Nice VoIP upgrade! Too bad you killed the sales lines

A tech consultant's first PBX-to-VoIP upgrade goes surprisingly well -- until the staffers' own cluelessness gets in the way

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The new VoIP system was very easy to maintain. The customer could take care of all the simple phone changes via a Web interface, and I showed both the IT employee and the office manager how to do it. They were thrilled.

A few months later, the company hired a finance guy who wanted to see if he could save money on the telecom bill. I located a different vendor to provide the PRI for the VoIP system at a much cheaper price, and the finance guy gave me the go-ahead. While handling that project, I asked him if the employees needed all those phone lines. He didn't know and requested I consult the other managers on that question.

Nobody had any idea, and to our frustration there was no documentation whatsoever. A handful of numbers seemed to serve no purpose at all. When I called these mysterious numbers, quite a few of them kept on ringing without going to voicemail or a greeting; I figured they must not be in use.

After I'd made the calls, I wrote down the numbers that I thought could be dropped when we moved to the new PRI provider. This list was forwarded to the department managers, who were asked to verify if they could be removed. Everybody agreed that those numbers were extraneous, and we proceeded with the change on a scheduled Friday.

For the first two weeks, everything seemed to work fine -- until some users told me that they hadn't had calls to certain hunt groups since we moved to the new vendor. Nobody had mentioned hunt groups to me before.

It took a couple of hours to find the cause, but it turned out that some of the numbers we'd canceled were, in fact, being used to route to hunt groups. I guess nobody in the hunt groups picked up the phone when I was testing the numbers, and none of the employees remembered them when we'd passed the list around.

As these hunt groups were for external clients, I made a frantic call to the previous PRI provider to get the missing numbers to the new provider. Since we were no longer a customer, the old provider made no haste in helping us. Instead, the vendor gave us the runaround before finally offering the numbers, albeit as separate analog business lines. It was another three weeks before the new PRI provider was able to get those numbers and port them over as DIDs.

Most of the delay was due to the previous vendor, though the fault rested with us. I guess that's the problem when you have no phone system documentation, changes are made on the fly, and current employees are unaware of decisions made in the past. On the bright side, the company cut its telecom bill in half and were happy in that regard. And it gave me a convincing illustration when talking to future customers about tech best practices.

Send your own crazy-but-true tale of managing IT, personal bloopers, supporting users, or dealing with bureaucratic nonsense to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, you'll receive a $50 American Express gift cheque.

This story, "Nice VoIP upgrade! Too bad you killed the sales lines," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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