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How to create a sensible telephone strategy

To VoIP or not to VoIP

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Simon Peralta, Senior Product Manager for Converged Voice Services, OBS UK.

The start of any good strategy, whether it's a marketing, business or technology strategy, is always to have a thorough understanding of the starting position and the desired end goal. The strategy is simply a blueprint that outlines how to get from point A to point B; what organisational changes are required? What level investment is needed? Are there any skills or systems gaps that need to be addressed? etc, etc.

It's not unusual for large organisations to have a wide range of telephony services and infrastructure, a situation often due to legacy mergers & acquisitions, or because regional IT teams have been given the freedom to make technology decisions independently of any central IT control. They'll usually be a mix of plain old landlines for desk-based employees; perhaps a small IP telephony trial at a branch site and maybe even a limited number of business paid broadband connections for home-workers. Even organisations that have maintained strict IT procedures often find themselves with a wide range of mobile devices in the field; many of which have been purchased by employees themselves.

With IT departments under intense pressure from internal users, and with a seemingly never-ending stream of new technologies on the horizon, it can be very difficult for large organisations to take stock and plan for the future.

In contrast, smaller organisations have generally been quicker to adopt VoIP services and are also likely to be the earliest adopters of a new wave of emerging business applications and services that are being delivered via the internet. In the right context these services can be very cost-effective tools for small businesses. There's no need to make huge investments in infrastructure or commit to long service contracts, so it's a flexible, low-risk solution.

However, as is often the case when successful businesses grow, they may find that their business models and processes start to become increasingly complex. They may need to consider more sophisticated communications services that meet the broader needs of their employees and customers and can scale with their expanding business. This is often the time when companies start to look for an integrated service provider that can provide reliable, business grade customer support across a range of voice and data services.

Orange Business Services is keen to work with customers to help them better understand their current telephony environment, to provide advice on the different technologies and to discuss the research and developments that we're currently undertaking, whether it's related to mobile voice, legacy voice or new advanced voice services such as VoWLAN - using UMA or SIP. Following an open discussion with customers we can really understand their business drivers and the competitive issues that they are facing. This provides our technical pre-sales and sales teams with the insights that they need, in order to assist customers in the creation of their telephony strategy. Each customer will have a different starting point and commercial objectives that are specific to their business, and hence their telephony strategy will be unique. For some it will make sense to pursue a telephony strategy that focuses on replacing landlines with mobiles (fixed-to-mobile substitution), making the most of mobile tariffs that provide unlimited calls between colleagues and back to base. With mobile virtual PBX services in the making, FMS can also be an attractive prospect for reducing costs and improving the productivity of employees that work from remote offices. For customers with significant PBX/IP-PBX investments, an alternative approach could be to use a voice VPN service that integrates the PBX with the mobile fleet, for savings on calls between the office and mobile staff and vice-versa.

Currently there is a raft of new technologies and services being developed that may provide an even closer integration between mobile devices and the company PBX/IP-PBX, which fall under the banner of Fixed-Mobile Convergence (FMC). FMC services offer the promise of greater cost savings through least cost routing via the PBX, extension of fixed telephony features to mobile devices, and enhanced employee responsiveness and accessibility. Orange Business Services is leveraging the capabilities of the France Telecom Group to undertake extensive research into new convergence technologies, such as UMA, SIP and IMS. In the future Orange's FMC services will complement the current portfolio of mobile voice and fixed line services, and provide even greater value for our customers' current and future telephony needs.

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