Panel: IP applications have graduated beyond voice

TORONTO — Enterprise customers are starting to look beyond cost reductions and reap the productivity benefits of IP telephony, vendors said at the Telemanagement Live conference in October.

While initial implementations of telecommunications equipment based on Internet Protocol (IP) were designed

to converge enterprise voice and data networks and reduce back-end expenses, executives in a panel discussion said they are seeing more interest in convergence as it benefits end users — the people actually answering the phones.

“”Voice over IP was three years ago — get over it,”” said Tracy Fleming, IP telephony leader at Avaya Canada. “”There’s a big difference between VoIP and IP telephony, where you’re not just looking at reducing costs, but how to actually grow revenue and increase satisfaction.””

Jim Davies, chief technology officer for Mitel Networks, said companies that have already adopted IP telephony in their own organization are starting to look at how they can use it to create more distributed call centres or facilitate teleworking for employees.

The next wave, he said, will offer convergence to what he called the “”extended enterprise”” of business partners and suppliers.

“”This is about using IP to change processes, not just invest in IP so you can carry on the way you’ve always done business more cheaply,”” he said.

Avoiding overloaded systems

Davies gave the example of pizza companies, which typically take most of their orders between Thursday and Saturday around 8 p.m.

He said one Mitel customer in the pizza industry decided to use IP telephony to route calls its Toronto location couldn’t handle to Vancouver, so orders could be taken and sent into the Toronto queue for fulfillment.

This allowed the firm to gain business it would otherwise have lost, he said, and sped up payback on the IP telephony project to a year and a half.

Brantz Myers, director of enterprise marketing at Cisco Systems of Canada, said his firm has worked with another pizza company that deployed “”soft phones”” (an application that enables a desktop, laptop or workstation to function as a telephone via voice-over-IP).

Though he agreed there were a number of productivity improvements available through IP telephony, Myers said most firms still prefer to focus on return on investment.

This includes the City of Mississauga, a Cisco customer that Myers said is interested in XML applications related to its IP telephony deployment.

This publicizes the thousands of dollars the city says it is saving through the project. Still, he admitted, there are lingering quality concerns.

“”I think we all still get the question, ‘Does this stuff work?'”” he said.

Tony Rybczynski, Nortel Networks’ director of strategic enterprise technologies, agreed.

Rybczynski pointed to a recent IP telephony project with Laurentian University that is expected to cut costs by 50 per cent.

In the long term, though, he said applications would be key to the technology’s future.

“”It wasn’t HTML that made the Internet so powerful,”” he said. “”It was the browsers. That’s when your colleagues and your mother and your friends started using it. The same thing will happen with IP.””

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