Unified Communications: Walk Before You Run

    When it comes to unified communications, companies should take their time and get it right.

    Companies are always looking for the next big idea. But, as the old saying goes, Rome was not built in a day. Sometimes it is best to start out small, then move on to bigger things.

    Take unified communications. In emerging markets like China and India, everyone talks about IT investment. And, of course, they all want to be in the cloud. But is that a realistic goal?

    In many cases the answer is no, because the infrastructure is not there yet. Instead of jumping into the cloud, they should take some time to consider their needs carefully.

    The Right Tool for the Job

    For example, instead of opting for a full-blown, cloud-based unified communications solution, a VoIP system is often enough, with significant benefits.

    With traditional PBX systems, moving an employee can cost hundreds of dollars in labor. A VoIP infrastructure requires less time for moves, adds and changes (MACs) and often eliminates the need to hire an outside vendor or service provider to handle them.

    Moving an IP telephone station temporarily or permanently or adding a new user usually simply entails carrying out a quick and simple GUI-based command. In other words, with IP telephony, each user has their own IP phone profile and the network does not care where anybody is located at any particular time.

    VoIP in Action

    The Chinese power tool manufacturer and retailer, CHERVON, understands the advantages of VoIP.

    With its “Born in China, Growing Globally” philosophy, it is a poster child for the new breed of dynamic China-headquartered firms keen to build their own global brands. What is more CHERVON is expanding its manufacturing facilities in China to meet significant domestic and global growth.

    Managing such an extensive global footprint requires a comprehensive, cost-effective and flexible communications solution. CHERVON has implemented a ShoreTel IP telecommunications solution across its eight offices in the United States and Canada. This has enabled the power tool manufacturer and retailer to significantly reduce its telephony costs and improve the performance and flexibility of its communications mix. Learn more about Chevron’s ShoreTel experience here.

    Five Steps to IP Success

    It is clear that IP telephony can help an organization gain a competitive advantage, boost employee productivity, and enhance customer service. Here are a five key steps that companies shouldn’t overlook when searching for IP telephony success:

    Step 1 – Research

    This means getting as much unbiased research and as many reports from reputable consultancies as possible. At the start, pass up reports that talk about vendors, and instead focus on technology articles, technical papers, industry event presentations given by independent technologists or long-term experts. Next, visit the web sites of the most promising vendors.

    After searching on the Internet, invest in some time with industry experts and analysts. For lengthy conversations, an organization may have to invest more than time. For example, research analysts can be hired on a project basis to provide valuable information and insights. But it is important to keep a keen ear out for biases because analysts are often paid consultants for specific vendors.

    Step 2 – Evaluate

    A network integration partner or consultancy might be a good idea for the next step – the Request for Proposal (RFP). Make sure it is comprehensive and not skewed toward any one vendor. Closely review the proposals from each vendor using a weighted ranking system to score each vendor based on your list of requirements.

    Step 3 – See for Yourself

    Invite the most promising vendors to come in and provide an overview of their solutions and a demonstration. In addition, many vendors, are willing to deploy a sample set-up so a prospect can test the solution in their office.

    Some will offer a trial lasting a few days or a week. But, if more time is required, it is quite acceptable to ask for an extension. A reputable vendor does not put a deadline on your decision – they want the customer to be happy with their choice of solution.

    Step 4 – Choose the Best One

    At this point, it is very important to review the vendor’s website, including where they post press releases. If there have been any recent upgrades or new product announcements, then it may be prudent to ask how customers are responding and call for references. This will provide the freshest input, and enable the business to make the most educated decision on which is really the right vendor.

    Step 5 – Go Live

    After testing the system for a few weeks or months, and making appropriate configuration changes to adapt to the entire organization, it is time to begin rolling out IP telephony company wide. An installation in phases tends to work best. The larger the enterprise, the longer it will take and the longer the time needed between phases. After the rollout, it is imperative to schedule end-user training.

    Getting It Right Takes Time

    Making the decision to switch to IP telephony and actually deploying the system is no small task. But, while the benefits are compelling, enterprises should take their time and get it right.

    The more time and resources you invest in researching, evaluating and testing, the better the result will be. However, if you do not have a lot of time, do not worry. The schedule can absolutely be accelerated. Do not skip important steps – just shorten each cycle to fit your needs.

     frederic=Frederic Gillant joined ShoreTel in 2014 as vice president and managing director for Asia Pacific. Based in Singapore, Gillant leads ShoreTel’s go-to-market strategy across Asia Pacific managing the sales, channels, marketing and sales operations for the region. Other articles by Frederic are listed below:


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