Market research reports may forecast increased sales in voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) products, and the technology may work quite well today, but there’s one major hurdle to overcome before you’ll see VoIP everywhere: Senior corporate executives have to be convinced it’s worth the investment.

It’s

easy for technology magazine writers to predict that senior corporate executives will be skeptical about an emerging technology, given that predictions of this type are often self-fulfilling prophesies.

But the reality is executives with purchasing authority often ask two questions: How much will it cost and how much will I save?

If the cost is X and the savings is Y, then Y had better be greater than X. The problem is, the return on investment of a new technology is not often measured in dollars and cents, but rather in the capabilities that aren’t provided by current systems.

This is a major message of the VoIP equipment manufacturers, as users are starting to realize that the money saved by bypassing the public switched telephone network (PSTN) on long-distance calls is less than the total cost of ownership.

Ronald Gruia, Frost & Sullivan Canada’s enterprise communications program leader, says companies will be motivated to implement VoIP when they notice what competitors can do with the technology . The problem is, with so many companies adopting a wait and see approach, it will take a while for the industry to gain momentum.

Most industry observers seem to agree that we won’t know what VoIP brings to the table until we start using it. One student (or, more accurately, professor) of this school of thought is Howard Anderson, founder of The Yankee Group and a keynote speaker at the recent ComNet Conference and Expo in Washington, D.C.

When the telephone first came onto the market, Anderson said, inventor Alexander Graham Bell predicted its primary use would be to notify people that they were about to receive a telegram. Fast forward to the early 1980s, when companies started installing local-area networks (LANs). At the time, the primary driving force was the high cost of printers; companies wanted to buy one printer for an entire workgroup.

Today, a LAN is considered by many as a necessity for any mid-sized organization. Voicemail is also a must-have.

Will IP telephony be considered something that companies cannot live without?

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