The SAS Group, an international provider of IP-based network and communication infrastructure services, is advising businesses to broaden their horizons when it comes to scoping new IP telephony (IPT) systems as, all too often, businesses are selecting systems based on the simple feature checklists provided by each vendor. Rather than base their decisions solely on the technical functionality of competing solutions, the SAS Group urges firms to first consider their wider business practices and to judge how any prospective system will impact and interface with existing infrastructures. Failure to scope an IPT or unified communications project in this way could easily result in wasted investment.
Prior to putting together a request for proposal (RFP) for a new IPT system, the SAS Group advises businesses to audit their existing infrastructure, including all devices and how these connect to the network. Structured cabling and the server infrastructure should also be reviewed, as well as WAN and Internet connectivity. Furthermore, firms should assess how the new IPT system will be utilised; this involves studying how IP voice calls will travel over the corporate network and understanding how various departments will use the telephone system. By undertaking such in-depth preparation, firms can pinpoint which parts of their infrastructures need upgrading and subsequently compile RPFs which reflect their real business requirements.
“Many firms fall into the trap of viewing IPT as just another phone system, selecting products based on standard functionality and failing to consider the requirements of the network on which the application will run. What businesses really need to do is say ‘this is my business, here’s how my network works and here’s how employees want to utilise the system; now you tell me how your solution can meet these specific needs’,” said Charles Davis, chief executive officer, the SAS Group. “Unfortunately, most IPT vendors just don’t know how to answer this question; wider networking issues tend to sit outside their comfort zone. Firms may therefore wish to work with consultants who can steer them through the selection process.”
Rather than placing the responsibility of scoping a new system on the shoulders of the network or IT manager, the SAS Group also encourages businesses to appoint project teams, comprising personnel with a range of skills. Whilst IT staff can help decide on technical functionality, finance personnel may be better placed to assess billing or call logging features. Experts from prospective vendors, the business’s carrier network or external consultancies can also provide valuable advice about the RFP process.