Convinced that a switch from traditional PSTN lines to VoIP would save your company thousands of dollars per year? That's great, but you still need to sell management on the idea before you can implement the changeover.
That means you need more than just vague promises: You need hard facts to show why and how VoIP will positively impact the bottom line -- without negatively impacting employee productivity and satisfaction or creating hidden costs elsewhere.
Here are some tips for putting together a case that will show the final decision-makers that making the change to VoIP makes sense.
Put together a plan
The first step in building your case is to create one or more specific VoIP implementation plans. Instead of relying on generic statistics, do your homework to find out which VoIP providers and equipment vendors offer the best solutions for your company.
Conduct an analysis of your organization's telephony needs, and determine exactly what devices, software, and service plans you need. Create a concrete estimate of both upfront and ongoing costs that you can compare to your current telephone-related expense records.
In fact, it's a good idea to come up with more than one plan. Many decision-makers like to see alternatives. You may present one VoIP implementation plan that uses high-end equipment and includes advanced features that you don't have with your current traditional phone service. An alternative plan might be less ambitious, striving to only replicate the level of service you have now but at a lower cost.
If all this sounds like a lot of work to put into something that you don't even have approval to implement yet, it is. But doing that work beforehand makes it more likely that you will get that approval -- and it reduces some of the research you'll need to do after you get the go-ahead. That means you can move forward more quickly to deploy the plan once you have approval.
Planning ahead also eliminates nasty surprises -- and the embarrassment of having to come back to management to explain that the capital outlay is going to be more than you anticipated because you didn't work up those hard, specific figures beforehand.
Put together a presentation
You don't necessarily have to create a slideshow with fancy graphs and charts and tables, although -- depending on the size of your organization and the number and characteristics of your decision-makers -- that's one option. But whether you make a formal slideshow presentation, you should give thought to how you're going to organize and present the information you've gathered.
Numbers and facts carry more weight when you present them visually as well as orally, so put your plan on paper. Make it easy to follow: While you should have all the details, don't let them bog you down. Provide a summary sheet that's no longer than one page, listing cost comparisons, showing initial outlays and returns on investment, and listing key advantages of a VoIP deployment.
But don't just throw a bunch of paper together and rely on it to make your case. If possible, make your pitch in person, providing the written documentation to back up your points.
Be ready for challenges to any assumptions you make. Practice your presentation in front of someone else first, and have them point out any parts that are unclear or where your facts seem unsupported. Anticipate questions that management may have, and prepare answers beforehand.
Be concise. Don't overplay your hand or deluge your audience with so much information that they get overwhelmed (or worse, bored). Think of this as a sales job, and use the same sorts of "hooks" you would use in selling a product or service to a customer.
Calculate TCO and ROI
An important part of putting together your presentation is calculating the total cost of ownership (TCO) and expected return on investment (ROI) for the VoIP deployment. These numbers form a key component of your case, and these two factors are closely interrelated.
Look at TCO first, since ROI depends on the savings realized from the reduced TCO. Calculating TCO involves adding up all expenditures related to the deployment. That includes:
- Initial equipment cost, including any related costs such as new cabling, and depreciation on capital expenditures
- Cost of consultants or other outside personnel to deploy the system, and any overtime or other extra costs related to internal personnel in deploying, managing, and maintaining the system
- Maintenance costs over the anticipated lifetime of the equipment (the cost of maintenance contracts and/or costs not covered by warranty or contract)
- Training of both IT personnel to manage the equipment and software and users to use it, including lost productivity during the "learning curve"
- Anticipated downtime costs
- Backup costs
- Miscellaneous related costs such as the cost of the physical space necessary to house the equipment, the cost of electricity to run the equipment, insurance costs, etc.
You'll have to estimate some of these costs. Vendors and providers may also be able to help you with some of these estimates. One way to get a more accurate cost assessment is to do a pilot or test deployment in a limited area and then extrapolate costs for a full-scale rollout from those costs.
Now you're ready to calculate ROI based on cost figures for deployment. Remember to factor in the savings you anticipate from switching to VoIP. That includes:
- Reduced cost of long-distance service
- Savings from eliminating the need for maintenance of two separate networks for data and voice (use of the same cabling, etc.)
- Reduction in cost of administrative overhead from consolidation and convergence
- Increased productivity from advanced features such as unified communications capabilities that you didn't have before
Be realistic and take into consideration factors that could increase the cost of VoIP deployment, such as an old network that you'll need to upgrade (cabling, switches, Internet connection) to support the technological demands of VoIP. In addition, take into account possible extra costs for security.
Before you can see your organization benefit from the cost savings and convenience of VoIP, you have to sell the idea to those who make the decisions. Getting all your facts together and creating a persuasive presentation will help you to do that.
Deb Shinder is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. She currently specializes in security issues and Microsoft products, and she has received Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) status in Windows Server Security.
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Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 additional books on subjects such as the Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 MCSE exams, CompTIA Security+ exam, and TruSecure's ICSA certification.