Panel: VOIP should change agency practices

Agencies adopting voice over IP should see 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 of the VON Coalition. But that line is not between those who do and those who don't use the technology, 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, titled "Enterprise VoIP: From Communication to Collaboration in the Federal Enterprise."

VoIP saves agencies, or other organizations, time and money, the panelists affirmed. But more than that, Kohlenberger said, "It is really transformative in many ways. It is shifting power that used to be in the hands of a netowrk operator" to a much broader group of people, he said.

Using traditional switching technologies for voice telecommunications requires agencies to either hire technicians or outsource the voice service, said Jake Heinz, vice president of customer operations--VoIP services at Covad. But where a PBX technician has to be able to read and interpret cryptic codes, managing a VoIP network is as point-and-click an experience as anything else on the Internet, he said.

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

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

In the federal government market, the growth of telecommunications is expected to be second only to IT services over the next several years, said Alan Balutis, president and chief executive officer of the government strategies division at Input. Agency managers face an unending need to upgrade telecom and network services, he said. VoIP technology is now on an even footing with older technologies, he said.

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

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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