Melissa Swartz | July 14, 2021


Phone systems have moved from the realm of telecommunications and now reside under the umbrella of Information Technology (IT). However, voice technology is a slightly different animal—and it doesn’t always fit in with the rest of the herd.


As a consultant who has completed hundreds of phone system conversions, I’m still constantly reminded of these differences. The following are five factors that often surprise IT staff when changing to new voice technology:
  1. Billing is incomprehensible. The items seen on your bill don’t match up to your contract. Taxes, fees, and surcharges add approximately 30% to the costs quoted by the vendor. All kinds of additional charges will appear that no one can explain. Do not assume your bill is correct. Vendors often have a billing specialist who explains that bill to you. Take advantage of this service soon after your conversion is complete, and get the billing reconciled with your inventory of services. Incorrect billing can be hard to fix at any time, but delaying makes it much worse
  2. Number porting is an ugly process. As mentioned in my previous No Jitter article, especially for DID numbers, it can take much longer than expected. When planning a phone system conversion, build in extra time to allow for delays created by rejected orders (often without explanation) that must be corrected and resubmitted.
  3. Call coverage setups can be tricky. Many users have calls that come directly to them and then route to voicemail when unanswered. However, there are a few cases where call coverage is more complex, and these instances have evolved to handle high call volume or highly important calls. These exceptions are the ones that you must get right when making changes. While new capabilities may assist, most of the time, setups revolve around the limitations of people, not technology. You must understand the problem(s) the current setup solves and exactly how it works. Often users don’t explain the setup clearly, so plan to spend time uncovering nuances that may exist. Sometimes the new system cannot duplicate the existing setup, and you must give thought to any process changes that might be necessary.
  4. Multiple line appearances are important. Multiple line appearances allow a user to receive multiple calls on the same phone without over-buying lines. They are also used for call coverage in executive areas. This type of setup, while not typical for most users, often exists to allow coverage (and sometimes deflection) of calls for executives or publicly listed numbers. Often overlooked requirements include which lines ring where and how privacy will work once the user answers the call. Finally, don’t forget to ask about the need to transfer calls directly to voicemail, which is often an executive setup requirement.
  5. Analog stuff (paging, loud ringers, etc.) doesn’t go away. While there are Internet Protocol options for many of these devices, often they get overlooked and aren’t included in the budget. Fortunately, analog adapters are available and may be cheaper than replacing the existing setup. However, setup can be tricky in some cases, so plan some additional time to test and get this stuff working properly.
While there are other factors that distinguish voice technologies, navigating the issues on this list will give you a head start when making the transition to a new phone system.