A Few Bumps Along

By Lauren Gibbons Paul  |  Posted 2006-04-24 Print this article Print

The Way"> So, Sharp and his colleagues at Engage worked with Siemens to offer its HiPath OpenScape technology as a hosted service. This arrangement was a welcome option for Siemens, according to Tiscareno-Sato, as it got a new venue for selling its telecom technology. Sharp said hosted OpenScape and related business could contribute more than $1 million in incremental revenue to Engage this year by increasing the companys ability to serve customers across new lines of business while supporting the expansion of Engages customer base.

In summer 2005, though it was getting harder and harder to find parts or technicians able to service their phone system, the Flanters said they decided to table the purchase of a new PBX until Engage could get its OpenScape service ready for market. Sharp took the younger Flanter to Siemens to see the OpenScape demo that he said had made such an impression on him.

The elder Flanter said he didnt want to know all the ins and outs of the presence-aware communication. All he knew, he said, was that no Springfield competitor would have a similar system, according to Sharp. And that was good enough for him.

"This system had tremendous capabilities. Whether or not we use specific ones is a lot less important than the system overall," said the elder Flanter. In short, he said he trusted Engage to steer him right.

In July 2005, Engage conducted a pilot of its OpenScape VOIP service for Springfield. Not surprisingly, since this was Engages first client outing with the service, there were some problems.

For example, because of signaling mismatches, the Caller ID function did not initially work properly. That was a problem because the system couldnt tell who was on the other line, so it didnt know what priority to give the call. (Users can set the system so they dont miss calls from key contacts.) Engage personnel had to work extensively with the system and their own technical environment to straighten out the problem, though it still crops up occasionally.

"We did not anticipate some of the call flow issues that come up when youre hosting multiple tenants on the same box," said Sharp. At the time, Engage was running its own system along with Springfields.

Technology was not the only issue. Another snafu was the lack of training on the VOIP LED phones. Though the Siemens OptiPoint 420 models look like regular phones, they have an LED display and function differently from conventional phones. Springfield users were a bit stymied by the phones—at least at first.

Springfield cut over to the OpenScape hosted PBX service in December 2005. The Flanters said they expect it will be some time before the users figure out how to exploit the systems full power. But the elder Flanter said he does not have any doubts about taking state-of-the-art VOIP telecom capability into his small company.

"In todays business climate, you have to get outside the box or else that box is going to crumble on you," the elder Flanter said. "When we can use something no one else has, we have the opportunity to pick up some speed. Its a little scary, but you have to go for it now and then."

Lauren Gibbons Paul is a freelance writer based in Waban, Mass. E-mail her at lauren.paul@comcast.net.

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