With Jeff Fried, CTO of Empirix's enterprise solutions group. The company just conducted a survey that revealed, among other things, that 98% of companies responding either have or plan a voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) deployment.
Question: What surprised you about the survey results?
Fried: I was surprised by two things. One was the speed at which enterprises are planning VoIP deployment and the second was how unprepared they are. It looks like a collision course to me. Most people are finding themselves caught up in a rush to deploy and only think about quality once they are in the middle of the project. Of those planning on deployment, about 20% have no QA [quality assurance] plans. Of those that have actually deployed, only 2% have no plans. I think that VoIP is new to everyone and people didn't use to have to test their phone systems before they started using them. Their hope is the technology being better makes these problems go away. But quality is very dependent on the environment for VoIP, meaning [it's dependent on] exactly how your WAN and LAN are set up and the kind of equipment you have. Because there are lots of moving parts, even the highest-quality VoIP equipment can have problems.
Question: Couldn't this lead to a scenario in which people have bad experiences, for whatever reason, and abandon the technology?
Fried: I don't think so, because this is the second wave for VoIP. Inside of carrier networks, packetized voice has been used for a dozen years. It went through some of the same issues we are encountering today. I think our mission is to reduce the amount of pain people have to go through to realize the business benefits. I hope that people are getting it. The fact that there are a number of very successful projects completed gives me hope. For example, Grainger has a very successful VoIP deployment. UpSource is one of our data customers that has spent time doing it right. But the companies who aren't implementing good QA practices, I think, are asking for trouble. There is no single silver bullet, but most commonly, people find themselves overloaded with trouble tickets from angry users and find it very difficult to troubleshoot situations. One of the folks that I talked to had turned the situation around, but was left with what she called a PR nightmare on her hands internally. She turned it around by getting tools, adding staff and beating on her vendors. But even 18 months later, people still blame anything on the phone system even though the VoIP system is clean.
Question: What else does your experience, and the survey results, suggest is the dynamic shaping VoIP?
Fried: The thing I picked up on was VoIP has gone from being just an infrastructure to an application as well. Two-and-a-half or three years ago, companies implemented VoIP to save money on tie lines between offices. Today, your voice mail, your unified messaging, your remote workers typically are driving the deployment. So companies really should be testing both the infrastructure and the applications.
This 3 Questions originally appeared in a weekly report from IT Business Edge.