Sensis' painstaking VoIP conversion

case study Meticulous research and close vendor relations have allowed information expert Sensis to rollout an Internet telephony solution to 1,500 employees at its head office.Mark Turkington, Sensis voice and technology solutions manager, said two key lessons could be learnt from his company's VoIP rollout.

case study Meticulous research and close vendor relations have allowed information expert Sensis to rollout an Internet telephony solution to 1,500 employees at its head office.

Mark Turkington, Sensis voice and technology solutions manager, said two key lessons could be learnt from his company's VoIP rollout.

"The quality of evaluation will determine quality of outcome," Turkington said. "And the strength of partnership will allow for issues to be managed to meet timeframes."

Sensis' technology evaluation -- which began 18 months ago -- could only be described as exhaustive. The company employed a panel of experts to review vendor answers to its initial call for responses. Each item was reviewed no less than 12 times.

The company also sought the advice of analyst firms Gartner, Forrester "and others". Further resources included technical papers on the Internet.

Sensis used a matrix of 200 specific ratings to rank vendors on their responses. The selected vendor -- Avaya -- had the difficult job of implementing a solution that would provide 99.999 percent uptime. The location was a structure still under construction: Sensis' new headquarters in Melbourne's Queen Victoria building.

Time was also a factor ... the clock ticking fast with workers moving in to their new offices.

Turkington said despite the challenges, implementing the Avaya solution only took 12 weeks "from signing the contract to go-live date".

He hinted that an ample budget helped, as well as being able to host a backup system in an off-site data centre owned by Sensis' parent, Telstra. Turkington was speaking at an Avaya-sponsored Internet telephony conference in Sydney recently.

The ability to rollout VoIP in a so-called 'greenfields' development process was another advantage. However, things still went wrong, he said, adding that it's important to have a good working relationship with one's supplier (as Sensis did).

One human problem was what Turkington called VoIP "naysayers" within Sensis' IT operations team, who he said didn't want extra machines to administer. They were stuck in a mental paradigm that all telephony happened under the "black magic" of traditional PABX systems and should have nothing to do with normal network traffic, he disclosed.

However, the doubters came around eventually due to the quality of the implemented solution.

Turkington is certainly one executive who has personally been converted to the Internet telephony cause. He reckons VoIP has removed traditional limitations on business telephony and would prove to be an enabling force in the future.

He cited the ability to disconnect a phone number from a physical desk -- allowing employees to easily 'hotdesk' -- as one example of this.