2019s when it is really exciting because you are starting to work in a really collaborative sense.\nRead more about finance and insurance in CIO Australia\u2019s finance category.