Cisco Systems Outlines Seven Steps for Success in Creating an IP Telephony Network
July 29, 2005
By Jason Deign, News@Cisco
What is the best way to a successful IP telephony roll out? Converging voice and data networks can offer tremendous benefits, but to get it right it pays to observe some simple rules.
With more than 20,000 IP communications customers worldwide, Cisco Systems® has built up extensive skills and experience in the installation and operation of IP telephony systems.
Cisco's own migration from private-branch exchange infrastructure to IP telephony in 2001 is one of the largest in the industry to date and the critical learning points from it were recorded in a book by Stephanie Carhee, a senior project manager who helped lead the work.
This expertise has been distilled into Seven Steps to Success for IP telephony, a comprehensive and structured set of resources available through Cisco-certified partners and supported by technology specialists to help customers hasten the introduction of the technology.
The program was created to provide a framework of best practice for partners to deliver successful solutions to Cisco end customers. The steps are:
1. Review your organization's business and technology strategy.
Convergence of voice and data networks will have a major impact on the business as a source of competitive advantage and business efficiency, so the decision-making process should involve senior management to ensure convergence and applications tie in with corporate strategy.
2. Assess your organization's readiness to deploy IP telephony.
Start with a high-level assessment of the technical readiness of the infrastructure. Voice has strict requirements concerning packet loss, delay and jitter to ensure that the voice reception is high quality.
The underlying network must deliver a guaranteed reliability and resilience based around Quality of Service (QoS). This initial assessment will identify the technical baseline for the proposed project and show what must be done to prepare the network for a successful IP telephony rollout.
This form of network assessment requires a sound knowledge of networking and voice over IP, as well as business telecommunications systems.
If these resources are not available within your organization, engaging an external specialist at this stage can increase the probability of a successful deployment.
3. Perform a detailed network analysis.
To move to the planning stage, a more detailed, site-by-site analysis, with a full inventory of the existing network, technical gap analysis and identification and assessment of risks, will enable you to gain visibility over your network infrastructure and its technical and operational capabilities.
This process will help to reduce the risk of purchasing and operating redundant systems, make best use of existing systems, understand actual operation costs and head count and identify potential areas for cost optimization.
4. Develop the business case for IP telephony.
It is now more important than ever for IT managers to consider what type of return their organizations can expect from prospective investments.
By converging existing voice and data networks onto a single IP-based network, a business can lower its total cost of network ownership by reducing expenditures associated with equipment and maintenance, administration and network carrier charges.
A converged network also enhances an organization's communications capabilities by facilitating employee mobility and providing a solid foundation for the deployment of sophisticated, feature-rich services and solutions.
The business case provides senior management in the organization with financial arguments for the introduction of IP telephony, including the impact of capital and operational expenditure, and vital measures such as return on investment, total cost of ownership and net present value.
The business case should also link the business's goals to current network capabilities and help set priorities in the implementation of IP telephony.
5. Focus is on developing the detailed design.
At this stage, decisions are made on how applications, support, back-up and recovery requirements can be met, what the test plans and training plans are, and how the devices will be configured.
A clear migration/integration strategy needs to be in place for sites where existing telephone systems exist.
6. Introduce IP telephony into the network.
To move to IP telephony with the least amount of disruption and the highest level of interoperability with the existing network requires meticulous preparation. By this stage, processes for monitoring and management of the project are defined and agreed.
During the implementation, a project team should be responsible for providing project planning, management and communication, staging, installation and configuration of devices.
It should also create and execute test plans to verify that the equipment is introduced in accordance with the low-level design.
In addition, training of operations staff and users, and transfer of responsibilities to the operations group must be included in the implementation process.
7. Operate, review and optimize.
Once the IP telephony system is up and running, it is important to keep it functioning as efficiently as possible and with high availability, while resolving problems quickly as they arise.
There may be opportunities for further optimization, so it is important to evaluate the network design once it is in full operation.
Finally, the early work of developing a business case for IP telephony can now be used to measure the success of the deployment. Review the performance and financial measures to assess whether the system delivers the desired business results.
When significant deviations to the business objectives are identified, the provider should offer optimization recommendations for the current solution.
Jason Deign is a freelance journalist located in Barcelona, Spain.
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