Capital One credits VoIP a success

Company's My Phone, My Way initiative lends employees much-needed mobility

Large corporations may be slow to change, but when they do change, they do so in a big way. Such is the case at Capital One, where IT is playing an integral part in revolutionizing how employees work.

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Under the aegis of its Future of Work initiative, the diversified financial services company is developing an enterprise-wide infrastructure that emphasizes mobility.

No longer viewing itself as a collection of buildings with traditional offices, cubicles, and conference rooms, Capital One is rolling out technology to free up employees to be productive regardless of where they are -- and VoIP is fast proving an essential component of that new philosophy.

Inaugurated in November 2006, the company's VoIP deployment -- known as My Phone, My Way -- provides employees a single phone number they can carry with them, thereby enhancing their mobility, says Robert Turner, senior vice president of enterprise technology operations at Capital One, and the project's lead.

"Our Future of Work implementation provides people with mobility options. They can work in any building and log in to their phone," Turner says, adding that employees are equipped with a Cisco VoIP phone, a BlackBerry device, and a notebook PC.

Not only has VoIP helped make work more portable, it has also enabled the company to consolidate its data and voice networks to a single vendor, thereby easing Capital One's ability to meter costs, determine voice-minute volumes for capacity planning, and ensure QoS for voice, video, and data.

All that in only five months, as the first phase of My Phone, My Way was completed in April 2007.

"It is one of the largest VoIP rollouts ever in that amount of time," Turner says.

Whereas complaints from consumers about VoIP quality remain common, 84 percent of Capital One's employees said they were "highly satisfied" with the service.

To help ensure such high satisfaction rates, the company put its VoIP solution through extensive testing before going live. The company's User Facing Quality Program included 15 test scenarios that did not focus on equipment uptime, but rather on the user's quality of experience. Feature functionality tests included vetting the ease with which a user can put a caller on hold, initiate a conference call, use call forwarding, forward voice mail, log in to and out of the system, and create a shared user profile.

"Users could even designate which times of the day they would or would not accept a phone call," Turner says.

More than just simplifying management, reducing costs, and cutting down on wasted time due to phone tag, VoIP has provided a significant indirect benefit in the form of "real estate efficiency," a metric Turner says is "up by 50 percent," thanks to the mobility of VoIP.

Because VoIP helps free up employees to telecommute, fewer employees require permanent office space, just a docking station to temporarily plug in when necessary. This has been essential in achieving a higher employee density -- that is, more headcount per square foot.

"When we forecast our needs for real estate, we have fewer fixed locations," thanks in large part to VoIP, Turner says.

And that helps ensure mobility on a corporate scale.

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