Steven Taylor: VoIP: small budgets need better business cases

Packet Evangelist

It’s time to stop talking about what we might be able to do someday with voice over IP and start doing it. The technology works; the business case is evident. And making this move will prepare you for merging voice and data applications to give your company a competitive advantage.

I feel confident making these statements. During the course of the eight-city VoIP tour that I hosted for Network World (U.S.) this spring and summer, we distributed questionnaires soliciting attendees’ input on a number of issues, including the perceived benefits and challenges that they see in implementing VoIP.

When asked about the technical challenges, only 29 per cent of the respondents saw a lack of quality of service as an issue. It’s interesting that this was slightly more of an issue with those who already have implemented VoIP in some form (33 per cent) than with those who have not started an implementation (27 per cent). But to consider this a lesson learned rather than a statistical aberration would be pure conjecture.

The lack of a compelling business case also was not seen as a major impediment. Only 37 per cent of attendees were having problems with the business case.

So where’s the problem? Budget. Well over half (58 per cent) stated that the lack of budget was a major problem. And for those who had not yet implemented VoIP, 63 per cent saw this as a problem.

This has a couple of major implications. Obviously, you can’t spend money that you don’t have. But if there are good reasons to implement VoIP and the only problem is budget, then when the economic conditions finally ease a bit, we’ll get a flood of new installations.

The second implication is more troubling. If there are major advantages to moving to VoIP and you don’t have a budget, then the right business case hasn’t been made. Users need to build better business cases, and the VoIP suppliers need to do a better job helping with those business cases. The business case must focus on redefining business processes, moving the business proposition for VoIP from the tactical “cents per minute” realm to the more strategic realm of customer retention, staff effectiveness and infrastructure management.

Taylor is president of Distributed Networking Associates and publisher of He can be reached at