I get this question all the time. The short answer is "it depends." Companies need to determine the most important things that a telephone system can do for them. For startup companies I always suggest reeling in the spending. Instead of buying a new system, buy something used but reliable. Remember that the telephone system is an integral part of your company's infrastructure and it's also the doorway for customers and prospects. Avoid over and under buying. Pipe dreams vs. down-to-earth numbers and projections about sustainable business growth have foiled many a startup.
For those that are more experienced and have cash reserves, you won't be as reserved but should be as cautious. You may be tempted to shell out big bucks for promising features but before you do, exercise brainwork and determine how the investment is going to provide you returns. Calculate soft and hard dollar returns. I've tested and installed hosted solutions, SIP, IP PBXs, hybrid VoIP systems and TDM ranging from a few hundred dollars to several million. The same thinking applies to any of those purchases and the same goals of value, return and performance in filling the necessary needs are essential to understand. There's always a hook or hidden snag in most technology and investing more time in planning will pay off. Do your research but be sure to have a list of necessary features and then consider other things that may help your business and how.
Productivity is almost always a soft benefit but don't neglect this area. Today, telecommuting or teleworkers are one key feature that most companies need to examine. Cutting employees commuting time out or down is a solution that greens your company, helps your employees reduce cost and most studies show that teleworkers are more productive.
Remember to document what is being offered into the communications contract and this should weed out some slick sales people. Continue into discussions and use clauses in your contract for a trial period or even a demo period if possible. Before you buy, know what you need and find out everything you can about what you will evaluate as a solution. Then try it. There is no one best telephone system, it depends and your specific needs and budget should narrow the search.
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