To counter the "real" issue of billing problems, which stem from consolidation, and the provider's level of "flexibility and transparency", Cameron advises regular auditing and bargaining lower-tariff services around mobility.
"Auditing is a necessary evil if the billing system isn't transparent," he says. "Often the enterprise has an allocation model and leverages carrier systems. When consolidation occurs, the value proposition you had with your telco of choice is lost, but we're not seeing that a great deal at the moment. The differential is price and how they bill their services."
Cameron uses the example of "tariffing" mobiles that are used within the organization's own building as a way to offer more flexibility. If a carrier's billing system can assist with reduced tariffs, this makes mobility within a building or campus more attractive. Cameron says carriers are pursuing that component, but the billing systems are difficult to modify.
As reported by Computerworld in July 2005, the Bank of Queensland was an early adopter of VoIP for its corporate network, a move Suncorp and other financial institutions will inevitably follow.
"VoIP is not about technology any more, it's about business communications," Cameron says, adding that convergence is now becoming very much a reality. "We are moving to a converged environment which is a good thing. You don't have to go to separate voice and data carriers, but can go to one. The business model is driven by cost reduction, but the more compelling proposition is consistency of service across the whole of business."
Believing there are more business benefits to VoIP than "just saving money", Cameron's interest lies with the possibilities of a unified directory, lack of geographic restrictions, and improved business continuity. Not only will convergence ease the billing "pain", Cameron says, but it will also introduce more purchasing options, such as the choice to buy communications services or raw data.
Cameron even wonders whether voice billing systems themselves will become irrelevant in the face of "one pipe" carriers. "The outcome [of VoIP] is quite attractive but it should be done in an organic fashion," he says. "Whatever your investment plan looks like, plan for convergence."
Cameron's holistic advice for CIOs dealing with carriers is simple - don't commit yourself. See the big picture and ensure you create a partnership that can deliver a service to meet medium and longer-term goals, he says.
SIDEBAR: Key Objectives for CIOs
Don't fence-sit. Exercise your right to competition by using alternative carriers and better value and services for all will inextricably follow.
Shorter contracts. With the telecomms industry in a state of mercurial change don't miss the boat with contract lock-in.
Diligent procurement. Have subject matter experts review all contracts, not just the lawyers.
Billing transparency. In addition to keeping a close eye on what you're paying, ask service providers to be more open in what they bill you.
Prudent bundling. Don't bundle different types of services with the sole anticipation of a discount, as other charges may increase and service levels drop.
Plan for convergence. Fear it or favour it, VoIP has irrevocably entered the fray, so prepare to manage a converged infrastructure with business benefits, not technology, the key drivers.
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