UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS CHECKLIST

This report is structured in a way that answers some of the more commonly asked questions. If some of the concepts are new to you, don’t worry. The language used in this report is deliberately ‘plain English’ and should help dispel some of the common myths and misconceptions around VoIP phone systems.If on the other hand you are an IT professional, it may be advantageous to chat further over a coffee. After 3+ decades in the industry we have a keen understanding of the intricacies of telephones and computers sharing a common platform. From our considerable experience the best results come from collaboration between telephone vendor and IT team. The overriding goal is to complete the project, not to compete.

Readers who’ve read my Special report “Don’t buy a VoIP phone system before you read this report” will now understand what VoIP means in layman’s terms. Now let me show you that not all VoIP Phone Systems are built equal and the slick sales spiel often glosses over the vital considerations when selecting a perfect fit IP Phone System for your business.
Voice on a computer network must be treated with a different set of rules. It takes many years of experience and comprehensive technical training to successfully sell, deploy and support VoIP Phone systems. You wouldn’t ask your plumber for his opinion on a broken leg, would you?

You see software, Desktops, routers and servers are the domain of the IT professional, and an IP Telephony system simply shares the network and cabling. The challenge for many IT executives is to make the business case for unified communications. This can be tricky, because purported productivity benefits can be hard to quantify. However if the business case exist, Unified Communications is a way to improve internal communications and increase productivity. There also is the potential for cost savings.

Setting and managing expectations is an important part of a successful Unified Communications (UC) deployment. Any institution considering migrating to UC must carefully evaluate the many options to determine at which point their needs actually suit a UC solution.

Back Ground to The Checklist
This report is structured in a way that answers some of the more commonly asked questions. If some of the concepts are new to you, don’t worry. The language used in this report is deliberately ‘plain English’ and should help dispel some of the common myths and misconceptions around VoIP communications.

If on the other hand you are an IT professional, it may be advantageous to chat further over a coffee. After 35 years in the industry we have a keen understanding of the intricacies of telephones and computers sharing a common platform. From our considerable experience the best results come from collaboration between telephone vendor and IT team. The overriding goal is to complete the project, not to compete.

Now let me show you that not all IP Telephony systems are built equal and the slick sales spiel often glosses over the vital considerations when selecting a perfect fit IP Telephony solution for your business. Voice on a computer network must be treated with a different set of rules. It takes many years of experience and comprehensive technical training to successfully sell, deploy and support IP Telephony systems. You wouldn’t ask your plumber for his opinion on a broken leg, would you?

You see software, Desktops, routers and servers are the domain of the IT professional, and an IP Telephony system simply shares the network and cabling.

The challenge for many IT executives is to make the business case for unified communications. This can be tricky, because purported productivity benefits can be hard to quantify. However if the business case exist, Unified Communications is a way to improve internal communications and increase productivity. There also is the potential for cost savings.

Setting and managing expectations is an important part of a successful Unified Communications (UC) deployment. Any institution considering migrating to UC must carefully evaluate the many options to determine at which point their needs actually suit a UC solution.

This checklist is broken into twelve sections that represent a very comprehensive method of reviewing any IP Telephony solution. You are encouraged to rate each point on either on the following scale…

  • Unacceptable – choose this option if the system you are reviewing doesn't meet your business needs in the area concerned.
  • Poor – choose this option if the system has the feature but is still far from what you require.
  • Good – choose this option if the system meets your business need in the area concerned.
  • Very Good – choose this option if the system meets your business need with additional benefits.
  • Excellent – choose this option if the particular feature EXACTLY meets your business needs and you couldn't want for any more.
  • This wasn't explained to me – choose this if the vendor didn't cover or brushed over this point

IP Telephony Check List

IP-PBX System: ______________________________

Reviewer: ______________________________ Unacceptable Poor Good Very Good Excellent This wasn’t explained to me
Rate the Features That You Require 1 2 3 4 5

Section 1 – Users Single Number Contact

  • Let’s you be call and be contacted from ANY phone you want so you can work seamlessly from anywhere.
  • Find Me/Follow Me/Twinning – Ring Desk & Mobile
  • Allowing callers to make contact with a single call

Busy lamp field / Digital Key system emulatio- So you can also have quick easy visual presence just like “Red lights” on traditional digital key telephone systems but with much more information.

Automated Attendant & Interactive Voice Response – Allows you to save money on personnel, no need for receptionist to transfer calls. Also saves time for callers who ask the same questions (address, Fax #, fixed messages, etc…)

Record calls from any phone – Which means you can improve customer experience by letting employees listen to where they went wrong, also understand and monitor your calls and return missed calls.

Roaming Between Sites – Allows users to log into any phone anywhere in your enterprise and have profile and calls follow. Just like logging onto another desktop PC with you own user name and password.

Section 2 – Desktop Control Software

Click to Call – Allows users to call with a mouse click using quick easy access to contacts in your company directory or CRM

Real Time Presence – Let’s you know if the person you need is available and how they may be reached – no matter where they are located in your enterprise or mobility workers.

Mouse, keyboard or telephone control – Allows you to control your handset or softphone from your keyboard or mouse which means time efficiency improvements.

Fax messages – Allows users to send, receive & store incoming faxes as standard image files in your system.

Secure Instant Messaging (IM) – Allows you to spontaneously collaborate with others or contact a user EVEN if they are engaged on the phone or when the telephone is inappropriate. Call centre agents can discretely request supervisor assistance.

  • NOTE: Some manufacturers require additional servers and software to support Instant Message.

Screen Pop – Which means the caller ID is matched with records in your CRM data base or Outlook and automatically populates your computer screen with the caller’s details.

Built in Fax Server – Send, Receive and Archive Fax messages – So you can send, receive, store and forward your faxes with a simple click. Eliminate your fax machine and costly fax lines. Few manufacturers have fax built in however most manufacturers only support 3rd party fax software which means additional cost for software and hardware.

Functionality with Microsoft Outlook – Allows you quick easy access to contacts in commonly used MS Outlook so you can easily make calls, set up voice and web conferences.

Complex features
  • Complex features must be easy and intuitive to access and use, either by Desktop user software or the IP handset.
  • User “Call Control” – Can users easy manage their own call handling rules? These can be based on Caller ID, Day of week, time of day, users presence status, day of year, etc …
  • Interactive web conferences- Is additional hardware or licensing required?
  • What’s the capacity? – How easy is it to turn an audio conference call into a web conference?
  • Making calls – How easy is it to search for contacts?
  • How easy is it to launch the call once contact is found?
  • Can all function be operated from handset as well as PC? – Call Notes – Allows you to type notes on calls, notes can be passed on with transferred call. Save and archive notes with call details.
  • Operating system requirements: Windows / Apple / Linux and thin Clients – Means your existing computer network may not support the proposed IP Telephony system or sometimes may not support features listed by manufacturer. Additional server hardware and software licensing costs may apply.
  • Softphone licence- Allows you to use a PC with headset as a phone, this can reduce the size of your carbon footprint. Is it a separate licence and what features do I have?

 

Section 3 – Remote Workers

  • Do I need a VPN to support my teleworkers?
  • VPN means a Virtual private network via the internet so you can access the corporate network. This method usually raises security issues and inconsistencies. Some IP Telephony manufacturers require expensive additional hardware and licences to support remote workers.

 

Section 4 – Mobility

  • Mobile smart phone support for Call Control software – Allows Smart Phone users to have the all the features no matter where they are. Popular iPhone and BlackBerry handsets support mobility features.
  • Mobile smart phone support for Real Time Presence – Meaning people anywhere within the company or on the road can check other user presence status.
  • Mobile smart phone support for Secure Instant Messaging (IM) – Allows smart phone users to quickly and easily communicate without engaging in a phone call. Perfect for side conversations during meetings.

Section 5 – Management

  • All in one – or a “Server Farm” – Meaning lower cost of ownership, Guaranteed integration, No finger pointing at third parties, Software or hardware manufacturers, ease of management and low cost to own.
  • Management – Centralised – This means you can administer all sites remotely, usually from a Graphical User Interface (GUI). Some manufacturers tout central management, but still require complex code where the administrator has to program every site which leads to unnecessary complexity and higher costs.
  • Adding a user – Allows you to add a new user in minutes via a central administration GUI. Some manufacturers will supply a temporary user licence so you can connect new users prior to placing your order with reseller.
  • Changing a user – How intuitive is the administration software? This must be able to be used by non-technical staff such as a receptionist.
  • Removing a user – How intuitive is the administration software? – This must be easily used by non-technical staff.
  • Programming – How intuitive is the administration software? This must be able to be used by non-technical staff such as a receptionist.
  • Quality of support – What are your SLA’s?
  • What choice do I have if I don’t like the original vendor? – What support is available for reseller?
  • Does manufacturer have presence in Australia? – My business is Australia wide, can you support me?
  • How responsive is the manufacturer to software bug patches?
  • Voice compression codec support – G729 – Allows you to maximise available bandwidth saving costs.
  • Proprietary or Open Standard Protocol (SIP) – Allows you to use other manufacturers supported SIP phones. This allows you choice and does not lock you into one manufacturer of handsets.
  • Detailed call Logs – This is just like a call accounting software package usually built into the system. You can drill deep into call records for reporting on critical information like report on user use, trunk use, longest call, most frequently called number, etc.
  • Seamlessly Scale to grow – This means you can simply add additional licences and or hardware to cater for your growing needs. No need to change out the equipment because it’s too small.
  • Automatic Call Distribution – ACD – Allows you to route and distribute calls to a department or group of operators rather than an individual providing quicker service for their customers.
  • Hunt Groups – This means callers are distributed based on rules like longest idle, round robin 1234, 2341, 3412, 4123, .etc or sequential. Agents in these groups can be forced to answer calls and have the call control overridden by supervisors.
  • Multiple Operators – Allows you to have back up operators on other sites, a good scenario for this is daylight saving time differences allows for longer trading hours.
  • TAPI Support – Means Telephone Application Protocol Interface. It is used for 3rd party software integration with your phone system, like “popping a screen in your CRM software on incoming call“. Not all IP Telephony manufacturers support 1st and 3rd party TAPI which means “call control” may be limited.

Section 6 – Redundancy

  • N + 1 Redundancy – Means you can have fail safe equipment with only One redundant IP Telephony Switch. Many IP Telephony manufacturers require a complete duplicate set of hardware for redundancy, adding significant costs.
  • Integrated UPS back up power supply – Graceful shutdown in event of power fail. Allows your IP Telephony equipment to shut down gracefully. – Most UPS’s shut down equipment without notice potentially causing damage to the system.
  • Redundant Hard Disk Drives RAID -1 – Mirrored Drives – This means a 2nd Hard Disk Drive is automatically engaged in the event of a Main Hard Disk Failure. Most systems provide only a back of the data, only some will continue with any interruption of calls or data loss.
  • Solid State Drive – This means the memory storage of the system uses a “Flash Solid State Memory device” that has no moving parts like Hard Disk Drives. Hard Disk Drives have a typical life of approximately 3 Years.
  • Ability to reroute around failures – This means you have redundancy options for network failures; eg; calls automatically routed via alternate route if backhoe digs up your cable.
  • Survivability and Disaster recovery – This means your telephone remain working in the event of a network or hardware failure.

Section 7 – Third Party Software Integration

  • Microsoft Exchange Integration – This means users integrate with Microsoft email “Exchange” software, for scheduling meetings conferences, dialling contacts, etc
  • Microsoft Outlook address book integration – So you can dial directly from Outlook and receive caller’s information on the screen on incoming calls.

Section 8 – Operating System

  • Supported on Windows, Mac, Linux, Terminal Services and Thin clients.
  • Not all IP Telephony Manufacturers support all Software Operating Systems. Some will force you to purchase a server just for their IP phone system adding unnecessary costs.

 

Section 9 – Contact Centre

  • Call Recording – So you can record calls full time or on demand.
  • Multisite call centre agent – This means you call employ staff no matter where they live and use overflow agents in other sites to make sure your calls are answered.
  • Inbound Call Centre with Real-time Wall Board and Reporting – This means users can see the dashboard of their contact centre at a glance. Like number of callers waiting, their average wait time, total calls made or received, alarms for KPI’s, etc.
  • Wrap Up Timer – This allows contact centre staff to complete all the tasks from their last call before launching or accepting another call. Making sure all calls and staff efficiencies are maximised.
  • Account Codes – Account codes are usually used to cost calls and professional time to a particular job or client. Users enter account codes prior or during calls to automatically allocate that call to chosen job/ client. Typically this is used in Legal and Accounting professions so time and call costs can be accurately billed.
  • Call attached data – This means data like “Wrap up Timer” and “Account Codes” are included with the call information for additional reporting.
  • Queuing Calls – Allows you queue callers in order, play messages, advise callers of place in the queue, provide options to opt out to a mail box, … etc.
  • Group Mail Box – Callers can leave a message for “Customer Support” which is a group of say eight users. Any one of the eight users can collect the message so no messages are missed by absent users.
  • Instant Messaging – Secure & Built in – Allows users to chat using text style messaging in a SECURE environment. A good way to contact users even when they are on the phone or leave a message for when they log back on. This is very similar to the way teenagers chat on MSN.

Section 10 – Conferencing

  • Web Conferencing – Allows users to interact and collaborate on the Internet using Web Cameras, Remote support and Access for desktops, Remote print and file sharing, … etc. Usually an add on or separate hardware.
  • Audio Conferencing – Allows users to conference multi party calls from inside and outside of the enterprise. Capacities vary considerably between manufacturers, be sure to know the maximum number of participants and conference calls.

Section 11 – Enterprise or Multi Site Secure Enterprise-wide Unified Communications

  • Global Presence and Single Number Contact – Allows all users visibility of users across the enterprise. Users can log into any IP handset on the enterprise to have their profile and voice mail follow them.
  • Survivability and Disaster Recovery – This means the IP Telephony system has been designed with the worst case scenario in mind. In the event of a complete system failure an IP telephony system should be able to automatically switch Telco lines over to redundant IP telephony equipment (very few do), allow the enterprise call traffic to be automatically rerouted to surviving sites.
  • Support for multiple Locations – Not all IP Telephony solutions cater for multi-site organisations. Some IP Telephony manufacturers supply “Small Business” and “Enterprise” versions. Small Business versions are usually restricted to single sites where as Enterprise systems are usually capable of 100+ sites. It’s not uncommon for an upgrade or additional site to cause an expensive total change out of hardware.
  • Seamless multi-site integration – Effectively this means your enterprise looks like it’s under “one” roof.

 

Section 12 – Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

  • Do you expect users will get more done with this system?
  • Do you expect end users to need less training than other systems?
  • Do you expect administration to be easier?
  • Do you expect administration to take less time?
  • Do you expect administrators to need less training than other systems?
  • Rate the expected annual support costs
  • Rate the expected annual maintenance costs
  • Rate the On Site Demonstration
  • Rate the Technical and Product knowledge of the Sales Person
  • Rate Vendors Project Management process
  • Rate the Vendors presentation of solution

Testimonials From Our Happy Customers

I’ve always believed that happy customers who repeat purchase and refer others are the cornerstone of a successful enterprise. That’s why we bend over backwards to make sure that our customers are as happy as they can be with their new phone system. Here’s what just some of our happy customers have said…

“Even the bottom line is feeling a positive impact: one business reported a 15 per cent increase in revenues as a result of unifying their communications. It’s no wonder that the majority of IT managers we talked to see it as crucial to growth.”

Mike Robinson, converged communications director at Dimension Data

“Greg recommended the new system based on our long-term business plans and the requirements of our recently opened Melbourne office…”

Deidre Grace, Director – People in Plastic.

“Normally a sales person will tell you anything to make a sale… he delivered on his promises.”

Ross Tait, CEO – Ballina Toyota.

“Greg also freely advised, without favour, on solutions which were outside his commercial realm.”

Tim Isaacs, General Manager – FITEC.