From the questions submitted, the selected issue to be addressed in this issue is:
ike many of your readers, and many other organizations using the AS/400, our company has recently begun to strategically implement PC technology into our business for productivity benefits and competitive advantage. To improve communications and leverage our PC technology investment our company began implementing LANs at our head office and branch locations.
Shortly after the LANs were installed we implemented a Frame Relay backbone to support LAN to LAN communications with our AS/400. As mentioned, our business strategically wanted to improve productivity by distributing processing to the desktop. The IT business plan that I prepared also incorporated the cost benefits. For example, Frame Relay was more cost effective than our old X.25 backbone. Currently we have seen the benefits from a PC LAN perspective of the productivity gains and cost effectiveness of the backbone. However, since implementing this technology our long distance voice communications has increased substantially. We are now considering reviewing our backbone and integrating our voice PBX traffic to reduce long distance costs. What do you recommend I do for voice & data integration?
s a first step. I do not recommend redesigning your Wide Area Network backbone. My experience has been that companies who have prepared business plans for voice and data integration have not implemented this for two key reasons:
Strategically: Investment in PBX technology for most businesses is not considered strategic. As you had mentioned, your organization is interested in exploiting PC technology. In light of this, perhaps your company views the Internet or Intranet technologies as strategic. However, if your company is like most businesses you probably want to leverage the investment in your PBX technology. Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) is one of the fastest growing technology markets today. It promises to leverage PBX technology by delivering integrated voice communications with PC desktop applications.
Tactically: The investment cost cannot be justified. It is critical that an initial analysis be performed to determine what applications are causing the increased cost. The backbone integration solution is typically only effective if branch to branch telephone is the major long distance cost.
The applications that cause long distance costs can be grouped into two categories - Business or Technology. Each of these categories has various unique and different approaches for tactically reducing the long distance costs.
When support was decentralized and performed from the branch, the communication cost between your company and your customers was primarily local. The long distance costs associated with this structure would have been mainly between support staff, communicating to effectively service clients. (Remember, most companies have centralized call centres to service clients more efficiently and effectively.
With the centralized structure, communications costs between company and customers would have changed from local to long distance for all branches where local support was removed.
While technically, you could consider integrating your voice and data backbone and upgrading your PBX's to reduce the long distance costs, I would recommend that you investigate other tactics that can help manage the costs more effectively.
The trend for long distance costs is downward as a result of recent CRTC announcements of opening up the information super-highway for competition. In the near future, cable companies and telephone companies will be able to compete for your telephone services. In the short term you could investigate long distance reseller's services such as 1-800.
Fax: Many companies are using traditional stand-alone fax machines and have implemented many of these devices to support departmental requirements. Fax technology can be integrated at the PC desktop and would provide the following cost benefits:
Remote Access: Access to the network is growing rapidly because of sales force automation and virtualization of the company (work is performed from home by employees or outsourced to third parties). These applications can have a profound impact on long distance expense. There are two methods to leverage your network investment:
Electronic Communication & Internet Access: I have grouped these two applications together because I find the issues and costs are very similar. Both are the result of providing users with PC technology, and therefore the ability to communicate electronically. I find that businesses allow end users to implement individual communications solutions and do not always look at leveraging their network for the delivery of these services. The costs associated with this are:
To reduce these costs:
In Summary, I would not recommend at this time integrating your voice onto your data backbone. With the trend of market competitiveness reducing the costs of voice communications, coupled with your investment in the network, I do recommend implementing tactical solutions that will leverage your investment in PC technology while reducing communications costs by changing the way your company communicates.
For voice and data integration, I recommend that you strategically begin planning for the migration of your network to ATM. This technology will allow you to leverage your investment in both the PBX and the data network together. Today it can be tactically deployed to provide benefits for data communications, while positioning your business for the implementation of multi-media applications (voice, video & data), such as CTI in the future.
Note: Any TUG member wishing to submit a question to Sam can e-mail or forward their typewritten material to the TUG office, or to Intesys. We would be pleased to publish your question and Sam's answer in an upcoming issue of the TUG e-server magazine.