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(Un)sophisticated drivers for VoIP in the branch office

Jan 24, 20063 mins

* Simple capabilities are often what drives sophisticated organizations to commit to VoIP and larger convergence projects

For the past three years, I’ve conducted an extensive research benchmark assessing VoIP and convergence. And I’ve followed the VoIP market since writing one of the industry’s first in-depth stories on the topic back in 1994. Year after year, I learn about sophisticated rollouts, unique applications of VoIP and converged applications, and interesting business drivers, such as IP-enabling contact centers, enabling mobility, or establishing business continuity.

Then there’s five-digit dialing. And the ability to transfer calls. And that intercom feature.

It’s these relatively simple capabilities that often drive some sophisticated organizations to commit to VoIP and larger convergence projects. Why? They want their branch offices to simply be another extension of their headquarters’ communications systems.

Behind cost savings/avoidance, IT executives rank “improve communications/features/apps” as the No. 2 business driver for their convergence projects, according to Nemertes’ Convergence & Next-Generation WAN Technologies benchmark.

When we ask what these features are, many of the respondents chuckled at the simplicity of their response. “We just didn’t have consistent phone service everywhere. Older sites had old systems; new ones have phones, but no features,” says one CIO of a large, multi-site school district. Like other organizations, the school district had no four-or five-digit dialing between buildings, networked voicemail, or the ability to transfer calls.

Even some banks were in the same situation, managing 30 to 70 different types of PBXs throughout their network of bank branches. Rather than simply transferring a prospective customer to the branch that handles, say, mortgages, representatives would tell that person to hang up and dial a new number (and sometimes, they’d have to dial yet another number). Why not make the process more convenient by simply transferring that call and not risking that the customer (or prospective customer) doesn’t call a competitor instead?

In a single building, call-transfer, intercoms, and abbreviated dialing are a given. And they’re features that employees have embraced for years for good reason. As more employees move out to branch offices, those features must follow them – not only for productivity’s sake, but to effectively serve customers.

We love to hear about IP-enabled contact centers, rollouts of real-time communications dashboards and other collaborative applications, and linking VoIP handsets to the CRM system. But sometimes, it’s just the ability to transfer a call to the branch office, or to deal with a colleague across the country by pressing four rather than 10 digits, that truly drives a VoIP implementation.

Did these often-underrated “simple” features drive your VoIP project or will they? How did your end users and decision-makers respond? Were those features enough to justify the capital costs of a VoIP deployment? Share your thoughts with me at