Platform for Excellence

Verteks provides Studer Group with a communications and network infrastructure that supports its mission and will sustain its rapid growth.

Studer Group puts into practice the principles that drive operational excellence. A recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, Studer Group implements evidence-based leadership systems that help organizations attain and sustain outstanding results. The firm’s primary focus is healthcare, teaching organizations how to achieve exceptional clinical, operational and financial outcomes. Its Studer Education division works with school system leaders to enhance student achievement, employee engagement, financial efficiencies and overall productivity.

Effective communication is critical for a firm that provides coaching, speaking engagements and educational tools. When Studer Group moved into a brand new facility in Pensacola, Fla., the firm saw an opportunity to implement an up-to-date network environment and state-of-the-art phone system.

“The decision was made to go with a Voice over IP solution,” said Dan Lowe, Senior Network and Systems Administrator, Studer Group. “We reached out to several vendors and submitted our requirements, wishes and wants, and received information back from all of them. After a few discussions, we chose Verteks Consulting and the ShoreTel Unified Communications platform.”

Lowe had worked with ShoreTel at another organization, and was sold on its ease of use and functionality. Verteks came highly recommended as an experienced provider of ShoreTel solutions.

“Verteks went the extra mile to ensure we had the hardware we needed in time to move in.”

“Verteks had deployed several ShoreTel systems in the local community, for the City of Pensacola and other organizations, and the feedback was very positive when we did reference checks,” said Petra Owens, Studer Group’s Director of IT. “Verteks provided us with a very professional demonstration. Factoring in costs, support and other considerations, Verteks was the right fit for us.”

State-of-the-Art Features, Easy-to-Use System

Studer Group’s old phone system was am analog PBX that lacked the features and ease of administration of a modern VoIP platform. If someone moved to another desk, it took anywhere from a half hour to 45 minutes to configure the person’s phone so it would work in the new location and keep the same number.

“Simplicity of administration was the number one reason I was sold on ShoreTel,” Lowe said. “Now if someone moves I simply unplug their phone, walk over to the new location and plug it back in. That’s it.”

The reliability of the system was another factor, as well as the features of the ShoreTel phones. End-users love the system, and appreciated the training provided by Verteks.

“The Verteks onsite engineer worked very well with our internal technical team and also provided end-user training to our staff for several days,” Owens said. “We conducted a satisfaction survey internally and our staff rated the training 9.7 to 9.8 out of a total of 10.”

Studer Group has 125 employees at its Pensacola headquarters, another eight at its Dallas office and a few others who work remotely. The ShoreTel Unified Communications system connects everyone no matter where they are, and provides the flexibility today’s mobile workforce demands.

“Everyone is connected as if they’re in the same building — that’s a big advantage,” said Lowe. “We’re able to reach anyone in the organization by dialing an extension, and users can easily forward their phones to their cell or another number.”

“Another big thing is the ability to receive voice mail in their email inbox,” Owens said. “When I’m not in the office and someone leaves me a message, I get it on my mobile phone and can listen to it right then and there.”

The Right Framework

Before installing the ShoreTel phone system, Verteks completed a network upgrade for Studer Group. The Verteks onsite engineer worked with Lowe to implement HP networking equipment, from the core switches on out.

“The HP equipment is very reliable and you just can’t beat the cost. Everybody touts HP’s competitors but more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better,” he said. “Another advantage is that I can configure the HP equipment, no problem. It’s not overly complicated but it’s secure and it works.”

Studer Group required a network with multiple levels of redundancy and no single point of failure. The network switches are stacked to each other on each floor with multiple links from each floor to the core network. If any switch goes down, users can still operate.

“Their engineer who worked onsite for us knows how to get the work done,” Lowe said. “I worked very closely with him for a total of three weeks and saw firsthand the level of his expertise.”

The Verteks team also helped ensure the implementation was completed on a tight deadline. Once the new building was completed, Studer Group had to move 125 employees over a weekend, and the IT infrastructure had to be ready.

“Verteks went the extra mile to ensure we had the hardware we needed in time to move in,” Lowe said. Studer Group is growing exponentially, adding more than 50 new people in the past year alone. But thanks to Verteks and ShoreTel, the firm has a network and communications infrastructure that will sustain it into the future.

“We did not want a system that would only work for us this year and next year. We were looking five or six years out as our company grows,” Owens said. “ShoreTel has a good upgrade path and features that we may not use now but will in the future. I don’t think we are going to outgrow ShoreTel anytime soon.”