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IT Project: Voice Platform Replacement

Project Status

October 2020: All migrations are complete. Network connections to the legacy phone system were turned off on August 18 and the power down of the system’s occurred on August 20 (Evanston campus) and August 21 (Chicago campus).

All Hardware and equipment was removed from their respective data centers during the period of September 28 and October 9.

Voice Platform Replacement Project Timeline.

Project Charter


Northwestern’s voice platform system will reach end of life by the end of fall 2018. Beginning spring 2016 and continuing through summer 2019, Northwestern IT will transition to a modern standardized voice system as part of a Northwestern University centrally funded project. It is planned that the project will be completed over an 18-24 month period.

In 2013, a request for proposal (RFP) was issued in conjunction with the IT Governance Infrastructure Advisory Committee and Northwestern Purchasing Resource Services. After evaluating vendor responses and gathering feedback from the community, Cisco Systems and Microsoft have been selected as the two finalist vendors who will pilot their services.

The final vendor selection will be made during an evaluation period at the conclusion of the pilots. Northwestern IT will then begin the process to migrate users to the new voice platform, which will include replacing user phone sets, decommissioning the current phone system, and removing legacy hardware from telephone closets across campuses.

In 2016, the Cisco voice platform was chosen as the new voice solution.

Goals and Objectives

This project is part of Northwestern IT's continued commitment to maintain Northwestern's communication infrastructure to ensure the consistent and efficient delivery of voice services. It seeks to:

This project will be accomplished in three phases.

Phase I – Vendor Pilots

Northwestern IT will conduct two working pilots—one for each vendor. Each pilot period will be approximately 60 days and will be held consecutively. There will be a pilot group made up of faculty and staff participants identified by their respective schools and departments. Pilot participants will transition to the vendor-specific voice platform and will have the opportunity to use desk phones, software-based clients for personal computers, and mobile devices. Headsets will be provided.

During the pilot periods, Northwestern IT will provide training, user guides, and instructional handouts for each vendor solution to help participants navigate through the proposed services. During the course of and at the end of each pilot, users will be required to participate in multiple surveys about their experience. This information will be used to assist in the evaluation of each platform in order to help determine the best solution for the University community and for future communications.

Phase II – Migration to New Voice Platform

At the conclusion of the pilot and after a final vendor has been chosen, Northwestern IT will begin to migrate faculty and staff phones in a phased approach over a 24 month period. Northwestern IT will provide the appropriate replacement phone. It is expected that there will be no cost to replace desk phones with their equivalent replacement model. Northwestern IT will provide training materials including, user guides and handouts, new web pages, and Knowledge Base articles for participants to assist with using the new service.

Phase III – Shut Down of old Voice Platform

Once all University phone sets have been replaced, Northwestern IT will systematically shut down the legacy voice platform.

Voice Platform Replacement Timeline

Phase  Description Status Target Completion Date
I Pilot 1 planning (Cisco) Complete  December 2015

Pilot 1 testing

Complete  April 2016
I Pilot 2 planning (Microsoft) Complete  February/March 2016
I Pilot 2 testing  Complete  April 2016

Pilot evaluation of vendors

 Complete  June 2016
I Vendor selection  Complete  November 2016
II Begin migration  In Progress  Fall 2017
III Migration complete  Pending  Winter 2020

Last Updated: 3 February 2021

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