Voicing My Difficulties

Voicing My Difficulties

The lure of free phone calls might be enticing, but configuring commercial VoIP systems is still a black art

I recently had the not-rare-enough privilege of a visit from the finance director. He strode into my office tossing the latest company phone bill onto my desk with an exaggerated flourish, announcing it was now part of my budget since phone systems are just bits of technology. I decided I need to do two things: Hasten my plans to implement a VoIP system, and schedule an unplanned outage on the finance server at end of month.

I've been considering VoIP for a few years. I even included it in my last two strategic plans to fill in space where the ideas were meant to go. The lure of free phone calls is not only financially attractive, it's also nostalgic. The last time I had free phone calls was as a teenager when I learned to "flick" the public telephones to enjoy zero-coin telephony.

Although I'm a bit worried about the lack of industry standards — no one can agree if it should be VoIP or VOIP — I figured it can't be too hard to implement as it seemed pretty easy when I used Skype at home. I've only used it to call the Skype Test Call lady, but her voice was very clear, if somewhat repetitive.

Smart Phones, Dumb Cables

First, I checked to see what other companies are doing. In the US, two thirds of businesses have either installed or are considering VoIP. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is spending $7 million to roll out IP telephony. Their system features a universal directory allowing users to contact anyone on the system. (A more useful feature for Foreign Affairs would be a universal translator to allow them to talk to their foreign people.) DFAT says it will improve productivity by making it easier for users to keep in contact and work with their colleagues. They obviously have a different environment to my office. I can only improve my productivity by shutting myself in an office or working from home — away from my colleagues, whose communication to me largely consists of complaints, jokes, gossip and work they want to handball.

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