This press release from XO Communications is a distillation of a Webcast and white paper that the service provider is offering. The goal is to provide guidance to small and medium-sized businesses as they prepare for VoIP implementations.
Suggestions are to identify needs; understand how VoIP works; assess the current network; identify appropriate partners and providers; and design the best type of platform. The firm also suggests carefully perusing proposals; developing an installation and testing checklist; making sure the appropriate level of service and support are in place; making sure billing is understandable; and quizzing potential partners to ensure there is an evolutionary path forward.
It's all good advice, of course. This podcast of Network World's Voices from IT Roadmap features an interview with Scott Pinkerton, a manager of core network infrastructure at the Argonne National Laboratory. Perhaps the lab took all these steps and things went awry anyway. In any case, the podcast features a frank discussion (sans vendor names) on VoIP handset performance and design shortcomings. Clearly, implementing VoIP successfully depends on having the right information. "It always comes down to knowing thy network" on a deep level, Pinkerton said.
Apparently, deploying VoIP lends itself to lists. This take is from Alok Kapoor, the managing director of Merrill Lynch, Global Private Client Technology. His suggestions, which somewhat overlap those from XO, include keeping good metrics of legacy systems; using productivity gains as a carrot to elicit buy-in; rolling out applications as early in the process as possible; factoring in training costs; keeping track of the wiring closet; and working with the business side of the house to make sure that what gets deployed actually is what users need.
While not a list of top things to watch, this post at Realtime Community points to the importance of preparation. The writer sums it up nicely:
Too often, organizations either mistakenly believe, or accept a salesperson's poor judgement [sic] that VoIP will simply work without any changes to the existing network environment. This simply isn't true in most corporate networks.
A good look into some of the pre-deployment issues can be found in this IT Jungle Q&A with Mark Shearer, the general manager of the i System for IBM. In addition to describing building block planning concerns, Shearer paints a broad canvas of future possibilities that focus both on saving money and an array of pragmatic and futuristic applications that can push an organization's efficiency.
I'd point out that one potential problem not mentioned in any of the lists is an unconscious tendency not to recognize that VoIP is a totally new and demanding application. A voice network already is in place, after all. Deploying VoIP is a complex undertaking, and organizations should spend the time and money necessary to ensure that rollouts are smooth and that the platform ultimately built suits users' needs.