- With 20-plus years in the industry, I long ago stopped counting the number of seminars in which I've taken part. But I can truly say the Network World Voice over IP tour, which recently concluded after stops in six cities, was like no other seminar with which I've ever been involved.
VoIP doesn't have revolutionary new technology. There isn't a single killer application. It's not faster. The quality isn't better. And it doesn't offer an order of magnitude difference in cost savings. Nevertheless, the seminar was sold out weeks in advance and the level of participation from the attendees was phenomenal.
When I reflect on the bottom line from the tour, it turns out that the decision to move to voice over IP isn't a "no-brainer" where you see a dramatic decrease in costs with a return on investment of 100% in the first year. Instead, voice over IP is a "brainer." It's a sophisticated decision that involves the entire IT infrastructure. In fact, a show-of-hands survey in most cities showed essentially equal participation from people from the voice, WAN data and LAN data sides. And that's where the "brainer" part of the VoIP migration starts.
A move to VoIP involves the most fundamental change our industry has ever seen. We're moving from the voice world and the data world to the voice and data and application world. This move involves - and necessitates - breaking down the barriers that, for reasons ranging from government regulation to job security, have fragmented our IT departments and decisions.
My favourite part of the seminar was the "best question" contest, where attendees were invited to submit questions for a panel of industry experts. The majority of questions were about business issues. Again, this shows how moving to VoIP is a brainer.
The business case for VoIP involves looking at the entire IT infrastructure and enabling applications that will revolutionise how companies conduct business. These applications - ranging from unified messaging to IP-enabled contact centers - are no longer shackled by traditional voice/data/video boundaries. But because they are not simple extensions of existing business models, they require a thoughtful and creative business case.
The best - and simplest - question from the entire tour came in Chicago: "What's the cost of not going to VoIP?" It also has one of the simplest answers: You'll be behind your competition. The world is on a gradual but irreversible evolution to VoIP. Those who begin the journey now will be leaders with the commensurate competitive advantage. It's time to move.