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May 2007
Volume 10 / Number 5
Inside Networking

P is for People in IP Telephony

By Tony Rybczynski, Columns: Inside Networking

IP Telephony is inevitable, but just because you can do something, should you?

Successful deployment of IP Telephony starts with defining your business goals, and establishing a cross-functional team which is aligned with these goals. If you think of IP Telephony as dial tone replacement or a voice packet as just another packet, you will likely be unsuccessful in both business and technology senses. If you think of IP Telephony as a real-time application with users who have very high expectations for performance, reliability and security, you are on the right path. Given that IP Telephony brings together end user service functionality and IP networking, organizational and skill set convergence is very important to successful deployment of IP Telephony.

The End User is King

Some enterprises jump into IP Telephony without addressing its realities. Learning on the job may move the yards, but could just as well result in cost overruns due to poor planning, failed implementation and service disruptions, and dissatisfied users. The old adage that “nobody even got fired for going with a leading vendor” doesn’t apply to IP Telephony, particularly if the dissatisfied user is a business decision maker or CXO.

Getting everyone on the same page with an IP Telephony initiative starts with an understanding that a key metric is user satisfaction. The user in this case could be the end user him or herself or the business owner (e.g. a hotel manager), who wants calls to be handled in a manner that is consistent with business processes and operation.

A systematic approach is to address the needs for specialization in IP Telephony across various parts of the organization, recognizing that smaller enterprises may not have dedicated personnel to provide these functions.

Not surprisingly, it starts with the user perspective. The enterprise needs to establish a voice application specialist, accountable for ensuring that user requirements are met, training needs are fulfilled and the customer’s voice is heard. This function would ensure that the required feature/functionality (including numbering plan, call coverage and attendant functionality) is delivered, not just when deployment is complete but also during the transition. It would also ensure that business needs are addressed, including regulatory and business continuity. Added responsibilities include setting up pilots, program tracking and communications with client groups, as well as customer satisfaction tracking, Wired and wireless telephones and mobile and desktop clients must be matched to user needs, including desktop convergence across telephony and PC environments. Consideration must also be given to ancillary devices such as voice recording, transcription devices, kiosks, facsimile, headsets, and alarm lines. Finally, the voice application specialist should work with users to determine which display-assisted applications (e.g. directories, conference call management and various forms of alerts) should be provided on IP phones.

The network engineering group expertise needs to be extended to cover IP Telephony Communications Servers, the voicemail or unified messaging servers, and contact center servers; as well as of gateways to the public network. WAN services including CO trunks (e.g. based on PRI) need to be engineered to ensure the user Quality of Experience is met, SLAs need to be managed across virtual private networks and billing accuracy needs to be verified. Other new responsibilities include VLAN administration, and ascertaining PoE and UPS requirements in wiring closets (for powering of IP sets even under failure conditions).

The operational group likewise is impacted by convergence. This starts with being a key stakeholder in the roll-out and planning of IP Telephony, providing a valuable perspective on testing, diagnostic and operational requirements. This not only includes the running of the converged infrastructure but also supporting help desk services for lines of business, end users of IP desktop and WLAN phones and of soft clients on PCs, laptops, tablets and various mobile platforms. Another important dimension is managing voice carrier solicitations, contracts, departmental charge back and toll fraud prevention.


A Workplace Vision Enabled Through a Technology Vision

Successful execution of an enterprise IP Telephony strategy depends on people, in two dimensions. The IT organization needs to take full advantage of networking skills in the traditional data group and end user understanding in the traditional telephony group. This is a significant cultural shift that drives the establishment of trust across two previously silo’ed groups, which had not worked together, while enabling new career development paths for employees. Furthermore, the converged IT organization needs to engage the client groups and lines of business that will be the direct beneficiaries of IP Telephony. After all, with IP Telephony and more generally Unified Communications, a technology vision needs a complementary workplace vision that embraces mobility and productivity.

Tony Rybczynski is Director of Strategic Enterprise Technologies at Nortel. (quote - news - alert) He has over 20 years experience in the application of packet network technology. For more information, please visit


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