Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Nine Tips For Deploying Enterprise-Class VoIP

Consider tools needed to support virtual environments enabled by VoIP. VoIP provides the opportunity to transform customer interaction and other applications. In many cases, it is inadequate to deploy tools that were developed for more siloed TDM environments. Define in your application the unique requirements to support virtual teams from an architectural standpoint.

John Macario, president of the Boston-based consulting firm Savatar adds the following tips.


Calculate Total Cost of Ownership for your VoIP system as opposed to just the cost for initial deployment. Economic issues that comprise the TOC include:

  • Acquisition costs: What items do you need to write a check for upfront, such as installation fees, new phone purchases, and professional services to update your Local Area Network?

  • Monthly recurring charges: What will you pay for every month, such as local and long distance charges, per user costs, and per seat costs for IP Centrex or your T1 line?

  • Maintenance: What will you pay on an annual basis to maintain or upgrade the equipment?

Evaluate the performance of a VoIP network. A VoIP solution, either IP PBX or hosted IP PBX, is only as reliable as the network that carries your voice and data traffic. Service providers who offer business-class VoIP services carry voice and data packets over a managed network to ensure service quality. Any provider offering such a network should provide information on the network's performance, including security, redundancy, and reliability. When selecting a VoIP service provider, poor network performance is a knock-out criterion.


Look for productivity-enhancing features. A host of VoIP features can lead to productivity gains and give VoIP solutions a significant feature advantage over traditional systems. Some of the more interesting VoIP features include:

  • Unified messaging lets you consolidates voice mail, e-mail, video mail, and fax into a single interface.

  • Mobile extensions make it simple to reach colleagues and to manage call features from mobile devices. They also extend hosted IP PBX features to a cell phone.

  • Uniform dialing plans give remote offices the same features and functionality as your main office.

  • Shared call appearance allows calls to ring on another phone.

  • Personal mobility features including selective call routing, simultaneous ring, and sequential ringing to increase productivity and customer service.

J.W. Olsen has been a full-time author, editor, and freelance book project manager with more than 1000 editorial credits for IT publishers since 1990, and has provided computer, Web site, and editorial services to other clients since 1985. He welcomes feedback via the e-mail response form at www.jwolsen.com.


Whether to deploy VoIP is no longer an issue --- it's something you have to do. But there are a lot of high-level steps you need to take before deploying. It's not just technology you need to be concerned about. In fact, say many experts, hardware and software may be the least of your problems. It's the business issues you should be concerned with most.


Which issues are important --- and what to do about them? We've talked to several experts, who offer their advice.


Brett Shockley, CEO of Spanlink Communications, a consultant in VoIP solutions based in Minneapolis, suggests the following.


Clearly define your vision and goals. When migrating to an IP communications system, formulate a detailed plan that maps to the business goals and operational needs of your organization. Be absolutely clear about why you need VoIP and design a system that matches those needs. Otherwise, the risk is that the deployment will be either too narrowly considered or too overreaching to justify the total cost of ownership.


Take full advantage of the business benefits of your VoIP system. Too often, companies approach VoIP as a simple replacement of their current TDM-based PBX voice system with a VoIP PBX. Strategically, design your IP communications system to take advantage of new business processes that make you more competitive. The risk is implementing a solution that doesn't deliver a return, doesn't scale, and therefore must ultimately be re-engineered.


Plan for post-implementation management and maintenance. Set clear goals and create explicit roadmaps not only for the implementation of your system, but also for management and maintenance once it's up and running. Additionally, it's critical to ensure the right system structure to make the system manageable. Failing to have a clear management plan and the proper tools, you run the risk of compromising the environment or bogging down the process with change management and support issues.


Ensure proper training for end users. You can't just swap out employees' traditional phones for IP handsets and expect everyone to be fully operational the next morning and taking advantage of the new capabilities of the system. VoIP deployment can be compromised if users feel the system includes features that few want or excludes the ones they need. Such feelings can be mitigated by proper training.


Define roles for voice and data networking staff. The thorniest question facing VoIP project managers is getting their voice and data networking staffs to work together effectively. Bring your telecommunications managers into planning and implementation discussions with your data networking engineers. The two cultures are often still at odds, so set clearly defined roles for both sets of workers and cross-train them.

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