(The Most Common Mistakes of IP Telephony Deployment…and How to Short-Circuit Them)

All kinds of issues can potentially crop up as organizations make the switch to a new Unified Communications/IP phone system. Here’s how you can avoid the seven most common deployment gaffes.

After years in the field implementing hundreds of IP telephony systems, I’ve seen all kinds of unusual situations as organizations make the switch to converged voice/data networks. Here are the seven deadly deployment sins I’ve seen on the job.

  1. Skipping network assessments
    A thorough network assessment is critical for multisite deployments of IP telephony, and even for single sites. Tests assessing network latency, packet loss and jitter are conducted with software agents that simulate voice traffic transmitted across a legacy data network. Network assessments analyze traffic over a matter of days, gathering data points that help customers judge the readiness of their network to handle the impending surge of real-time voice traffic.
  2. Omitting site surveys.
    Another up-front consideration is a site survey, which entails the mundane but necessary work of looking at exactly what equipment is in use around the location. Customers don’t always spend the time looking under everyone’s desk to see if they have an Ethernet hub there. Then all of a sudden you learn that they don’t have dedicated cabling to the desktop or you find an area where they put in an inexpensive hub or an unmanaged switch that feeds a bunch of printers.Most installations have a Power over Ethernet switch which provides power to the IP phone. If there is a hub or switch under the desk or in a small closet, the power will not make it to the phone. While it may seem time consuming to do a walk-through for the site survey, it helps IT understand the exact terrain that will be rolled over to IP telephony.
  3. Staying in the dark about trunks
    The IT staff may not be in regular enough communications with carriers to know whether ground-start or loop-start trunks (a.k.a. Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS)) are in use in the organization’s telecommunication network.Ground-start trunks are often from the legacy days, but if you have ground-start into your PBX, when you attempt to cut over the lines to the IP telephony system, you won’t get any dial tone since it is not supported. Carriers can make the change for you to convert to loop-start trunks, but expect up to a month’s delay as they do so.
  4. Not knowing other key circuitry details.
    Get all the information you can from your carrier as you prepare to cut over, such as confirming that the D channel is on the 24th channel when you order a new PRI. In some instances, the D channel is on some other channel, and this is something that is not changeable on our side.ShoreTel implementation staff will also need to know the type of Central Office switch in use, and how many digits (four, five, seven or 10) the carrier will send. I recommend that it matches the extension length of the end-user at the company site or sites.
  5. Sticking with old client operating systems.
    The best step here is to communicate the desktop and operating system requirements with your solution provider before the project starts. Sometimes people are shocked we don’t support older version of operating systems like Microsoft Windows 2000 anymore. We would hope everyone has Microsoft Windows XP by now, but that’s not always the case.
  6. Not including training.
    Adequate training of administrative staff who may be adding new employees into the phone system, supervisors who will be running both real-time and historical usage reports and other users who will use the phones in the office and on the road is too often overlooked. It’s not hugely time consuming to teach people how to use the ShoreTel system; one to two hours are required to teach most employees the functions relevant to their roles within the organization. But those hours can make a huge difference in terms of your organization’s ability to get the most out of its IP telephony deployment. Training should be discussed and scheduled in conjunction with the cutover to IP telephony.
  7. Cutting over on a Friday night.
    Many organizations first consider a weekend as the ideal time period in which they will make the switch to IP telephony, I suggest a mid-week schedule. For one thing, you want to schedule your training for the day prior to cutover so it’s fresh in people’s minds. Also, ShoreTel services or your solution provider should be on site on the go-live day to review procedures as end users get accustomed to their new phone system.Having on-site support from your reseller or ShoreTel may come in handy to explain how to access corporate voicemail from outside or to review the auto-attendant menu with end users or to link up that lone overlooked fax machine.

Digital transformation has become a top initiative for business and IT leaders. In today’s business world, sustainable market leadership is no longer based solely on which company has the best products or even the best people. Instead, organizations that are agile and can quickly adapt to rapidly evolving market trends will become market leaders.

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