– Aron Aicard, senior director of product management with Fonality (www.fonality.com), says:

Why is it hard to weigh the options when selecting an enterprise-class phone system?

It’s because the vendors who have been in premise telephony for decades have dominated the market. They have a history of a slow pace on invention and a low amount of differentiation. By design, vendors seek to be different in the way they name and implement features, package and price their goods, position and sell their value. Enterprises are forced to become telecom experts in order to see through the smoke and mirrors. The incumbents intentionally make sure their solution favors an apples-to-oranges comparison, since apples-to-apples drives prices down.

What do you need to look for?

For most organizations, driving revenue up will trump the cost reductions multiple times over, but an enterprise will never be able to understand this if the sales management is left out of the equation. Enterprises who get the most from their purchase often do a few things well:

  1. Clear articulation to the vendor of the goals of the enterprise and each of its departments (i.e. how are you measured for success; where are your pain points in the business, etc.). This leads to an effective consultative process.
  2. Have each major department head (sales, ops, finance, support, IT) get their own / separate needs analysis and informal proposal from the vendor.
  3. Let each department head estimate their department’s ROI in terms of labor improvements, cost reductions and revenue growth.

How do you begin sorting through your options?

The leader in each major department needs to drive the estimation of ROI for his / her respective area. Think of the shopping experience as a series of small decisions. Let each leader prioritize top features and estimate the return they would see. Let a financial person aggregate the numbers, then work with IT to account for operational issues like support / maintenance / warranties. In the end, enterprises will have to pass the vendor through gates (like quality / reputation of the vendor), but usually land on a financial comparison as the means to make final selection. Therefore, a financial analysis that focuses on the improvements (revenue, employee efficiency, etc.) and the reductions (lower operating costs, lower capex, etc.) will likely reveal the right vendor choice.