Business case for new phone systems isn’t simplistic  If you listen to network equipment vendors, you might get the impression that the business case for IP telephony has not much to do with cost savings and quite a lot to do with productivity improvements. But talk to companies that are buying IP-based communication systems and services, and they’ll say the reasons for using IP are not so cut-and-dried. Interviews with organizations new to the IP telephony game indicate that each company has its own justification for turning off the legacy TDM phone system and turning to the Internet Protocol way. CIMConsumer Impact Marketing Ltd. (CIM), an outsourced promotion firm in Toronto, recently signed on to Telus Corp.’s IP-One service, a hosted IP-based voice and data platform. Cost concerns were top of mind. "It’s good to have productivity, but it’s better to make a bit of money or save a bit of money," says Sunil Patel, CIM’s IT operations manager. "We had to position this with some financial advantages."  CIM provides roving marketing support for various clients, as it does for Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox tour across the country. The marketing firm also has thousands of workers on standby should a client need a marketing team in any part of the nation. But managing the collective workforce’s communications requirements wasn’t easy, or cheap. "We have an extensive sales force," Patel explains. "Each member had their own calling card. Each card offers about 18 to 20 cents a minute." Supporting those long-distance calling cards was expensive – more than $20,000 per month. A new PBX providing users the ability to dial into voice mail and make long-distance calls from there would have solved the problem, but only at a substantial cost: purchasing and maintaining a new PBX would be pricey. IP-One provided a solution. This hosted IP-PBX offset some of the capital costs associated with buying a new on-premises PBX. And now, "we’ve basically eliminated those cards altogether," Patel says. "All the reps can go into their voice mail and, from there, do external calling. Those are charged at the corporate rate, which is substantially less – three to five cents a minute....When we’re doing about 120,000 minutes a month, that’s a substantial amount of savings," about $18,000 monthly. But cost wasn’t the only factor. "With any traditional PBX, doing moves, adds and changes is a bit of an administrative headache," Patel points out. "We’d have to move the phone, do some reprogramming in the back end. It wasn’t flexible. IP-One is very flexible. We can just move the phone to a new desk, plug it into a network jack and the phone’s up." "We have a fair amount of teleconferencing capabilities now," he adds. In the past CIM used a single T1 for both the office phone system and for teleconferencing. That limited the number of telecon-ference participants that CIM could host. "Now we don’t have to worry about it. Telus can field several thousand calls for us, and our teleconferencing capabilities have at least doubled." CIM expects to save $150,000 over the next several years. "There are a lot of soft costs you don’t necessarily see – administration, maintenance and so forth," Patel says. TD BankCost savings were definitely not top-of-mind at TD Bank Financial Group, which is tapping Bell Canada, IBM Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. for a new IP contact centre. "Nothing material" by way of cost savings would result from this decision, says Jeff Henderson, TD’s CTO.  TD is turning to IP for efficiency. The bank had too many call centre systems. "We had one primary solution that covered 90% to 95% of our call centre agents, then we had other smaller, disparate solutions covering many of our smaller call centres," Henderson says. "This was a strategy to consolidate." A single contact centre system would help TD corral the numerous reports about call volumes, length of calls and other measurements in a way not possible before. "It helps the people who manage the call centres improve customer service," Henderson says. A few years ago, cost savings would have been the prime selling feature of IP. The technology’s main attraction was the way it let companies cut their telecom system administration costs, and chop their inter-office long-distance toll charges. While cost might still be important for firms such as CIM, it isn’t a big deal for others. Has the business case for IP changed? "I don’t think anything has changed," Henderson says. "I think the business drivers are different for every situation." Still, both CIM and TD came to investigate IP for the same reason: "We were coming to the end of the lease on our current PBX," Patel says. "We had to do something."