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Monday, March 8, 2010

Seven Tips for a Successful IP Telephony Implementation

Often when an organization considers a new IP telephony system --the process tends to focus on hardware and software. However, a company's infrastructure is composed not just of hardware and software, but also of people. The successful conversion to IP telephony does not rely solely on technology. It requires a combination of people, processes, and services-- all working together.

Planning, communication, teamwork, and understanding your users' requirements are as important as technical expertise. With this key objective in mind, I have compiled the following top seven tips for an IP telephony implementation. These best practices from my own experience as well as customer engagements will help you succeed at your organization.

Whether an IP telephony implementation involves 20 phones or 2000 phones, careful and comprehensive planning, communication, teamwork, will guarantee success.

Build a Cross-Functional HIT Team - the greatest factor in implementing a successful IP Telephony implementation is building a cross-functional High Impact Team that not only has the technical expertise but represents users in every area in the organization impacted by the implementation.

Key members of the team include an executive sponsor; a project team lead; technology and security experts, finance, the switchboard operator and project management. This well-represented team should start off the implementation by clearly defining the objectives and overall goals of the project, and identifying the tasks necessary to achieve those goals.

Get Your Users On Board - resistance to change is normal and should always be anticipated. Managing user expectations will be important from the start. One key way to achieve this is to take away the mystery and uncertainty among the individuals affected through education, open and frequent communication.

Team Participation - it is essential that you have the participation and cooperation of all team members from the start. The team should work together to plan project deliverables, address solution capabilities, define hardware, software, and security requirements, assign third-party implementation services, identify the project critical path and milestones, and outline the implementation strategy.

User Requirements Drives Design Requirements - you need to understand and be able to track user-preferred services, products, solutions, and features. Use a survey tool to identify needed phone features, validate key business needs and identify key functionalities that are critical to your business. You can also use the survey as an opportunity to incorporate features of the new IP telephony system and to help determine the priority of which features should be enabled first.

The 80/20 Implementation Rule - A winning formula for implementation success consists of 80 percent preparation and 20 percent installation. When it comes to actual implementation, the success of your IP telephony implementation will depend on several considerations that can be identified in 10 steps. If you focus on your plan first, the implementation will go a lot smoother.

Step 1. Facilitate Implementation Planning

Step 2. Hold Implementation Planning Meeting

Step 3. Define Project Monitoring and Control

Step 4. Develop Status Reporting Structure

Step 5. Begin Site Preparation

Step 6. Conduct Install and Configure

Step 7. Manage Test and Acceptance

Step 8. Deliver Knowledge Handoff

Step 9. Ensure Customer Acceptance

Step 10. Project Completion

Post Cutover Support - a successful handoff requires a well thought out support plan. Ensure installation staff is available to make necessary changes quickly and efficiently. Some users will forget how to use features and calling the help desk will ensure that business processes aren't slowed down because a user cannot check voice mails. Follow up with training at a later date and do not forget the satisfaction survey.

Look to Leverage your New IP Telephony Investment - the real power of IP Telephony is in the ability to integrate new powerful applications easily. As new applications become available, your chosen system must be able to allow the addition of these features so that your organization can reap the benefits that will come from rolling out another new IP communications application. At this point you may need to regroup the HIT team and do it all again.

About the Author
John Leonardelli, President, Gale Force Communications. John brings 20 years of voice, data and wireless telecommunications experience in various sales, management and operational roles. John is a Certified IP Telephony Expert where his expertise has been focused on IP Telephony, Contact Centre and complex technical solutions. John has a degree in Electronics Engineering, Telecommunications and Sales Management.

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