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How to make your telephone system work for you

In order to create a smooth running organisation where you and your team are properly connected to everyone inside and outside of the office, you must implement a sturdy telecommunications system.

Choosing a system and a supplier can be tricky, so here are a few tips to help you through the process.


Identifying your requirements

Decide how telephony and voice communications impact your organisation, your team and your customers. Could you do more for less? Think about a telephony strategy or at least a telephony component of your ICT strategy.

Like any element of ICT, it's easy to think of "products" when you should be thinking of what services you provide, the activities you undertake and what you need to support those both now and in the future. Your business plan will indicate these things and is your key starting point.

The type of work you do and the nature of your stakeholders will also impact your needs.

  • Are you likely to take bursts of calls at a particular time?
  • Will you mostly receive calls or do you make a lot of them?
  • Do you need to get in touch with people on the move or abroad (in which case minimising mobile and international call costs will be a priority)?
  • Do your staff need to work from outside the office (call routing can support this)?
  • Do staff use mobiles a lot and will these be needed for email (smartphone or blackberry)?
  • Do you even need a lot of fixed lines if you have a very mobile workforce doing mostly outreach work?


It's no use buying a telephone system off the shelf in the same way it's unwise to simply buy anew PC from the local shop without thinking about the wider plan.

  • Be clear what your organisation does and the impact of all projects on telephony needs
  • Clearly outline what you need from telephony in terms of functions not products
  • Check this against your ICT plans and ICT infrastructure – how could the ICT and telephony linkup?
  • Look at your current costs and expenditure – where could you save or improve?
  • Look at the costs and benefits of different options and solutions and what you need in themedium term (e.g. over the next three years). Telephone systems can be costly and you don't want toreplace things too often.
  • Look at current and emerging technologies and what they could do for you. Are you ready forVOIP?
  • Develop a business case to discuss with colleagues and trustees and agree the plan. Read a Business Case for Telephony for more support on this issue
  • Apply for funding to support your new system (are any of your plans 'hot topics' for funders?)
  • Implement the system


Setting up a new telephone system isn't cheap. There are:

  • Costs of selecting and appointing a supplier
  • Costs of legal disposal of existing equipment
  • Capital cost of new equipment, including installation, cabling and accessories
  • Cost of disruption caused by the installation
  • Training for staff

In addition, there will be ongoing costs for:

  • billing options (including call costs)
  • number ranges
  • licences
  • insurance

Choosing and working with telecoms suppliers

Telecoms Suppliers are no different to any other ICT or infrastructure provider. You need to select a supplier(s) from a trusted source, go through a formal process (depending on size this might be a detailed invitation to tender and multiple interviews) take up references to confirm their competence and experience, be clear about what you want to achieve and establish that they are interesting in helping you achieve it. You can find more detailed help and advice about working with Telecoms Suppliers at


Page last edited Jul 25, 2017 History

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