Q&A: Assessing IT infrastructure and final thoughts, Part 4

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They say all good things come to an end, and that includes my four-part blog series with Emily Nielsen, president of Nielsen IT Consulting, where we have been discussing Unified Communication (UC) projects and deployments. Our discussion thus far has examined strategy/planning, corporate vision, corporate requirements and UC applications. Our final installment will discuss infrastructure assessment and reflect on what we’ve discussed during this series.

If you would like to learn more about UC strategic planning, or require independent consulting on your UC project, contact Emily Nielsen.

Ted Schirk: Welcome back Emily! Thanks for being here with us to wrap up our blog series. Now that we’ve planned our deployment and aligned it with our corporate vision, what’s next?

Emily Nielsen: It’s great to be back! Prior to deploying an IP-based Unified Communications solution, it is critical to assess your current environment and to understand how a UC solution will impact your data network. Your assessment should begin by fully documenting your current state. Start by collecting available and relevant documentation, as well as physically inspecting your PBX equipment, software, access lines, equipment rooms, cabling, electrical power, battery reserves and so on.

TS: Can you identify some key components that should be included in an infrastructure assessment?

EN: Absolutely, I’ve put together a list of some major items that should be part of any infrastructure assessment.

Telecom Inventory

It is important to conduct a detailed survey of the major hardware and software components of all of your systems. It is also important to document telephony items like dial plans, call flows, call coverage paths and any specialized telephony applications like Voice Mail systems that front end your call centre.

Analogue Devices

New IP Telephony platforms can handle analogue devices such as fax, modem, and/or phones. It is important to understand what impact, if any, moving to IP Telephony will have on analogue device operation

Voicemail Systems

Identify the make and model, port capacity, storage and licenses that are in use for basic users and any other features you might have activated. Also document caller menus and any special call coverage options and voice mail distribution lists.

Contact Centre

In addition to identifying the make and model, it is important to confirm the number of queues, agents and supervisors. Also, you need to understand the different cycles of the contact centre, e.g. peak versus off-peak times. What reporting capabilities are being used? Are there wall boards, supervisory positions, IVR, call recording, work-force optimization applications being used?

Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) Services

For this part of your inventory you might want to compare your telecom bills to your actual PBX location to ensure that all of your circuits have been identified. This is a great opportunity to clean up your telecom bill and recover costs from circuits no longer in use but are still being billed for.

LAN/WAN

All elements of an IP Telephony system are now applications on your data network. Therefore, expect to upgrade parts of your network. This can vary from a simple redesign of your network to include additional Virtual LANs (VLANs) or Power of Ethernet (PoE) ports to power your new phone device.

Reporting/Administration Tools

Organizations using older systems and considering a significant system redesign often have reporting and administration tools lacking in the following ways:

-All reporting or administration tools work independently of each other.
-They have never been trained on the application(s).
-Reports are not reviewed.
-They don’t how to interpret results.
-Client did not know they even had the tools to do reporting.   

TS: Thanks for breaking down each component so thoroughly. So is this the end? Can you provide any closing remarks about UC deployments and the process behind completing a successful one?

EN: It is important to keep in mind that the planning and implementation of a UC solution is a critical and difficult task. It may very well be the toughest project for IT departments to date. Bottom line, a UC project is a major business decision that requires careful consideration of the technology, and how it will impact people and business processes. The planning and implementation of a UC deployment provides IT the opportunity to think and act strategically and to gain recognition as business leaders and add value to their company in a new way. The migration to IP Telephony is a proven and cost effective process. The savings can then be used to invest in and leverage new Unified Communications and Collaboration capabilities that come with these new systems. From my experience, the majority of IT departments are comfortable with being tactical. Some IT departments are capitalizing on this opportunity to be strategic, and are obtaining praise within their organization for doing so.

TS: Thanks so much for joining us Emily, this has been a great learning experience for myself and our readers.

EN: I hope this blog series allowed you to see the exciting opportunity that UC presents for your business. Furthermore, I hope that you have gathered useful information to help you with your UC project.  If you have any questions about this series or about Nielsen IT Consulting Inc.’s services – connect with me on LinkedIn, or contact Nielsen IT Consulting here.

About Ted Schirk

Ted Schirk leads Cisco's Unified Collaboration Practice in Ontario. He has a proven 28 year track record of effectively guiding Canadian businesses to innovate, reduce costs, increase productivity and gain competitive advantage by leveraging the latest in communications innovations. Prior to joining Cisco in 2007, Ted led Avaya’s solutions team and managed their independent channels. Most recently Ted has successfully migrated some of Canada’s largest business from traditional PBX communications to Unified Communications and Collaboration.
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