A business case for investing in a VoIP implementation requires evaluation of the associated ROI. VoIP offers many potential benefits, including reduced costs, new features, and converged networks. However, some of these benefits may be more hype than reality.
Planning is important for a successful VoIP implementation. The planning involves evaluating the costs and benefits associated with the implementation and anticipating possible pitfalls. Understanding the most appropriate insertion points for VoIP within an organization also plays a critical role in how significant the ROI can be. The most important questions to think about during your planning include the following:
What kind of return should you expect from an investment in VoIP?
What are the key factors to consider when analyzing VoIP ROI?
What deployment scenarios (greenfield, Centrex replacement, and so on) are most likely to provide a positive ROI?
Because management of VoIP componentsnetworks, servers, and phonesis critical to your VoIP investment, what ongoing management resources are necessary to ensure continued success after initial deployment?
The VoIP industry has matured rapidly. The technology has advanced in less than a decade from small pilot projects and test environments to large-scale deployments in many enterprises. As new technology is adopted, it goes through a predictable process, described by Geoffrey A. Moore in his book Crossing the Chasm and shown in Figure 2-1. There is an initial period where pioneers tend to ignore ROI because they want to deploy the technology, which gives them a real or perceived technological advantage. For example, Cisco was an innovator and early adopter of the VoIP technology that it produced. Inside Cisco, all employees have IP phones on their desks for everyday use.
Figure 2-1. Technology Adoption Process, from Moore's Book Crossing the Chasm
VoIP appears to have "crossed the chasm," moving past the Early Adopters phase and into the Early Majority phase. The question of VoIP adoption has shifted from if to when. A 2001 study found that "90% of enterprises with multiple locations will start switching to IP systems for voice over the next 5 years." Early Majority users are more cautious about expending capital on still-evolving technologies. They therefore prefer to wait until a technological innovation has a positive track record. In the Early Majority and all later phases of a new technology, it is difficult to ignore ROI and important to build a business case before making a purchase.
The benefits of VoIP can be measured in different ways. Bottom-line cost savings are fairly easy to quantify. Other VoIP benefits, such as productivity improvements, are more difficult to quantify in terms of ROI. These types of benefits sometimes require a leap of faith or intuition about potential results. The next section examines the potential benefits of VoIP in more detail.