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Rules for a successful VoIP rollout

Oct 07, 20023 mins

It seems that 2003 finally might be the long-awaited year of voice over IP. According to a recent Meta Group survey, 68% of large organizations are either deploying VoIP or plan to do so within the next two years. That’s up from roughly 25% to 30% in previous surveys, and it marks a sea change in VoIP adoption.

But most early adopters aren’t entirely happy with how their rollouts have gone. The problem isn’t the technology – by and large it works as advertised. The real issues are people and process (starting to sound familiar?). Here’s a handful of tips for ensuring that your rollout is as effective as possible.

Know why you’re doing it. As simple as it sounds, this step is the one most often overlooked. Most companies have a vague sense that VoIP saves money but couldn’t tell you how or where. Unless you’ve got a specialized private-line network or a lot of small overseas offices, chances are, it won’t.

What I call a “saved dollars” business case boils down to making a bet that the new technology will be less expensive to manage and support than the one it’s replacing. With VoIP, that’s almost never true. So do yourself a favor and don’t promise your boss lower costs – instead, look for ways in which your converged infrastructure might make employees more effective. Are you now able to deploy both voice and data to remote offices that previously had one or the other? Are converged applications making your employees more productive? Try to quantify those outcomes, rather than promising vague and unrealistic lowered costs.

Ensure your voice and data organizations are already converged. Voice and data folks have a lot to learn from one another – a fact that’s readily acknowledged by the voice folks. On the other hand, data gurus tend to need a bit more coaching to recognize the specialized challenges of supporting a voice network.

Budget for technical training. To support your converged infrastructure, you need converged staffers. The fastest way to find these people is to grow your own. Typically this means taking your voice people and training them on data technologies. This is the fastest way to create people who are knowledgeable in both camps. The alternative – attempting to teach your data people about voice – is less effective, because of the lack of effective “voice schools” and the attitude challenges referred to above.

Budget for end-user training. Because a VoIP implementation almost invariably changes the way the user’s desktop is configured, take the time to teach your end users about the new systems. And also it’s an excellent time to do some internal marketing – show off the new system’s features to the user.

A final note: As of Oct. 1, I’ve started my own research firm, Nemertes Research, which specializes in the business applications of technology. IT executives who would like to participate in studies and receive copies of our reports – at no cost – should contact me.