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Ask Not What IPT Can Do For You...

We're getting to the point in the VoiceCon Orlando cycle when I start thinking about what I'm likely to see and hear during the event, what themes I expect to hear repeated over and over during the week. Clearly, a lot of the focus this year is going to be on cost savings, business cases, ROIs, and the like. How could it not be?A lot of companies are looking at IP telephony/UC as a potential cost saver, but cost savings don't happen on ROI worksheets; they have to happen on the ground, within the enterprise. It's never been more important to actually do the things that capture real savings; a botched or inefficient deployment will leave you worse off than if you'd done nothing.

One of the sessions that's become a regular at VoiceCon is the UC Pricing & Licensing talk that Doug Carolus of N'Compass consultancy gives. Again this year, Doug has some very detailed slides on pricing structures from the biggest UC vendors, and hopefully this will help attendees make some sense of the various packages and deals that are out there.

Doug will close his session with 10 recommendations that I'm going to duplicate here, because they really capture a lot of the critical points in realizing cost savings:

What you need to be asking...

1. Have you conducted an appropriate feasibility study?

2. Is your entire network infrastructure REALLY ready for the new enterprise applications? Power, cooling, cable, QoS, PoE, carrier services, data electronics, etc. ...

3. How will you define success and do you have clear, concise, and objective evaluation criteria to select the vendor(s)?

4. Do you have the appropriate user groups represented on your project team and do you have *executive
sponsorship* to help support and defend your project?

5. Do you have the right internal resources needed to select, implement, and support the selected technologies?

6. Have you defined what you REALLY need implemented on "Day 1" and what infrastructure elements you can leverage? Easy to bite off more than you can "chew"...

7. Do you have a clear service and support plan developed for after system acceptance?

8. Do you have sufficient growth and network refresh costs in your CapEx budget?

9. Do you understand how your decision will impact your IT/Telecomm teams *and* your company's vendor relationship(s)?

10. What is the best procurement and implementation methodology to support your strategy? (HINT: Make the procurement competitive!)

A lot of these are things that you've been nagged about relentlessly by consultants over the years: Do a network assessment; no, really, make sure you do a network assessment; manage the organizational issues; do an RFP; etc., etc. All of those are good things, but as Doug's presentation indicates, that's not enough anymore.

A good indication is Doug's notion of a "Feasibility Study," which is a term I hadn't heard before in the context of IPT/UC deployments. It turns out that what he's talking about is really going back and asking yourself some really basic questions:

• What are acceptable alternatives to the current systems?

• What are the costs, benefits, and risks associated with these alternatives?

• What is the *best* solution (current state, upgrade, migration, "rip and replace")?

• Can the best solution ultimately be "built" and supported and if so, in what timeframe?

• The final objective is to answer the question: Should the solution be implemented?"

In other words, the decision today isn't: Will IP telephony save me money? Or Will UC save me money? It's: Should I do it? And the answer to that question depends on how much money it will save, and how confident you are that you can capture those savings.

Put another way: Ask not what IPT can do for you, ask what you can do -- and I mean what you can do -- with IPT, for your enterprise.Cost savings don't happen on ROI worksheets; they have to happen on the ground, within the enterprise.