Panel: VOIP should change agency practices

Agencies adopting voice over IP should view it as a technology that enables new ways of thinking, according to panelists speaking today at a conference.

As with most technological innovations, there is a dividing line, said Jim Kohlenberger, executive director at the VON Coalition. But that line is not between those who use the technology and those who don't, or even between those who jump in early and those who lag behind, he said.

"The dividing line is between those who see VOIP as a new way to do the same old thing, and those who see it as changing the way they do business," he said.

The Information Technology Association of America hosted the conference, "Enterprise VOIP: From Communication to Collaboration in the Federal Enterprise."

VOIP saves agencies and other organizations time and money, the panelists affirmed. In addition, Kohlenberger said, "It is really transformative in many ways. It is shifting power that used to be in the hands of a network operator" to a much broader group of people.

Using traditional switching technologies for voice telecommunications requires agencies to hire technicians or outsource the voice service, said Jake Heinz, vice president of customer operations-VOIP services at Covad. But compared with situations in which a PBX technician must be able to read and interpret cryptic codes, managing a VOIP network is a point-and-click experience similar to anything else on the Internet, he said.

"People focus on the cost savings aspect, but there is a time savings aspect as well," Heinz said.

"You can put your information technology managers onto the jobs they're supposed to be doing," instead of spending hours each day working on the voice network, Kohlenberger added.

In the federal government market, telecom’s growth is expected to be second only to IT services in the next several years, said Alan Balutis, president and chief executive officer of Input’s Government Strategies. Agency managers face an unending need to upgrade telecom and network services, he said. VOIP technology is now on even footing with older technologies, he said.

"Voice is a mission-critical application," Balutis said. "It has a very wide reach."

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