My name’s Naveed Husain. I’m the chief information officer, Teachers College, Columbia University.
Teachers College, CIS department, or computing and information services. We do development, applications development, project management for IT, buildout of the classrooms, media services, and consultative IT. We are focused mostly on cloud based technology, so that we’re all lightweight IAAS infrastructure. We leverage software as a service, platform as a service. The whole idea is to be lightweight and agile and not build up so much hardware here, but actually develop solutions.
RingCentral: There seem to be two areas that perhaps are very fundamental to some transformation that you and your department are, not only charged with, but energized by. Can you talk a little bit about either those two.
Naveed: Sure. Innovation is a word that we use in higher ed all the time, but don’t necessarily know what that means. The innovation that our team is charged with is not only bringing the college to the 21st century from 1997, but actually working on building a platform that we can build on. The college is really focused on bringing online learning to the environment. Teachers College being the school that it is, there’s a lot of credibility behind the faculty and the curriculum, and you don’t want to compromise that curriculum and the program and the college’s reputation by just bringing it online. There’s more of an effort around all of that.
My team’s responsibility is to make it easy and make it viable, otherwise IT will become irrelevant. That’s really why we focused heavily on leveraging the cloud because rather than building infrastructure each time we wanted to do something We want to turn on a new phone, we call RingCentral and buy another line, but we’ve already bought lots of lines, so we’re already provisioned, so all we do is drop a phone now. It’s subscription based, so you use it as you need it. You don’t have to worry about, I need to have this big capital expense or this capital funding before I can even attempt to do it.
RingCentral: Can you talk more about the value of the subscription model, the fact that that helps you avoid having capex and how it has streamlined you support operations?
Naveed: With RingCentral, we did an IFP and essentially had to migrate our legacy system over. That was a capex expense. Going forward, as we add new phones and new services on, it’s just an operational expense to a subscription. It’s just that easy and less of a barrier because it comes part of our operational expenses.
With RingCentral we’ve migrated our services from the telecoms unit to the service desk. The service desk, as most people know and at most institutions is there to provide end user support, client services for the desktop and things like that, software support. RingCentral’s just another piece of software, another device on the desktop. The application can run on a computer or it can run on a stand alone phone or it can work on your mobile phone. Essentially, we’ve migrated the responsibility from a separate unit to a unit that’s normally responsible for end user support, and eliminated the outsource needs for additional technicians to come in and do complicated cross connects and programming.
Also, instructional technology and media studies, and things like this. Where, how do I use technology to provide great education? It’s always been a school that was experimental and on the cutting edge. It has leading faculty in gun violence research, leading faculty in topics that concern our students today, common core, student engagement, and predicting what students will be successful and what makes them successful and then edging out the things that are broken. It’s not just looking at the assessment at the end of it, but it’s assessing and changing so that it improves that whole learning experience so you can fix it while it’s happening and don’t just wait for it to happen.
RingCentral: Tell me are there any integrations of the business communications in other applications like Google for Work or Microsoft.
Naveed: We have Google for Work. Google apps. That was actually one of the driving factors for RingCentral. Teachers College is a Google school. Columbia University is a Google school. There’s a bunch of schools that are Google schools because Google apps for education is free. After the negotiation, after you become a Google school, it’s pretty difficult to move away from Google.
That is such a clean feature and that is one of the requirements of our RFP is that the product worked cleanly with Google and Google mail. If we decide to go Microsoft 365, it’s nice that the product also works the same way with Microsoft 365. The other nice thing about the RingCentral, Google mail product is, if I set up an appointment or a meeting, I can set up a RingCentral meeting and it goes straight into my Google calendar with all of that information and it’s native to the Google calendar app, so I invite people the same way. I don’t have to get out of my work flow. I don’t have to go into another directory to look for people’s email addresses and copy and paste them into the box and then put commas after each email address.
RingCentral: You chose RingCentral because we are recommended partner for Google?
Naveed: Yes, you want all of your features to work nicely and if your phone system is integrated into Google, it makes it that much easier. It goes back to that whole collaboration and work flow in one place concept. Because you are a recommended Google partner and one of the only test vendors in their work apps program.
RingCentral: Did RingCentral’s office features like our mobility, global coverage factor into your decision or business developer apps program play into your decision?
Naveed: That’s why we chose RingCentral, actually. Actually, we chose RingCentral for multiple reasons. Reliability and geographic diversity and disaster recovery. The clarity is just phenomenal. The fact that you can get your voicemail just by clicking either in an email or clicking the message box on your RingCentral app within your Google web RTC client or going to the app that’s installed on your computer. So many ways to access it, doesn’t matter, it’s what you’re comfortable with
Traditionally when you had an email system, you had a bunch of exchange servers and you had them in your data center and then you arrange to have it at another hosted facility so that you have redundancy with your email. Microsoft 365, Google mail, both eliminated that need because they’re both cloud based services. Again, going back to why cloud based is a better strategy, it automatically gives you geographic redundancy. Who’s going to be more reliable than Google? Google provides the geographic redundancy. Google provides email communication. Google provides a work space. Having a partner like RingCentral to work with Google gives it that enterprise quality for phone service, for communication, for collaboration. RingCentral integrates into their platform so that you’re living in that one space, and knowing that when you click to dial and making that phone call, it’s going to be crisp and clear and the quality’s going to be a corporate enterprise quality, that’s enormous.
Having that partner who will develop new features for you on demand, or pretty much on demand, because it’s software based, that makes RingCentral a better choice.
It’s all over the world. It’s the biggest provider of services, from Google apps, from Google documents to their spreadsheet programs to their presentation programs to the drive with unlimited disk space. It’s huge. Having a communications provider like RingCentral integrate into that platform so that you’re living in that one space, and knowing that when you click to dial and making that phone call, it’s going to be crisp and clear and the quality’s going to be a corporate enterprise quality, that’s enormous.
RingCentral: What is the one advantage that you like the best about RingCentral’s Communication integration?
Naveed: To be able to click to dial from an email and go to voice and have that phone conversation and make sure that it’s crisp and clear and high quality and that you can understand everybody that’s there. That’s huge. That’s expected. That’s part of enterprise quality communication. Then taking that and then expanding it to a meeting and growing that to an online collaboration to a video conference, you’ve got it all in one place. That crisp integration, the clear, elegant process, is truly what’s expected today, and that’s what’s essential.
Originally published Oct 17, 2016, updated Oct 06, 2020