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Assess Clients Convergence-Readiness in 5 Steps




There is no doubt that IP telephony is going mainstream. Savvy business managers understand that merging voice and data networks into one integrated, converged network will reduce toll charges and make the network easier to manage, which will ultimately lower the companys total cost of ownership and deliver a promising return on investment.

However, converging networks is a complex undertaking that requires the proper due diligence to ensure the network is voice ready. Quality voice traffic has highly specific demands, including low latency and jitter, low packet loss and sufficient bandwidth.

Implementing a converged network without first undergoing a comprehensive technical and business assessment, including a financial analysis, can result in a solution that does not meet a clients expectations. Although in some cases these assessments can be performed by internal IT staff, they are better handled by a full-service, experienced IT solutions provider able to recognize potential issues before they arise. Only after a company and its technology partner understand the business drivers, assess the current infrastructure, and analyze different options from a technical, business and financial perspective can a solution be selected that will ensure the client maximizes the value of its new network.

A full assessment should include five steps:

Step 1: Understand the clients communication needs and strategies, business concerns and potential solution options.

  • Gather information from key data, voice and business decision-makers within the company.
  • Identify business-driven communication needs and existing communications strategies, initiatives and tools.
  • Determine potential solution options.

Step 2: Identify infrastructure requirements for each solution option.

  • Review potential range of infrastructure options to identify risks and benefits, and illustrate case studies.
  • Select one or multiple infrastructure options that will support the solution options (selected according to business drivers/needs).
  • Define the scope of the business and technical assessment, for example, level of detail, number of locations, types of data available, agreed assumptions, etc.

Step 3: Assess the current technical infrastructure and business environment with the relevant cost drivers required to implement the selected technical/solution design.

  • Perform detailed business and technical assessments.
  • Perform a detailed cost analysis of business as usual scenario for example, TDM.
  • Work with the client to determine the most appropriate technical/solution design, taking into account the costs of business as usual, current technical infrastructure, current business environment, business drivers/needs, communication needs and potential solution options for example, hot desking, corporate directory, centralized voice applications etc.
  • Document technical/solution design and relevant cost.
  • Determine if the selected solution meets the business needs and is cost-effective.
  • If not, revisit the solution options and/or infrastructure options.

Step 4: Measure the costs and benefits of the selected solution designs.

  • Identify areas for cost/benefit analysis for the solution designs.
  • Calculate tangible benefits.
  • Collect data relevant to performing financial analysis.
  • Review financial and nonfinancial factors of business impact.
  • Decide on financial approach, for example ROI, TCO.

Step 5: Present the road map and recommendations for improvement to the client.

  • Recommend an option and provide rationale for selection.
  • Document business case for the road map to IP convergence.

Performing a comprehensive assessment as described above ultimately will help clients understand how to maximize the value of their converged network. In addition, because assessments require solutions providers and clients to work together as a team, the provider soon grows into the role of trusted advisor. In fact, my company, Dimension Data, has been brought into several new accounts by companies not realizing the value of previously implemented convergence solutions. By validating the configuration on their existing gear and performing comprehensive assessments, Dimension Data was able to identify such opportunities as call center, unified messaging and/or XML applications. In each instance, the implementation of such solutions resulted in the clients newfound satisfaction for its converged network and respect for the newfound technology partner now trusted advisor that made it happen.

A convergence assessment performed by an experienced solutions provider can alleviate much of the pain associated with the move to a converged network. This low-risk, business-based approach will not only meet the clients requirements today, but also will produce a road map for future progression.

Mitchell Hershkowitz is the area practice manager for converged communications for Dimension Data, a global services and solutions provider and Cisco Gold Partner. Hershkowitz has more than 10 years experience in the telecom and IT fields.

Links
Dimension Data www.didata.com

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