Known as the largest shopping centre and entertainment complex in the world, Alberta’s West Edmonton Mall (WEM) sought out a communications solution that would allow its employees to better communicate with one another across various geographic locations and time zones.
The company eventually settled on a unified messaging solution that was provided and implemented by Active Voice, a unified messaging communications provider and subsidiary of NEC America.
With guidance from Triple Five Group, the developer and owner of WEM and Bloomington, Minn.-based Mall of America (MOA), WEM chose the Active Voice Kinesis unified messaging system solution, which was also known as the AD-120 solution under the NEC brand at the time of implementation more than five years ago (today, it is now known as UNIVERGE UM8500). Although NEC acquired Seattle, Wash.-based Active Voice in 2001, Active Voice operates as an independent subsidiary that provides the messaging solutions for NEC under the Active Voice name.
Joseph Schuldhaus, vice-president of information technology for WEM, MOA and Triple Five Group, said before selecting the Active Voice unified messaging solution, WEM staff members were faced with communications and message notification challenges.
“We had a voicemail solution that was in place before but it wasn’t unified,” Schuldhaus said. “Employees didn’t know if they had messages waiting for them and they had to call in to see whether or not they did. We were looking for a new PBX solution that would give us business and hospitality capabilities,” he added.
With more than 800 stores and services and more than 100 eateries all under one roof, Schuldhaus said WEM also has a hotel and inn located on the mall’s premises. The mall itself, Schuldhaus says, employs 15,000. Of those, he said 1,300 are using the unified messaging solution that runs on the Microsoft Exchange Server and through Microsoft Outlook in conjunction with their BlackBerrys, handsets, computers and other mobile devices.
With the unified messaging solution, Schuldhaus said, WEM employees now have access to unified voicemail and e-mail capabilities while both in and outside of WEM.
The solution allows voicemail and e-mail messages to be picked up by virtually any communications device, with anywhere, anytime access. Messages can be delivered through this Microsoft Windows-based solution using handheld devices, handsets, or computers. Some of the features included in the Active Voice solution are, caller ID, a listing of the number of messages that are waiting, as well as text-to-speech and speech-to-text messaging capabilities for employees who wish to listen to their e-mail messages on their phones. Disaster recovery and load balancing capabilities are also included in this solution to ensure data is not lost and can still be processed.
“The unified voicemail and e-mail solution works seamlessly across the VPN (virtual private network),” Schuldhaus said. “With unified messaging, employees now get notifications when there’s a message waiting for them so they no longer have to worry about dialing in to check for messages. They can listen to their messages whenever they want to now,” he adds.
Schuldhaus said this is especially useful since many of the company’s executives travel and do business across Canada, the U.S., Israel, Europe and China, where time zones differ.
“It’s important that they’re able to provide continuity of information across time zones,” Schuldhaus said. “That way, you don’t have to worry about waking people up because you can just leave them a message if they’re in another time zone or don’t pick up.”
Eyal Inbar, general manager of marketing and product development for Active Voice, said although Active Voice has a partner base, in the case of advanced implementation projects, Active Voice takes on the role of implementer for the customer.
“With our versatile approach to unified messaging,” Inbar said, “we can literally work with any PBX out there. With all of our customers, we take an approach of shipping a unified messaging-capable system to them that will work with their existing PCs and messaging systems, even if they only want voicemail capabilities.” Jordan Rubin, Active Voice’s senior marketing communications manager, said the solution’s integration flexibility allows businesses to save both time and money since new systems don’t have to be purchased in order to use Kinesis, or NEC’s AD-120 (UM8500) solution.
“Businesses can get a better investment with their existing technology without having to throw things out that they’ve invested in and already been trained on,” Rubin said.
Inbar said the unified messaging solution has been working so well for WEM that the company is now in talks with Active Voice to also implement a trial-based video messaging solution by this year’s fourth quarter.
In addition, Schuldhaus said, Triple Five Group also has plans to extend the same unified messaging solution to its other mall, MOA, by the 2009 fiscal year.
“The solution makes voicemail and e-mail easier to use because it’s so flexible,” Schuldhaus said. “Voicemail and e-mail is the bread and butter of our business and it’s a critical component for the way we do our work.” |