If you’re considering moving from your existing telephone platform to a network-based solution with IP phones, training and installation don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. All you need is a room where you can drop some temporary cable and a switch, and with a little training, you can free up your engineers and technicians because your users will install their new phones for you.

And now the most important thing
I recently conducted three days of IP telephone training sessions for my coworkers. In that time, not once did an IT person visit the office of an end user. Instead, we set up the phones in the training room and taught the users how to install the phones themselves.

Thanks to the ingenious planning by the IT department, the training was a snap. I got to open each session with this attention-grabbing line: “You’ll be taking this phone back to your office with you.” Here’s how we did it.

  • First, we published a schedule of training sessions and asked everyone to sign up in advance.
  • IT reserved a conference room close enough to the switch so they could run a temporary cable and install a telephone switch on a tabletop. The plan was to make everyone’s phones “live” during training.
  • When the network engineer got the final schedule, he started configuring the Cisco 7960 IP phones right out of the boxes. (With a unique system ID on each phone’s box, he didn’t have to open and assemble the phone to configure it.)
  • The phones came five to a box (and we scheduled 10 people per session), so the engineer configured phones and labeled the boxes by session.
  • We (the IT engineer and I) assembled the phones and plugged them in to the switch in the breaks between sessions.
  • The users found their seats by looking for their extension numbers, which were written on the whiteboard.
  • The last lesson in each session was “how to install your new phone.”

Installing the IP phones is as easy as installing a VCR or an answering machine. In this case, we taught our users which CAT 5 cable connections to change. To make things perfectly clear, I took some digital pictures of the network connectors on the walls and close-ups of the connections on the back of the IP phones, and included them in the user’s guide.

The thing about IP phones
I know some of you aren’t exactly keen on the notion of entrusting your phone service to an NT (or any other type) server, no matter how cool the phones are. However, the users were profoundly impressed with the IT department’s approach—they loved that they got to use their own phones during training.

And the IT department was pleased at how well I apparently managed to teach that last lesson. Granted, it isn’t rocket science, but IT had no calls to the help desk about how to install the new phones! You gotta love it!
If you’ve rolled out IP phones and would like to share your comments or experiences, please post a comment below or drop me a note. Subscribe to my View from Ground Zero TechMail, and you’ll get a bonus of my picks for the best Web stuff—exclusively for TechMail subscribers.