Paul DeSantis of ANRO Inc. recommends upgrading your communication system Featured

7:25am EDT September 8, 2010

Every business in the modern world uses technology to communicate. Which means that every business will find itself in need of communication upgrades sooner or later.

At printing services provider ANRO Inc., IT Director Paul DeSantis tries to keep his company on the cutting edge of phone and Internet service, which helps the nearly 200-employee company serve its customers with optimal efficiency.

Along the way, DeSantis has learned some lessons about how and when you should evaluate the state of your communication system and when it might be time to look into upgrades or replacing your system outright.

Smart Business spoke with DeSantis about how to keep current with communication technology.

How can a company know when it’s time for an upgrade?

There really is a lot that goes into that. It’s a unique decision process for any organization. But typically, you’re going to start with inadequacies in the current solution. Does your system have an interface compatible with other technologies that are coming out? A good example is unified communications. Every business has its own system for taking calls. Those call systems are independent of cell phones or e-mails that have inherent inefficiencies. Once you’ve identified those, then you can start to think about how to address them. But it would start with seeing if your current phone system can field a call from a cell phone and access someone’s voice mail, how closely are the systems tied and how closely do they interface with each other. Any organization is going to have questions about that from their staff. If you are fielding a lot of questions about technology, it’s probably time for an upgrade.

What are some of the other indicators that systems aren’t working well together?

That goes above and beyond the obvious problems you’ll have, like call quality issues and call volume issues. If people are calling into your main number and getting busy signals, you need to be aware of those things and take action pretty quickly. Any telecommunications managers or executive in a business is going to want to have those kinds of resources available. You’re going to want to have a readily available phone line when that sales call comes in. You’re going to want to know that your system is going to take and deliver that call effectively and accurately.

What comes with those types of upgrades today is a whole new level of visibility into the operation of the phone — better reporting, real-time reporting on call volume, things that would be important to an executive considering whether to make that kind of investment.

How should a company be budgeting for communication upgrades?

That’s a critical mass type of investment. You should be reviewing it biannually, even if you can’t do anything for 36 months due to the constraints of your lease. We review biannually but stick to 36-month leases. A 60-month lease is going to be too far. You’re going to want to make changes to that.  But that should definitely be a high priority on the budget list.

How does a phone system upgrade play into a company’s overall communication infrastructure?

You really do have to package all of that together. There are some areas of convergence that are critical, one of which is bandwith. Obviously as a business grows, you’re going to have more employees who are going to be doing more things via the Internet. Sooner or later, you probably are going to require additional bandwith. So having two different vehicles to deliver voice and Internet connectivity is going to be a problem. You’re going to want to converge those two into a voice over IP system so that you can maximize your investment in that Internet connectivity and use it for all of your voice communication.

In the operational aspects, this is especially critical because for most businesses, in most cases, the phone is the most critical customer-facing component of your business. The effectiveness of your voice transfer system can really change clients’ perception of your entire business. So when you’re having phone issues or problems, it’s a customer-facing problem and needs to be addressed quickly.

On the employee side, it’s going to save time. Having one address book for all of your communications, having one location for all of your e-mail and voice-mail messages, is probably going to make your employees more effective.

How does a company choose what features are right for them in a communications system?

That is going to be a decision that is unique to your organization. But now, some of the features and how they’re packaged into systems are different than what they were in the past.

It used to be that you were buying a mechanical switch, and it had a layer of software that could utilize that switch in different ways, but today all of the new phone systems are server-based. All the functionality is software-based, so the ability of the manufacturers to include more functionality into the base or core package has definitely brought those costs down. Whatever your buying power is, you’re going to get more from the new system than you could have ever achieved trying to upgrade your legacy system, because of the way it’s structured.

So even if you are just two or three years into an analog system that seemed like a good option for you at the time, it needs to be re-evaluated because of the dynamics of the new feature sets.

How to reach: ANRO Inc., (800) 355-2676 or http://www.anro.com/