Cashing in on  IP Telephony

IP Telephony is starting to make an impact on some companies’ bottom lines. But beyond cost savings, the approach promises significant technology and business benefits by extending the reach of the network and bridging the distance between branch offices. Here’s some advice on how to implement IP Telephony successfully.

Consider the hallmarks of a successful business: flexibility, responsiveness, and a focus on core competencies and skills. To stay successful in a climate of controlled spending, Canadian businesses must continually improve service levels, efficiency and performance, and respond to market demands quickly and accurately. More and more, organizations are looking to existing assets in human resources, information and technology for an impact on the company’s bottom line. Many are now converging voice and data networks with Internet Protocol (IP) Telephony and finding a flexible technology solution that can adapt to evolving business needs and expectations.

IP Telephony allows organizations to deliver voice and data applications over a single unified network. There are quantifiable benefits associated with IP Telephony, including reduced costs for installation, connectivity, toll-calling, management and administration.

Beyond cost savings, however, companies using it will see tremendous technology and business benefits through a shift in communications by extending the reach of the network. Improved communication and information transfer has a direct, positive effect on responsiveness and decision-making. IP Telephony makes this happen by bridging the distance between branch offices, enabling a kind of ‘location transparency’ that overcomes the traditional limitations of private communications networks that are based on circuit-switching and PBXs.

IP Telephony can open doors to new communications applications and functionality for workers. For example, with this technology workplace tools such as voice mail, e-mail, faxes and contact databases can be accessed from any device such as a personal digital assistant or a laptop computer. In addition, mobile workers can initiate phone calls via a PC or have calls redirected from an office phone to a laptop.

For seamless transition from a PBX to an IP Telephony environment, technology and business decision-makers need to map their objectives. This will allow them to choose the appropriate system, and successfully deploy, manage and maintain the system with the requisite level of service. The outline provided below will help organizations align business objectives with successful IP Telephony implementation.

1. Identifying pain points

Organizations first need to look at their business goals to understand how technology can play a role. From the needs of a customer-facing call centre to those of the employee on the go, there are different solutions to address various business requirements. To receive the expected impact on the bottom line, decision-makers must identify the specific goals they have for the technology.

2. Network assessment and security

Pinpointing the existing capabilities of the network is an important step for organizations to take before implementing an IP Telephony solution. A network assessment identifies any potential problems that may affect the solution, and determines the root causes. Based on the findings, the next step is to define the requirements to eliminate these challenges. In addition, security should be top of mind in the planning stage to protect the integrity of customer and company data. Defining expectations for security levels of the IP Telephony solution will help in choosing the appropriate solution.

3. Evaluating the soft costs

Organizations often forget to consider the productivity benefits of an IP Telephony solution when they evaluate its impact on the bottom line. The business value of an IP Telephony solution is in the applications that drive employee productivity and customer satisfaction, thus leading to increased revenue over time.

4. Change in philosophy

IT managers may need to change their network management philosophy and priorities when an IP Telephony solution is introduced. The improved overall monitoring capability enables an organization to focus more on being proactive rather than reactive. For example, the management focus will be less on monitoring individual network devices and more on proactive monitoring of underperforming applications or of phone calls that are abandoned by customers. This shift in monitoring duties allows organizations to identify problems easier and earlier, and downgrade them from serious issues to minor ones. The increased ability to recognize problems enables businesses to lower their total cost of ownership and preserve valuable staff and revenue resources.

5. Room for growth

Companies need to select equipment that supports interoperability and an open architecture environment. This helps enterprises cost-effectively gain the maximum value from their IP Telephony infrastructure as it is able to meet evolving business needs and support new applications that come to market.

IP Telephony case examples in Canada

Such considerations were taken into account by Jenny Craig, a California-based weight-loss company, when determining how to respond to significant growth impacting the company’s communications and Canadian-based contact centre.

“We were looking for a powerful phone system that could support our call center, offering call center managers new and enhanced reporting tools to help them optimize operations and continue to grow with our increasing business,” said Bob Fried, Vice President and CIO.

Jenny Craig offers a full-service weight management program that includes education and motivation through one-on-one consultations, either in person or over the phone as part of the Jenny Direct Program. Now in its twentieth year, existing telephone systems and equipment used were beginning to break down and newer phones weren’t supported by the legacy system.

“We are now in a position to perform a network assessment to clearly delineate what type of solution our networks can support and how we could move from where we are to where we want to be. The assessment will be an integral step in our decision-making process and should eliminate technical surprises during our IP Telephony implementation,” said Fried.

Operational efficiency and customer service are issues that affect businesses. Improvements in these areas have an impact on the bottom line and can be addressed with IP Telephony.

ThyssenKrupp Elevator, the largest elevator company in North America, was looking for a way to solve these issues and considered upgrading its voice and data communications network throughout its Canadian offices.

“We had different customer contact centres running different communications systems,” said Andrei Moffat, the company’s IT director. “We wanted to find a solution that could work in this heterogeneous environment to centralize management and standardize the quality of service to all customers, no matter what office they call. After evaluating different options, we found that cost savings and improved service could be obtained through an IP Telephony solution.”

Another example is Totten Sims Hubicki (TSH), a multi-disciplinary consulting engineering company. Relying heavily on its communications system for client collaboration during the design and execution of large public- and private-sector architecture and engineering projects, TSH was looking for a way to link two key TSH offices, protect its investments in previous communications technology and support the company’s expansion plans with a low total cost of ownership over the long term.

“We needed our different offices and 40 remote users to operate and collaborate as though we were all working under the same roof. IP Telephony allows us to see gains in worker efficiency through standardized telephony and voicemail applications that we built on top of our existing infrastructure. Because we avoided ripping out and replacing all of our legacy systems, we’ve seen cost savings both on the implementation and from the improved collaboration of our employees,” said Kam Mohammed, TSH’s manager of information technology.

By looking critically at business goals and marrying them with an IP Telephony strategy, Canadian businesses can increase worker collaboration and communication functionality at a pace equivalent to their business needs. With a hybrid system built on open standards, businesses can protect current investments in technologies and infrastructure while gaining efficiencies and positioning their organization for long term growth.

Mario Belanger is the President of Avaya Canada, a provider of Internet Protocol (IP) telephony software applications, systems and services.

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