VoIP RFP/RFQ Checklist

For those of you looking for a new VoIP phone system and planning to release a Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Quotation (RFQ), we are happy to offer this checklist of our top 10 most important issues. Remember, some of the companies planning to give you a bid will be basing their number on what you asked for only. If you don’t specify it, you may not get it unless you are willing to pay extra for it after the fact, once you have lost much of your negotiating position. These types of add-on purchases can offset much or all of the savings that a bid process can offer, while leaving you at the mercy of the low bidder. So have a look below and see if you missed anything.

  1. The Basics: How many sites, phone lines, extensions, type of phones, and growth capacity do you need? Will you be saving money by buying your phone lines as SIP trunks from an Internet Telephony Service Provider?
  2. The Features: Want just voice mail to email forwarding, or something newer? What about mobility options such as using your smart phone to control your calls? How about a phone at home that rings with the office phones? Need an in-house conference bridge or call queuing for sales and service reps?  Want to see everyone’s presence status from the desktop PC’s Call Manager?
  3. System architecture: Is the proposed solution a traditional integrated phone system with VoIP hardware ‘bolted on’? Does it require multiple servers converged together in order to deliver all its features? Are separate appliances used at each site for local calling and redundancy? Does each site have a stand-alone phone system that is interfaced with the other sites, or are all the sites one unified system?  What about remote survivability?
  4. The LAN: Will Local Area Network cabling or managed Ethernet switches need to be added in order to have new VoIP phones deployed? Will the installation of VoIP phones have an impact on an existing Gigabit network? Will the phones be powered from the Ethernet Switch, PoE injector, or power supply at the desktop?
  5. The WAN: Will VoIP be deployed on the Wide Area Network as well as the LAN? Is the current router capable of supporting the extra traffic with Quality of Service? Is my DSL circuit, Cable Modem, dedicated T-1, or Municipal Ethernet connection capable of handling the calls cleanly? Will a VPN be used between sites or for remote users?
  6. Installation: What is the expectation regarding scheduling? Will any work be required after hours? Will there be an outage while the phone lines are cut over? Will there be any disruption to my business?  Are there separate charges for travel?
  7. Training: Who will train the users and local administrator of the new system? How long will training take? Is follow-up training available and what does it cost? Is online training an option?
  8. Financial: What are the terms and conditions of the sale?  Is financing an option?  Can the old system be traded in?
  9. Support:  What is the system warranty?  Is there an extended warranty available?  Is advanced replacement of any defective equipment included?  Will software upgrades be required as time goes by? Is there a tech support hotline?  Is there any regular maintenance tasks required?  Will a live person be available to help with questions or problems?
  10. The company:  How much experience does the vendor have with the new technology?  How many successful deployments of the same brand and scale?  Are references available?  Can I speak with the manufacturer about the vendor?  How satisfied are other customers with the service they have received?

Of course there are many other questions and factors to consider when buying something as important as a phone system.  This is just a sampling of a few questions in each category.  It seems the most successful projects come about after some research which involves plenty of interview time between the vendor and customer.  While there is no such thing as one single perfect phone system for every organization, there is a phone system waiting that will be a perfect match for your organization.  The trick is to be able to know your own needs and get to know a phone system before you buy, so you know exactly what to expect after you do.

(C) 2010 Adam Bristol