Interoffice communication in a flat world

As many companies prepare for economic recovery in a flat world, expanding operations internationally may still feel like traversing snow-topped mountains.

Ironically, before the world became flat, multinational communication was a lot simpler.

International offices tended to be self-sufficient and serve local markets. People talked amongst themselves locally, or made direct, albeit expensive, calls between offices.

Not anymore. Today's international companies are often functionally distributed around the world: headquarters here, production there, research and development on one side of the globe, customer service on the other.

The mountains organizations have to cross to achieve flat communications have two peaks: On the one hand, you don't want customers and business partners experiencing the pain of never finding the right resource, or of being told to hang up and dial a long (and costly) international number.

On the other hand, cobbling together a communications system adds cost because it incurs overhead to manage multiple systems and you have to pay carriers to transport your inter-site voice traffic (this could be long distance charges but it could also be the result of private lines that you have to buy from the carriers).

Supporting international growth with IP-based communications can be a walk in the park, as long as you take the right path.

Integration is key. Many organizations prefer to take a phased approach to switching out legacy gear, so being able integrate new with old helps make sure that everyone speaks the same language at the right time.

Also important is ensuring PBX and UC application availability (including reasonable failover behaviors) despite WAN outages. Functions must be consolidated, such as voice mail and operators, so that resources can be shared across the company, regardless of location.

IP communications systems offer many advantages over traditional PBX systems that support international operations, including least-cost call handling, multi-language interactive voice response systems and the ability to centralize administration while still retaining some amount of control by local administrators.

When we all communicate in IP, it's easy to turn those mountains into molehills!

Dale Tonogai is VP of Engineering at ShoreTel.

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