Sep 27 2023

Unified Communications Boosts Productivity for Government Employees

Integrated telephone and messaging systems simplify task management for local agencies.

In Jefferson County, N.Y., Cisco’s unified communications platform has been key to keeping employees productive and engaged.

“It helps tremendously with the ability to work remotely,” says IT Director Sean Vincent. “You can sit at a home office and see who’s available, just like you’re in the office. People take phone calls from home; they can make calls and can use the Jabber client to type messages to people internally.”

Unified communications delivers integrated voice and video calling, messaging, file sharing, collaboration and other capabilities. It’s proving indispensable for state and local government, increasing employee productivity and simplifying communication multitasking and management.

Through unified communications, “all employees contribute and make an impact, regardless of whether they are working in the office or in a virtual or hybrid environment,” says Telecommunications Industry Association CEO David Stehlin.

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How Centralized Communications Promotes Better Employee Connection

Jefferson County uses the Cisco Unified Communications Manager for phone calls, email and — with Jabber — instant messaging. “With Jabber being unified into calling and voicemail, you can see at a glance who’s available and who is on the line,” Vincent says.

That’s a boon to productivity. If someone is tied up, “I’m not going to waste my time calling or bothering them. If I see they’re not there, or not available, I can type a really quick, simple message” from within the same system, Vincent says.

In fact, everything seems easier with unified communications. Jefferson County upgraded with the assistance of CDW•G, and office operations have been much smoother ever since.

“We used to have a thick, printed list of all the county phone numbers. We don’t need that anymore. You just open up Jabber and type in somebody’s name, and you can see what their direct line is. That saves everyone a lot of time,” Vincent says.

READ MORE: Learn how state and local governments are improving the citizen experience digitally.

Upgrades Made For Streamlined and Modernized Communications

In Williamsburg, Va., CIO Mark Barham has been using RingCentral’s UC product for voice, video and other communication needs since 2016. It saved his bacon during Covid.

“When the pandemic hit and we sent everyone home, we weren’t scrambling. We had everything in place,” Barham says. “We knew how to do remote meetings, how to receive phone calls from a computer or from an app on a mobile phone.”

As a result, “the citizens didn’t notice any difference. They called a number and the person on the other end answered it,” he says. Regardless of the employee’s physical location, the citizen service “was seamless.”

Unified communications supports a high level of productivity among city staff. “Communication is no longer just the telephone or a chat message or a video-based meeting. It’s all of those, and the Holy Grail is to have them unified,” Barham says.

“Having all of that in a single platform means that you don’t skip a beat,” he says. “I can be on a phone call with someone, and if I have a question from another person, I shoot them a chat and get that information back instantaneously. It just streamlines all of that communication.”

Mark Barham
When the pandemic hit and we sent everyone home, we weren’t scrambling. We had everything in place.”

Mark Barham Chief Information, Williamsburg, Va.

Unified communications has helped the city’s IT staff save time and effort on the back end as well, proving easier to manage than legacy communication systems.

“With everything on the same network, phone system management is just another application,” he says. “There’s no more dialing into a modem to go into a PBX to change a user’s name. I just go into a website and change that.”

Ways Robust Capabilities Empower Remote Employees

At Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services in Ohio, IT Director Brian Knight purchased a small number of Zoom licenses to make video meetings available, then quickly expanded to embrace Zoom’s entire UC suite.

“We’re using the Zoom platform for both telephony and meetings. We have text capabilities for those who have phone licenses, as well as voicemail,” Knight says. “On the IT side, we’re looking at the user experience. This makes everything simple, and simple is good.”

This approach has empowered staff to be more productive.

“The phone, chat and contacts all connect to your calendar so you can join meetings, create meetings or make phone calls, all from that same client,” Knight says. “If you’re chatting with someone in the chat window and then you realize this needs to turn into a phone call or a meeting, it’s a simple click of a button. Having everything on one screen makes things really easy.”

On the back end, a software-based approach to communication offers a deeper level of visibility, and greater manageability, than Knight could get from a legacy phone system.


Percentage increase in employee productivity with a cloud-based communication system.

Source:, “The Real Business Value of Cloud Communications Platforms,” June 16, 2021

“Zoom has a dashboard that shows how many meetings have taken place and how long those meetings were. And there’s information about the quality of the meeting, whether or not there were connectivity problems,” he says.

“A lot of our staff are working remotely, and we obviously can’t fix someone’s home internet issues. But we can make suggestions, like ‘Hey, reboot your router!’ And if we see problems on the local network — the connectivity that we have control over — we certainly can make adjustments to that,” he says.

REVIEW: Zoom optimizes remote work, changing the government office.

Quality Training Leads to Improved User Readiness

In making the transition, Knight put some effort into user readiness. “Zoom has its own training, and we also created some training, showing staff how to use the Zoom client, where to create their voicemail greetings and how to manage their accounts,” he says.

Barham, too, says it’s important to take the end user into account when making the shift to UC.

“You’re essentially adding capabilities that they didn’t have in the past. They still have the phone on their desk, but that phone is now extended to their smartphone, to their computer. Their voicemail comes to them in an email as an attachment,” he says.

“All of that requires end-user training, not only how to use it but also how to use those capabilities to be more productive,” he says. “You’re changing the way they might have done business in the past, and they need to understand how those changes will impact to them.”

Camile Chisholm / Theispot

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