Magazine article New Zealand Management

Clearing the Voice Blocks: Is There Business Case for VoIp: What Are the Blocks That Deter Business from Using Full Voice-over-Internet-Protocol Solutions? and Whose Advice Counts?

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Clearing the Voice Blocks: Is There Business Case for VoIp: What Are the Blocks That Deter Business from Using Full Voice-over-Internet-Protocol Solutions? and Whose Advice Counts?

Article excerpt

Companies that develop technologies allowing voice calls and messages to run across IP (Internet Protocol) based data networks can explain the business benefits of doing that in some depth. Service companies in charge of the actual implementation of those technologies will agree with those benefits, but also caution that the Voice over IP (VoIP) implementation process may not be as straightforward or as inexpensive as the business hopes it to be.

The expense, as all VoIP analysts know, is in readying the data network to carry voice, and possibly video, reliably; and in the purchase and integration of communication applications that converge and make the move to VoIP worthwhile. While the 'unified messaging' vision of VoIP--the delivery of highly efficient, integrated communication tools that give customers and staff a great deal of flexibility and convenience--is valid, technological and business case challenges around VoIP dictate the need for an experienced VoIP implementation partner from the first stages of planning and product selection.

"It hasn't got any easier to design and do VoIP implementations," says Verdon Kelliher, northern ITS sales manager for IBM New Zealand.

"There is still a large sales cycle as clients first gets their heads around VoIP; then take on the layers beyond the VoIP decision, like engineering, then more decisions around the right VoIP vendors and implementers. It requires a lot of people resource, even when there is a strong business case, as separate voice and data teams often need to be integrated within the business."

Kelliher says when a legacy PABX reaches the end of its life, the next telephony system, whether PABX or purely software based, will be IP-capable. But how and when the business harnesses that system to implement a network-wide, fully-integrated VoIP system, complete with applications, is difficult to gauge as many businesses have yet to start.

"There's still not that killer application to drive [network-wide] VoIP--after all, businesses already have voice, obviously. Certain useful IP applications are rolling out but for many businesses these are 'nice to haves' as opposed to productivity drivers," says Kelliher.

One of the biggest obstacles to full VoIP implementation, according to Ross Goodfellow, solutions director network convergence for Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand, is clearly establishing the business case for the customer.

"The costs of traditional PABX operations are typically not well established and buried in operational and infrastructure costs. It can be hard to deliver businesses a wider view of VoIP benefits when they can still see a perfectly good piece of existing PABX equipment," says Goodfellow.

There are also confusions around the technology, says Alan Register, unified communications sales manager for Cisco New Zealand. Some telephony vendors that claim to sell 'full' VoIP solutions are actually selling hybrid 'IP-enabled' systems that largely comprise usual PABX features. Businesses buy these solutions, says Register, either because they have a financial investment in legacy telephony infrastructure or because they want to mitigate the risk of moving to a full integrated VoIP environment.

"When a VoIP vendor [properly] marries traditional telephony technology with new world IP technology, the whole network infrastructure has to be realigned and the business needs to continually invest in putting intelligence into the network. If a hybrid VoIP system is not helping a company to transform its business, then there's no point having it," he says.

No VoIP vendor wants to throw the baby out with the bath water for the sake of technology, says Goodfellow. They know customers need guidance to migrate to an integrated VoIP environment, whether that's in a phased or 'big bang' manner. Like Register, he says VoIP discussions should be centred on the value of data, voice and video convergence over the entire network, not voice alone. …

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