March 15, 2006, 9:20 AM — Voice over IP's popularity may be surging, but incorrect implementations challenge many companies which are running into bigger problems than ever.
So said an Avaya executive at a company-sponsored breakfast in Melbourne last week for more than 150 partners and prospective customers.
Trends in Avaya support calls confirmed the broad capabilities of new telephony technology were proving to be a double-edged sword for many customers, with many implementations going smoothly, but more complex projects running into some real show-stoppers.
"We have seen a change in terms of the nature of support," said Raymond Daly, general manager for professional services with Avaya South Pacific.
Support volumes "are reducing, but we're finding it's taking longer to solve the problems customers have because of the complexity of the implementations".
That complexity is coming as more and more customers move beyond phase one of VOIP deployments, known as the telephony replacement phase, and look towards complex applications linking VOIP systems with back-end call center and corporate information systems.
In many such projects, IT managers start off with the right ideas and direction, Daly said, but find that years of experience in the data world simply haven't given them the right skill sets to be able to move seamlessly into the world of VOIP.
"We're finding many customers are slack in how they manage their data networks," he said. "They have issues with the voice environment, but data guys are still fiddling with routers and not realizing that it's impacting the service levels they need [for VOIP] to perform efficiently. They have gone outside the parameters they need for VOIP to operate properly, and these outages translate into real business issues."
One serious problem comes as companies deploy advanced, IP-based services like videoconferencing, which was spruiked heavily at the event by Avaya partner Polycom. Congestion, said Polycom Australia country manager James Anderson in a panel discussion at the event, often becomes a problem as videoconferencing is moved from dedicated and predictable ISDN lines onto IP networks where applications often end up fighting for bandwidth.
"Quality was our biggest concern at the start, and we did quite a lot of testing," says Michael Campbell, managing director of Melbourne-based home delivery company Moving Menus, which recently implemented an Avaya IP Office VOIP system that has slashed its customer call handling costs by more than 80 percent.
"It works perfectly now, but there were a lot of issues when we began," Campbell concedes. "We didn't have the right bandwidth, the gear wasn't compatible, and it knocked over our phone system a couple of times. We really needed to make sure the bandwidth was right, and after two or three attempts the bandwidth worked fine."