Top 10 tips for a smooth migration to IP telephony (VoIP)

Migrating to an IP telephony solution doesn't have to cause downtime or disruption. Our tips look at how you can migrate to a IP telephony system smoothly.

1. Develop a strategy based on business drivers

Start by understanding what you really want to achieve; improve service, cut costs, replace out of date equipment. Use these business requirements to draft a plan and refer back to them when the project starts to get technical. Keep focussed on the business issues you want to address.

2. Set up an inter departmental team

Each member will represent the key users. Their needs should be fed into the overall strategy. The team's primary role is to manage the change. It should include IT/telecoms specialists as well as users, such as sales, HR, customer support etc.

3. Decide on the process that suits you

It is important to decide, near the start of the project, whether you want an all in one go or a staged process. Both have merits and both have issues. Do you want/need to keep some legacy equipment running in parallel? Do you need to keep some sites on existing assets? Or is it easier if everyone has the new phone system at one go?

4. Select the right telephony supplier

This almost goes without saying but make sure that the telephony supplier understands your needs and can fully deliver on them. Selecting a stable organisation who uses best of breed technologies is a good starting point. Look for ones that provide a complete solution and not just phones on the desk. The solution should include phone numbers, connectivity, a range of phones, resilient hardware, full project management and a range of business grade telephony applications.

5. Prepare for typical concerns

Preparing the end user expectations is vitally important. Make sure that they know what to expect. Other concerns that will almost certainly be raised are the quality of the voice calls, security and the resilience of the platform. If they are happy then the migration will have been a success.

6. Work with the telephony supplier to develop a clear technical and functional design

This is almost certainly the first time you have done this but it should not be the first time your selected telephony supplier has. Use their knowledge and expertise. Canvas them for ideas that have worked for their other customers. Make sure that you are happy with the plans, that you understand the responsibilities and be sure that it is achievable.

7. Understand the functionality of the phone system

Some systems include huge numbers of features and you can be sure that you will not need them all. You should only be paying for applications and features that you have no need for. Look at services that offer modular applications so you can select only what is relevant to your business case.

8. Understand the training needs

Some deployments are more complex than others. You will probably not need much if any training if you are just putting phones on desks. However, with applications like voicemail or hunt groups you will require some training. If you are deploying call centre and receptionist console then the training requirements will be higher. It is also important to understand how much of the administration your chosen solution requires.

9. Take the time to do it right

Don't rush this. The phone system is still the primary means of communicating with your customers. This means that the migration from legacy to IP phone systems will be more closely watched that a lot of IT changes. Don't let the supplier force you their timescales, they have different pressures to you. However, be advised by them and learn from their experience with other customers.

10. Learn lessons from the deployment and apply to the future

Evaluate the success of the deployment. Look at areas that could have been improved and revise the plan. If you are doing a multi-site role out then these refinements will create a smoother deployment. Look at how you will add additional handsets and new functionality.