Institute of Marine Engineering

For This Maritime Organisation’s Staff, the Transition to Working from Home Was Smooth Sailing
[Institute Marine Engineering] logo
After spending two months trying to set up our IVR menus—and still not getting them to work—we said, ‘That’s it. We’re upgrading.

Ronnie van de Laak

Head of Operations

It would be impossible to overstate how important the world’s oceans are to humanity’s survival. And few organisations have done more to support the global marine community than IMarEST.

The earth’s oceans play a central role in sustaining life on our planet. They supply the food chain, provide other life-sustaining natural resources, and regulate our global climate. And because they enable shipping that connects people and countries everywhere, oceans facilitate 90% of the world’s trade. Studying, protecting, and preserving our oceans is a vital mission for humanity.
For over 130 years, The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) has been working toward that mission—to ensure the world’s oceans and seas are managed and sustained for the benefit of humanity.
IMarEST serves more than 18,000 marine engineers, scientists, and technologies based in more than 120 countries. The Institute offers its members professional recognition in their fields, ongoing education and development, and knowledge sharing with like-minded professionals.
The Institute also plays key roles in the global marine community—for example, as a consulting member of the UN’s International Marine Organisation (IMO), where IMarEST’s members contribute their knowledge to help shape maritime law. IMarEST also helps ensure marine academic programs are held to high standards, by offering accreditation services to marine-related university courses all over the world.
But as the COVID-19 lockdowns appeared increasingly inevitable across the UK, IMarEST feared that much of its important work would be temporarily in jeopardy—because its phone system wasn’t built to support a remote workforce.

A legacy phone system that was rocking the boat

In fact, IMarEST’s technical team had been considering upgrading its phone infrastructure for some time before the pandemic. The shortcomings of its legacy on-prem system created operational challenges that the organisation was finding it difficult to overlook.
“The first problem was the administrative backend of the system,” recalls Ronnie van de Laak, IMarEST’s Head of Operations. “It became too dated and complicated to update to how we needed it to work. We couldn’t do most of it in-house—we had to go through our provider for things that are now considered standard.”
A second problem was that the phone system had very limited functionality. As Ronnie puts it: “It was really just a set of phones with basic features and not much else.” That meant, for example, that IMarEST had to sign up with a different provider for video conferencing service. “We struggled to implement an automated-greeting menu for callers, and if we wanted to use the device app, we could not deploy this ourselves and there were just too many steps required to install it”
Having the RingCentral app on our phones and computers at home really made the difference for us being able to communicate and collaborate throughout the lockdowns.

Ronnie van de Laak

Head of Operations
Education, Non-Profit
London, UK

A limited rollout provides the solution for the rest of the organisation

Fortunately, Ronnie had recently completed a very successful implementation of RingCentral’s cloud communications solution at the Marine Learning Alliance (MLA) College, which IMarEST partially owns.
“Our MLA team is in Plymouth, but I was able to easily get them set up on RingCentral even though I was in Singapore for the entire implementation,” says Ronnie. So, when the lockdowns became imminent, and Ronnie knew his staff would need cloud communications to stay connected from home, he already had a solution that had proven capable of a rapid, smooth rollout. “RingCentral was the obvious choice.”

Cloud communications offers a sea change

Although the pandemic accelerated IMarEST’s planned timetable for migrating to RingCentral’s work-from-anywhere communications solution, the transition proved just as smooth and hassle-free as the MLA College rollout.
It took Ronnie only a few days to set the entire staff up with their RingCentral services and to train everyone on how to use the all-in-one platform for business phone service, video conferencing, and team messaging.
“Within maybe three days I was able to get everything done—the greeting menu including voice recordings, routing our existing numbers to RingCentral, making sure everyone had the links to download the RingCentral app to their phones and computers, and distributing some brief instructions about the platform. Everyone just started using it—no problems.”