Voice communications present new challenges

Voice communications present new challenges

As the lines between voice and data communications blur, there is a growing likelihood that resellers of computing and data communications systems that provide systems integration services will be asked to team with the organisations that install telephone and PABX systems. Such resellers may even be asked to oversee the selection and installation of the voice or telecommunications components of a total information system.

This prospect may fill those resellers unfamiliar with telecommunications with dread. By planning for this most likely scenario, however, resellers may not only distinguish themselves in a crowded market, but be equipped to address new business opportunities.

As a consultancy specialising in the telecommunications sector, Milcom is experiencing a growing synergy with a range of reseller organisations that have traditionally specialised in information technology and office systems. We team with them on a regular basis to train, advise and support them and their customers.

The first phase of such a business relationship is typically to train reseller staff in the management skills necessary to manage the telecommunications network systems that help support information services. Equipped at the end of such a course with the necessary templates to undertake this work, a reseller's skill set is immediately elevated.

This, in turn, enables a more strategic approach to be taken to selling the spectrum of information systems.

As an example, we have provided this sort of training for Pitney Bowes - a reseller of network-based fax services. All too often, before training, Pitney Bowes had found its sales people were ill-equipped to answer the questions typically raised by a potential customer's technical staff. With the greater majority of its sales people coming from a non-technical background, the company was keen to avoid the product being undersold, misrepresented or pitched to the wrong area.

At the end of a training course, the Pitney Bowes staff had gained a crucial awareness of the conceptual telecommunications issues likely to influence a sale. They had elevated their understanding of a potential client's business. Training also equipped them to help the client to install and optimise use of the product.

Tenders, especially the growing number that call for integration between telephony and computer systems, raise a major question in any reseller organisation: given the associated time and cost, is it worthwhile tendering. Milcom's experience is that such tender documents will raise technical issues about telecommunications beyond the reseller's capabilities to answer.

In supporting resellers there is one question of paramount importance Milcom may be called on to help answer: can we achieve what the customer calls for in the tender?

Resellers aligning themselves with Milcom are able to use our expertise to identify and table the real evidence for an optimum long-term telecommunications strategy for their clients. Conversely, we operate with other resellers to help optimise their sales activities and ensure that all business is good business.

One prominent telecommunications company engages our services to support its sale of a system that connects an organisation's PABX to its own network, bypassing Telstra and resulting in lower call costs.

Our role is to enter the sales process with the reseller and document the technical requirements of the potential customer's environment to ensure that the promised benefits of the system can be delivered.

Our consultants then document and design the solution, including an analysis of the PABX type, size and necessity for any extra network cards. There have been instances where it was not practical to continue. This, however, has enabled the reseller to move on to new business, and avoid the possibility of trying to implement a system destined not to work.

As in any unfamiliar area of technology, problems or questions that start off as molehills can easily become mountains. Milcom recognises this and provides general on-call technical support by telephone for resellers. It's a small investment that is starting to return big dividends as resellers move into the next era of the information age.

Ian Millner is managing director and founder of Sydney headquartered Milcom Communications Consultancy. Established in 1991, the firm has consulted to a spectrum of private and public sector organisations in terms of their telecommunications and data networking needs.

Its hands-on training courses for technicians include cabling and the installation of telephone systems. Executive training, which is supported by a structured methodology, includes how to buy a telecommunications system.

Selection of hardware and project management of its installation are the company's major consulting services.

For further information, contact:

Ian Millner, managing director

Milcom Tel (02) 9973 1976 Fax (02) 9918 0737

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