September 30, 2010, 9:37 AM — Given the importance of telephone systems, refreshing the technology can be daunting. However, for small and midsized businesses who consider upgrading from a PBX to VoIP, the benefits are clear and, with proper planning, the implementation is not very frightening. Consider these three steps:
There are a number of factors SMBs must consider when transitioning from a PBX environment to VoIP. Before digging into the technical details, it is important to set a budget and identify the unique business drivers behind the transition.
Here are some questions to ask to be sure the transition meets your requirements:
- Do you need to network remote locations to headquarters?
- How much intra-company calling is occurring between locations? For example, is there a benefit to transferring customers, vendors or other parties between various locations?
- Do you have locations and/or clients outside the United States?
- Do you have workers that routinely travel between locations?
- Do you have remote workers (both permanently remote and "road warriors")?
- Are there special applications (call center, integrated voicemail, unified communications) driving the move to VoIP?
- Is the telephony staff/IT staff administering multiple PBXs in multiple locations?
The next major question is whether you should choose a multi- or single-vendor solution. There are pros and cons to each. While the multiple-vendor approach may provide a superior experience to users, sorting out responsibilities and accountability between vendors in the event of a problem can diminish or completely negate the value of the approach. Good contracts and savvy management can make it work, but the single-vendor approach may carry lower management costs and simplify the resolution of any issues.
To help you make the right decision, create a list of "must haves" and draft a "good, better, best" approach to evaluating each vendor's ability to meet your needs. By establishing a clear understanding of why your company is moving to VoIP you will ensure you choose the best approach and vendors to drive the overall success of the project.
After developing clear answers to these questions, set your strategy and expectations, including a timeline and a budget. Finally, communicate the plan not only to the partner(s) you choose, but also to key stakeholders and people within the organization who will use the new technology. This will set the stage for internal adoption and provide your partner(s) with clear parameters to design the right solution.