Providing Support for Your New VoIP System
If you're a multilocation company with limited staff, implementing VoIP may not necessarily increase the need for more full-time people, but it increases the need for support over the near term until everyone gets up to speed on the new way of doing telephony and using all the new and exciting features.
Choices for support are limited to two broad categories, each of which has its own peculiarities:
- Going in-house
- Using a VoIP partner
People won't tolerate an unstable telephony system. In the real-time world of business, a stable voice communications system is essential. Before deploying your VoIP system, run the traditional voice system in parallel with the VoIP system to make sure that your configuration and circuits are functioning properly. Be sure to run a pilot test using some key decision makers in your company; this will help sell the new technology.
Depending on the size of your network, in-house support can be a bonus if you have a dedicated, knowledgeable staff. A small staff supporting a global infrastructure, however, may not be the most optimal situation. A small staff may be desirable from a design and management perspective, but when supporting a global infrastructure, employing a hybrid of in-house people and partners may be better. When you start to consider the language barriers and cultural differences inherent in any global solution, the right partners make all the difference.
Your in-house team needs to closely monitor and identify changes to voice and data lines. Voice is not as forgiving as data traffic, so it needs to be prioritized over data and other application traffic; close monitoring helps ensure that voice traffic is given the priority it requires. An unannounced change to a provider's infrastructure can degrade the quality of your voice calls, so your in-house team needs to monitor and identify if or when this occurs. End-to-end testing between locations with the proper tools exposes any problems in your circuits. If you choose your tools poorly or do reactive monitoring, you are at the mercy of the circuit providers.
VoIP is a relatively new technology, so partnering is a good way to augment existing staff. Partnering also has a training benefit — as your staff works closely with an experienced implementation partner, they quickly gain knowledge that is beneficial to your organization. Finding the right technology partner is important. Be sure you check references of any partner being considered. You might want to request a site visit to a company where the prospective partner has worked.
A partner can be indispensable when moving from a traditional voice system to a VoIP solution, especially if this is your first implementation of the technology. If you're in a dynamic environment, however, outside partners may shock you with their invoices. Changes cost money, and the more changes your partner needs to make in your company, the higher the cost. If you are in a rapidly changing environment, try to keep maintenance and support in-house as much as possible.
Keeping up with technology
Keeping current with telephony technology changes requires the same dedication and consistency as with other technologies. Your staff should stay current by joining local user groups and attending system-specific conferences. If none exist in your area, start one or attend meetings in neighboring cities. Stay current through trade magazines. Schedule monthly meetings with your VoIP partner to review system configurations and discuss upcoming system changes and enhancements.
Develop a relation with the vendor and schedule regular meetings to discuss your current system needs and future concerns. Request a copy of their annual plan and their current strategic objectives. The more information you can obtain, the better. Keep an eye on trends in the industry. Remember that not all changes or upgrades may be necessary for your system.
Before implementing any changes to an operational system, you may want to implement it on a test system. If you don't have a test system in-house, you may want to set up a contract with someone who does. This approach not only helps you test changes but can also be used to train your staff.