I have written this to ensure that those buying (or being tasked with buying) a telephone system or solution for their company have considered what I believe are the top 5 features to consider.

My qualifications to write this are that having worked in various technical capacities within the telecoms industry for 15 years now in the UK. Note that those years have all been spent in a technical capacity, so my recommendations below are based on their technical merit, not considerate of how much profit is within them.

Don't get me wrong, some salesmen (a.k.a. Solution Architects, Account Managers e.t.c.) will recommend such features if they are acting in a purely consultancy capacity. However if you are giving them any money to provide the services they are recommending, then their judgement will be unavoidably influenced.

A quick word on telephone system (aka PBX) features. They pretty much all do the basics in a similar fashion now, so your hunt group, ring groups, call groups, voicemail e.t.c. are all taken care of, assuming they are listed as features of course. The five features I have listed below are those that might not get specifically listed on a manufacturer or providor level, but are still extremely important.

- Stability - People are very comfortable with having to reset their PC or laptop. To many it is still a 'new' technology, (which basically translates as they didn't have them when they were kids!) so they are more tolerant and patient. However, wait until you see how uneasy people get when their telephones stop working. People have had telephones working in their houses since the early 1900's, so their tolerance of phone problems is much lower. Obviously this depends on the age of the users, with the rule of thumb generally being that the older the user the more freaked out they get by a phone issue.

- Expandability - The company you are at could grow, shrink or merge. It could be planned or it could just happen. The important thing is to make sure that any new telephony implementation is able to cope accordingly. This ability generally leads people to choose cloud IP based systems (which I have covered in other articles) which is a very valid choice but not the only one. I do certainly favour software/server based systems here, as expandability can often be a simple license code adjustment, with zero downtime and zero physical hardware replacements needed.

- Mobility - Rightly or wrongly, employee mobility and flexibility within working environments is on the increase. Therefore your phone system needs to work with this trend and provide mobility options for those working on the road or from home. This doesn't necessarily mean they need a physical handset for their 'remote' location, as there are plenty of mobile apps or softphone clients (that work like Skype) available from several manufacturers.

- Interoperability - Whilst I don't like this word (it took me several years to say it properly), it is a significant consideration if you are wanting to get the most out of your new telephony investment. Can the system work with your CRM or accounts package? Do you have analogue requirements such as fax, credit card machines or door entry systems? As long as you have considered it, then you will have no nasty surprises when the time comes to introduce integration, or utilise older technologies.

- Longevity - One of my biggest recommendations to buyers is to go for SIP handsets for your solution, that way if you dislike the provider or platform that you are using, you can migrate to another. SIP is a standard Voice over IP protocol that is the same across different systems and solutions. So your handsets will work wherever you take them, and you won't be having to reinvest in new hardware. I have migrated users previously, and because their handset didn't change, they didn't even realise the entire band end platform was different.