Bennett Quillen's Blog

Information and Technology Services Professional

Bennett Quillen

553 Concord Road                                                                 Office Telephone:   704.907.5235

Davidson, NC  28036-9034                                                          Email: bquillen@qandans.net

 

Results oriented information technology, operations, risk management executive and project manager with over 35 years of strategic and “hands on” experience with domestic and international firms.

 

Areas of Expertise

 

  • Broad experience with enterprise-wide operations, infrastructure and applications: financial, deposit, loan, CRM / data warehouse, trust, investment, treasury management, eCommerce, card processing, remittance processing, HRIS, business intelligence, risk management, business continuity planning
  • Extensive knowledge of all bank vendor applications
  • Project manager for diverse, cross-functional  engagements
  • Extensive knowledge of risk management, regulatory compliance and fraud forensics processes and requirements
  • Strong vendor management and outsourcing skills
  • Implement streamlined work and document flow in operations
  • Advanced skill set in all Microsoft Office products

 

Management Consultant, Charlotte, North Carolina (1998 – Present): Provide consulting and project management services to domestic and overseas companies. 

 

  • Managing conversion projects, including project plans, risk assessments and mitigation, detailed conversion week activities for banks in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  These projects require extensive coordination with third-party vendors.
  • Developed and implemented processes and documentation to assist a regional bank to receive a satisfactory rating from its regulator in its loan portfolio evaluation, including compliance with Community Reinvestment Act regulations.
  • Managed conversions for regional financial institutions in Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, South Carolina, Washington and Canada.  Conversion for the domestic banks involved all core systems, treasury applications, third-party applications, telecommunications, and infrastructure.  Projects required contract negotiations with third-party vendors.  The MA engagement involved managing multiple conversions during a period that the bank was acquiring other institutions. The Canadian project converted all infra-structure and telecommunications across four provinces into a centralized hosting service. All conversions met tight time frames and budgets.
  • Completed managing the rationalization of three disparate ATM/POS networks for a money center bank: coordination of information security issues, identity and access management, multiple vendors and roll out to the enterprise.
  • Performed IT operational audits for several regional banks, applying CoBIT process objectives and regulatory standards; conducted risk management and compliance evaluations and improvements, applying SOx and GLBA requirements; executed fraud forensic processes and operations to evaluate applications controls and adherence to BSA control objectives.  Developed and established improved control procedures for all firms.

 

 

  • Completed cash management requirements, vendor evaluations and systems implementation for a regional bank to expand their treasury management offerings. The engagement encompassed all facets of online banking, wire transfers, account analysis, bill pay, positive pay, remote deposit capture.

 

  • Directed the evaluations, installations and conversions of major applications. The applications included their core and ancillary applications – deposits, loans, financial, data warehouse, CRM, ATM/POS, Internet Banking, Teller, VRU, call center, document imaging, remittance processing applications, and contract administration.  These conversions included all of the major vendors e.g. Fidelity, Fiserv, Harland, and Jack Henry. The conversions also required expanding network infrastructure, installing hardware and implementing interfaces for nearly three dozen third-party applications such as cash management, trust accounting, loan origination and asset/liability management. The assignments required developing and managing a detailed project plan, assigning client and hardware and software vendors’ deadlines and responsibilities to meet tight schedules.
  • Achieved significant improvements in risk management, data security, incident management and adherence to process standards for an overseas investment bank.  Streamlined procedures and implemented control processes for information technology and funds management departments in the UK and Caribbean to improve productivity and comply with Basel II requirements.  Implemented new systems and control procedures for incident, identity and access management.  Initiated quantification of operational risks. 
  • Developed outsourcing strategy for a national retail company to reduce application maintenance costs by 25%.  The strategy includes a quantifiable model and selection criteria, selecting applications as candidates for outsourcing, and applying it to the company’s systems development life cycle.  The new process also increased applications development capacity without adding costs.
  • Reduced ATM/POS operating costs by 48% for a bank’s ATM/POS processing.  Evaluated and managed the project to convert a bank’s credit card and ATM/POS processing to real-time.  The project included the design and installation of updated communications and applications software, document management, evaluating debit/credit card processing vendors’ features and pricing, negotiating contracts and applying PCI standards.
  • Directed projects for a regional institution to evaluate and install systems and equipment for branch item and remote merchant capture.  Payback was less than 18 months.  A related project involved the evaluation and execution of a remittance processing strategy to improve productivity and additional revenue.
  • Obtained Sarbanes-Oxley compliance for a large property and casualty insurer. Directed SOx compliance activities in an engagement with a budget of over $10 million.  Responsibilities included developing a comprehensive, inter-departmental project plan; developing dashboard reports; preparing procedures for remediation and testing; managing resources across departments to complete remediation tasks on-time and within budget.
  • Managed the evaluations and conversions of major HRIS/payroll projects, with added employees and expanding functionality without increasing operating costs.  The HRIS systems included Fidelity, PeopleSoft, ADP, Ultipro, and Ceridian.  One engagement expanded HRIS capabilities from simply payroll processing to the entire spectrum of HR systems, including employee initiated transactions, pension processing and online job applications.  Another assignment was for a money center bank in its acquisition of a 20,000-person domestic and international credit card operation. The project encompassed enterprise-wide conversions in payroll, training and staff planning and included high level design and low level technical documentation.

 

  • Performed the role of interim director of information technology and operations for a $7 billion regional bank.  The engagement included evaluating the bank’s technology plans, resources, organization and required actions.  Required a major restructuring within information technology and operations, improving workflows, and focusing on measurement of IT service levels. These actions, coupled with attention to project management, produced immediate results for a dozen major projects completed in a short time frame.

 

 

Summary of Responsibilities from 1967 to 1998:

 

  • Chief Information Officer – Lipper Analytical Services, New York City (1994 – 1998):

Direct responsibility for all applications development, database administration, operations and telecommunications for a mutual fund information processing, accounting and distribution firm locations in the US, London and Hong Kong.  Directed staff of 60 people and operating budget of $8 million.

  • Increased market share by 15% through managing the design, development and deployment of an Internet and FTP based comprehensive relational data base system.  The database provides mutual funds immediate and secure access to a comprehensive array of statistical and historical mutual fund information for financial and comparative analyses. The system design makes extensive use of graphics and dashboard tools.
  • Reduced costs and increased market share by developing and installing one of the first twenty web sites and extranet facilities in the securities industry to provide users with transaction security and interactive “what if” queries using the company’s database.
  • Achieved significantly reduced time to collect and distribute data to clients from days to hours.  The project involved directing the installation and conversion of a new relational database system, developing applications in a client/server environment and converting from legacy systems to the new platform. The results were a 15% decrease in operating expenses and added fee income. 

·         Independent Consultant, St. Louis (1989 to 1993): Provided a broad range of information technology and operations consulting services to financial institutions, including commercial banks, brokerage firms, and insurance companies.

Chief Administration Officer – Community Federal, St. Louis (1986 to1989): Directed information systems, back office operations, marketing and administration for a 50-branch thrift staff of 220 people, and operating budget of $10 million.

·         Chief Information Officer – Boatmen’s Bancshares, St. Louis (1980 to1986): Directed information technology for a super-regional commercial bank and trust company.  The bank grew over five times during this period, requiring constant management and control of systems and conversions.  Responsible for I/T, telecommunications, operations and client services with a staff of 150 people.

·         Managing Associate – Lester B Knight & Associates, Chicago (1975 to 1980): Management consultant to domestic and overseas insurance companies, banks and thrifts on operations, information technology and strategic planning.

·         Manager of Strategic Planning – The Christian Science Publishing Society, Boston (1972 to 1975): Responsible for managing product planning and distribution for worldwide publications.

·         Assistant Vice President, Security Pacific National Bank, Los Angeles (1967 to 1972): Responsible for bank-wide quantitative analysis, development of financial information systems, and internal time-share system operation.

 

 

Education and Special Activities:

 

Master of Business Administration, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, with majors in Industrial Management and Finance

 

Bachelor of Science, The Principia College, Elsah, Illinois with majors in Chemistry and Mathematics

————————————————————————————————————————————————

  • Adjunct faculty member for 13 years for Washington University and Webster University, St Louis, Missouri, for courses in information technology, project management and economics
  • Past director of Mid-America Payments Exchange (MAPEX)
  • Speaker at trade organization conferences such as the Bank Administration Institute, Treasury Management Association and Wisconsin Graduate School of Banking
  • Project Management Professional Certification
  • Life Certified Information Technology Professional from the State of California

 

SKILLS SUMMARY, (#) = Years of Experience, (E) = Exposure Only

 

Hardware:                     IBM 3090, 390 (10), PC (10), IBM AS and iSeries/400 (6), HP 9000 (4), Unisys (E)

 

Operating Systems:       IBM MVS/SP & XA (8), OS/400 (6), CMS (4), CICS (4), UNIX (4), Microsoft WinNT &XP (4), Windows 2000 (4)

 

CRM Systems:              Salesforce (2), Aperio (2), Portrait (1), Siebel (E)

Applications Systems:   Depository, Loans & Financial: Jack Henry  & Associates/Silverlake,  20/20 & Symitar; EDS; Fidelity IBS, Horizon, Profile & InterCept/BancPac, Fiserv/CBS, SourceOne,  Signature, ITI, OSI/Bisys, SUMMIT & USERS; Fincentrix,, Harland/Phoenix, Oracle/iFlex,  Temenos/T-24; Shaw, McCormack & Dodge, Great Plains; Teller/Platform: S1, ViewPoint, Vertex, Passport; eBanking: DI (4), FIS (2); HRIS: ADP, Ceridian, PeopleSoft, Genesys, Ultipro; Securities: SunGard Phase II;  Item Processing: IBM CPCS, VECTOR, NCR Tower Check , GG Pulley

 

ATM/POS Tools:           SCCM (1), SMS (1), NCR (APTRA) (1), Diebold (Agilis) (1), Altiris  (E),

 

Languages:                   COBOL (4), CGI (E), HTML (E), Visual Basic (E)

 

Development Tools:      IBM Visual Age for Java (E)

Office Tools:                 Word (13), Excel (13), VISIO 4.0 (8), 5.0 (6), Microsoft Project (15), PowerPoint (15), Lotus Notes (6), Word Perfect (3)

Databases:                   Oracle (2), Sybase (2), Informix (2), MS-Access (4), DB/2 (2), Fox Pro (E)

 

Networks:                     LAN (15), WAN (15), Citrix, IBM, Newbridge, Cisco, Lucent, Northern Telecomm (8)

Project Management

Approaches:                    Process based e.g. Agile (5); Traditional e.g. “Waterfall” (20)

RESUME TIPS by BENNETT QUILLEN

1. What IS a resume anyway?

Remember: a Resume is a self-promotional document that presents you in the best possible light, for the purpose of getting invited to a job interview.
It’s not an official personnel document. It’s not a job application. It’s not a “career obituary”! And it’s not a confessional.

2. What should the resume content be about?
It’s not just about past jobs! It’s about YOU, and how you performed and what you accomplished in those past jobs–especially those accomplishments that are most relevant to the work you want to do next. A good resume predicts how you might perform in that desired future job.

3. What’s the fastest way to improve a resume?
Remove everything that starts with “responsibilities included” and replace it with on-the-job accomplishments. (See Tip 11 for one way to write them.)

4. What is the most common resume mistake made by job hunters?
Leaving out their Job Objective! If you don’t show a sense of direction, employers won’t be interested. Having a clearly stated goal doesn’t have to confine you if it’s stated well.

5. What’s the first step in writing a resume?
Decide on a job target (or “job objective”) that can be stated in about 5 or 6 words. Anything beyond that is probably “fluff” and indicates a lack of clarity and direction.

6. How do you decide whether to use a Chronological resume or a Functional one? The Chronological format is widely preferred by employers, and works well if you’re staying in the same field (especially if you’ve been upwardly-mobile). Only use a Functional format if you’re changing fields, and you’re sure a skills-oriented format would show off your transferable skills to better advantage; and be sure to include a clear chronological work history!

7. What if you don’t have any experience in the kind of work you want to do?
Get some! Find a place that will let you do some volunteer work right away. You only need a brief, concentrated period of volunteer training (for example, 1 day a week for a month) to have at least SOME experience to put on your resume.  Also, look at some of the volunteer work you’ve done in the past and see if any of THAT helps document some skills you’ll need for your new job.

8. What do you do if you have gaps in your work experience?
You could start by looking at it differently.

General Rule: Tell what you WERE doing, as gracefully as possible–rather than leave a gap.
If you were doing anything valuable (even if unpaid) during those so-called “gaps”, you could just insert THAT into the work-history section of your resume to fill the hole. Here are some examples:

 

  • 2002 – 2010 Full-time parent — or
  • 2002 – 2004 Maternity leave and family management — or
  • Travel and study — or Full-time student — or
  • Parenting plus community service

9. What if you have several different job objectives you’re working on at the same time? Or you haven’t narrowed it down yet to just one job target?
Then write a different resume for each different job target. A targeted resume is MUCH, much stronger than a generic resume.

10. What if you have a fragmented, scrambled-up work history, with lots of short-term jobs?
To minimize the job-hopper image, combine several similar jobs into one “chunk,” for example:

  • 2009 – 2011 Secretary/Receptionist; Jones Bakery, Micro Corp., Carter Jewelers — or
  • 2010 – 2012 Waiter/Busboy; McDougal’s Restaurant, Burger King, Traders Coffee Shop.

Also you can just drop some of the less important, briefest jobs. But don’t drop a job, even when it lasted a short time, if that was where you acquired important skills or experience.

11. What’s the best way to impress an employer?
Fill your resume with “PAR” statements. PAR stands for Problem-Action-Results; in other words, first you state the problem that existed in your workplace, then you describe what you did about it, and finally you point out the beneficial results.

Here’s an example: “Transformed a disorganized, inefficient warehouse into a smooth-running operation by totally redesigning the layout; this saved the company thousands of dollars in recovered stock.”

Another example: “Improved an engineering company’s obsolete filing system by developing a simple but sophisticated functional-coding system. This saved time and money by recovering valuable, previously lost, project records.”

12. What if your job title doesn’t reflect your actual level of responsibility?
When you list it on the resume, either replace it with a more appropriate job title (say “Office Manager” instead of “Administrative Assistant” if that’s more realistic) OR use their job title AND your fairer one together, i.e. “Administrative Assistant (Office Manager)”

13. How can you avoid age discrimination?
If you’re over 40 or 50 or 60, remember that you don’t have to present your entire work history!

 

You can simply label THAT part of your resume “Recent Work History” or “Relevant Work History” and then describe only the last 10 or 15 years of your experience. Below your 10-15 year work history, you could add a paragraph headed “Prior relevant experience” and simply refer to any additional important (but ancient) jobs without mentioning dates.

14. What if you never had any “real” paid jobs — just self-employment or odd jobs? Give yourself credit, and create an accurate, fair job-title for yourself. For example:

  • A&S Hauling & Cleaning (Self-employed) — or
  • Household Repairman, Self-employed — or
  • Child-Care, Self-employed

Be sure to add “Customer references available on request” and then be prepared to provide some very good references of people you worked for.

15. How far back should you go in your Work History?
Far enough; and not too far! About 10 or 15 years is usually enough – unless your “juiciest” work experience is from farther back.

16. How can a student list summer jobs?
Students can make their resume look neater by listing seasonal jobs very simply, such as “Spring 1996” or “Summer 1996” rather than 6/96 to 9/96. (The word “Spring” can be in very tiny letters, say 8-point in size.)

17. What if you don’t quite have your degree or credentials yet?
You can say something like:

  • Eligible for U.S. credentials — or
  • Graduate studies in Instructional Design, in progress — or
  • Master’s Degree anticipated December 2014

18. What if you worked for only one employer for 20 or 30 years?
Then list separately each different position you held there, so your job progression within the company is more obvious.

19. What about listing hobbies and interests?
Don’t include hobbies on a resume unless the activity is somehow relevant to your job objective, or clearly reveals a characteristic that supports your job objective. For example, a hobby of Sky Diving (adventure, courage) might seem relevant to some job objectives (Security Guard?) but not to others.

20. What about revealing race or religion?
Don’t include ethnic or religious affiliations (inviting pre-interview discrimination) UNLESS you can see that including them will support your job objective. Get an opinion from a respected friend or colleague about when to reveal, and when to conceal, your affiliations.

21. What if your name is Robin Williams?
Don’t mystify the reader about your gender; they’ll go nuts until they know whether you’re male or female. So if your name is Lee or Robin or Pat or anything else not clearly male or female, use a Mr. or Ms. prefix.

22. What if you got your degree from a different country?
You can say “Degree equivalent to U.S. Bachelor’s Degree in Economics-Teheran, Iran.”

23. What about “fancy-schmancy” paper?
Employers tell me they HATE parchment paper and pretentious brochure-folded resume “presentations.” They think they’re phony, and toss them right out. Use plain white or ivory, in a quality appropriate for your job objective. Never use colored paper unless there’s a very good reason for it (like, you’re an artist) because if it gets photocopied the results will be murky.

24. Should you fold your resume?
Don’t fold a laser-printed resume right along a line of text. The “ink” could flake off along the fold.

WHAT DO EMPLOYERS WANT?

What are the most desirable qualities for job seekers in the 2013 workplace?

1. Willingness to share information and ideas.

2. Commitment to teamwork.

3. Responsiveness to change.

4. Ability to work under pressure.

5. Sense of ownership of work and ideas.

6. Willingness to take calculated risks, without fear of consequences.

7. Multicultural experience and/or ability to speak multiple languages.

8. Ability to communicate clearly and honestly with peers, managers, customers.

9. Understanding of business strategy and how you create shareholder value.

10. Commitment to continuous learning, skill development.

11. Avoid sending a resume as an email attachment. Reasons?

You need to know what types of resumes this particular employer is prepared to accept. That is the fundamental question. Many employers now spell out their preferred formats. Try to find that out before sending your resume, and follow instructions.

If you can’t find specific instructions, think about what will make it easiest for the reader to deal with your resume. Here are some considerations:

 

When your resume is INCLUDED in the body of your e-mail:
– There is no need for the recipient to open another document.
– The ASCII format can be sent to any other format by the recipient.
– The resume could be printed directly from the email program.
– The resume content could be sent to a database for further processing.

When your resume is ATTACHED to your E-mail:
– It requires work from the recipient (opening the attachment) to get to your information, and every second counts.
– The recipient would have to feel motivated to open the attachment. (It helps if your resume grabs their attention in the top half of the visible screen.)
– The recipient needs to have compatible software to open the attachment.
– The attachment may not be compatible with the recipient’s computer platform; e.g. the recipient may have a strong preference about the format of any attachments (.html, .rtf, .txt, etc.).
– The recipient may be reluctant to open attachments for fear of viruses.

Corporate Computing Needs New Sartorial Splendor by Bennett B Quillen

In the use of technology to transform business, it has often delivered poorly and presented itself as rather shabbily attired.

Computers and the internet were meant to put business on a new footing. Newly available information would make everything smarter, from corporate supply chains to the strategic decisions of senior executives. Entire new business models would be made possible: any company that failed to adapt risked extinction.

It has not worked out quite as planned. Despite all it has promised – and in some cases delivered – the explosion of information technology has failed to live up to the hype. Corporate information systems have become complex, ungainly and difficult to manage.

Somewhere in the late 1990s and early 21st century, amid the high-tech innovation, something seems to have gone badly awry. There has been a backlash: instead of being an area that corporate executives looked at to give them a competitive advantage, IT has gone back to what it was before the 1990s boom in wishful thinking: a management headache.

Big IT projects are complex and difficult to make work, with a frighteningly high failure rate. Corporate spending on IT has become an expense to be reined in, not indulged. And the maturing of the wave of technology that arrived with the internet has left companies asking what they got for their money.

The latest symptom of this malaise has been a questioning of the strategic significance of technology to business. What real competitive advantage can be gained from technology, if it is equally available to your competitors? Like electricity and the telephone, it may be a necessity; but also like them, it may have little impact on a company’s real competitive position.

Faced with skepticism of the benefits of technology, the industry is preparing for its next big push: processing in the “cloud”. The real transformation of business still lies ahead, according to this view. It will happen when corporate IT systems operate flawlessly and work together seamlessly. And while the technology itself may not confer an instant competitive advantage, its effective application is vital to business success.

But can technology companies overcome the shortcomings of the past to fulfill this promise? And how will corporate buyers of IT, still dealing with the after-effects of their last wave of spending, react to the claims?

Consider the sources of the problem.

Perhaps the biggest was the arrival of a new computing architecture that liberated users from the tyranny of the mainframe, but exposed a failure in technology management.

This client-server architecture brought new control to the individual user in the shape of a desktop PC. It also handed power to IT (and lines of business) managers, making it easier to develop department-level applications to run the processes that seemed vital in the new internet era. But in the process, the larger corporate picture was lost, consistency was forfeited and IT costs actually increased.

A second source of the problem has been the incompleteness of the technology. While individual applications have proliferated, the tools needed to coordinate and focus them have been lacking.  There is a major gap between technology results and business needs.

This leads to the third reason for technology’s disappointment: its failure to align it with business management. Technology companies tend to blame customers for failing to understand how deeply new IT systems impact their business processes, while the users blame technology for being too rigid.

One symptom has been the high failure rate of IT projects. Too many projects are taken on with faith and without the basic project management being in place.   Large number of IT projects fail or simply do not deliver on promises.

Another symptom is the low utilization of corporate IT assets. During the boom, many companies added servers and storage every time they introduced a new department-level IT application. As a result, considerably less than half of this IT capacity is actually used.

And finally, it is the high cost of maintaining corporate information systems. More than half the money big companies spend on IT is used to employ an army of technicians.

So, what is the answer to this crisis in corporate computing?

The IT industry’s prescription and make over need to take the hard work out of building and managing IT systems, freeing companies to concentrate on using the technology to its potential.

The main features of the promised new generation of corporate IT systems are:

Integration. The need to weave together the disparate applications is the most pressing issue facing chief information officers.

Much rests on the development of industry-wide technical standards that allow interoperability of different IT systems and mobile devices e.g. tablets and laptops. In the past, tech companies focused much of their effort on developing and maintaining their own proprietary technologies. This strategy was sold as essential to maintaining high profit margins. Most now claim to see the world differently.

The result is that many companies, particularly financial institutions, are now outsourcing their transaction-oriented, commodity based applications.  This permits them to focus on technology development and deployment, either internally or via third parties, to potentially set them apart from the herd.

Automation. The key to keeping down the soaring headcount in corporate IT departments revolves around creating technology that can maintain itself. This is the flip side of outsourcing: it drives down the cost of processing.

Virtualization. By using the internet to link corporate IT assets together, it may be possible to tap unused computing or storage resources more efficiently. Turning all these assets into one giant “virtual” machine holds out the promise of sharing work out where it can be handled most effectively. This is the ubiquitous cloud promulgated by the likes of IBM, Google and other corporate giants.

Utility computing. Once IT systems have been better integrated and virtualized, it will become easier, in theory, for companies to tap into specialist utility companies to supply some or all their computing needs. Then companies will be able to decide whether they want to stay in the business of building and maintaining technology or whether this is best left to outside suppliers.

The irony behind the convergence of cloud based processing and proliferation of internet based applications is the resurgence of mainframe processing. 

All of these efforts are geared towards one end: genuinely clothe IT in sartorial splendor to serve enterprise’s interests better.

 

Economic Scenarios for 2013 and 2014 by Bennett Quillen

Economic Scenarios for 2013 and 2014

The growth of the US economy in the late 90’s and early 21st century was sustained by the consumer spending pinned against record levels of personal debt, which is secured, if at all, against house prices that were well above the equilibrium level.

Consequently, we must monitor asset prices – not just consumer inflation or nominal gross domestic product.

It should be axiomatic that no financial institution is too big to fail. We need to withdraw the privilege of limited liability from financial institutions.

After a long period of bond yields at low levels, investors have finally awakened to the threat that open-ended monetary stimulus from the Federal Reserve cannot last forever, with significant consequences for the fixed-income market.  Furthermore, performance of investment-grade debt changed from a total return of 1 per cent for the year back into negative territory for the year during the final weeks of May, showing how a big jump in Treasury yields can ripple across other asset classes.

Consequently, we will shortly be confronted with unwinding the QEI and QEII which Mr Bernanke has put in place.

Yet, we will still be vulnerable to another financial crisis unless banks return to fundamentals and the regulators get off their backs.  The fundamentals are the Five C’s of Credit, which have not changed over the past millennia: character, capacity, capital, conditions and collateral.

 

Bennett Quillen

Grammar Salvation by Bennett Quillen

The everyday application of correct grammar and proper vocabulary in business is abysmal. It is intolerable, both in a written and verbal context.  These issues have become so bad that there is poor communication and business productivity has been adversely affected.  There is the distinct possibility of increased risk throughout an organization, both financial and operational, because of poor grammar and incoherent vocabulary.

 

Incorrect or imaginary words may seem to fit the situation at the time and even provide a tangible hook to an idea, much as an advertising slogan.  A term or phrase, such as making verbs out of nouns, is often used as a quick way to describe a situation.

Nevertheless, we must fight the impulse to use sloppy or incorrect words.  It may require us to slow down in our thinking and speaking, but that may well have a beneficial effect.  Indeed, just as we fall into the habit of poor language usage, we can gain benefits by proper word usage.

Poor word usage is often a disguise or crutch for fuzzy thinking.  The speaker or writer cannot clearly state what he/she wants to say, so a fuzzy (e.g. making a verb out of a noun or inappropriate word as “ecoimagination”) will be substituted.  The speaker may be totally unaware that he is doing it, but such consistent usage of poor terms and grammar will eventually affect others in her group or company, and ultimately our society. 

A possible solution is to develop some form of a grading index, which auditors could apply to the overall operational and financial health of the company.  The idea is to grade a company on the usage of poor vocabulary in its public announcements or press releases and speeches by its executives.  Companies such as GE would probably fall way down the scale; however, companies such as Emerson Electric would do well.  Large financial institutions would generally do rather poorly, especially outfits as JPMorganChase

I suggest there is a correlation between poor word usage and less than effective corporate results.  If executive managers permit, even espouse, poor terminology the ultimate result can only be poor communication, ineffective customer service, inefficient operations and procedures, and finally: lackluster operating results.

B Quillen – Banks: Save your Clients from Cyber Attacks

The best way to prevent one of your commercial clients becoming a victim of a “cyberheist” is not to let computer crooks into the computers they use to access the organization’s bank accounts online. The surest way to do that is to have the company maintain a clean computer: start with a fresh install of the operating system and all available security updates, or adopt a “live CD” approach.
Make sure that the client uses a dedicated system to access the Bank’s site. The dedicated machine should be restricted from visiting all but a handful of sites necessary to interact with the Bank and manage the organization’s finances. This can be done using custom firewall rules and hosts files, or services like OpenDNS. Remember that the dedicated system approach only works if the company only accesses the Bank’s site from locked-down, dedicated machines. Making any occasional exceptions undermines the whole purpose of this approach.
If possible, install an operating system other than Microsoft Windows. Most malware only runs in a Microsoft Windows environment, so using a different operating system for the dedicated machine is an excellent way to drastically reduce the likelihood of becoming a “cyberheist” victim. Have a “live CD” available, as it is a free and relatively painless way to temporarily boot a Windows PC into a Linux environment. The benefit of this approach is that even if the company fails to maintain a clean Windows PC, malicious software can’t touch or eavesdrop on its banking session while the company is booted into the Live CD installation.
If the company must use a multi-purpose machine on which it checks email, avoid clicking links in email. Also, set email to display without HTML formatting if possible.
Make sure that the client keeps the operating system up-to-date and necessary third-party software with patches. This includes browser plugins. One leading cause of malware infections are exploit kits, which are attack tools stitched into hacked Web sites that exploit unlatched or undocumented vulnerabilities in widely-used browser plugins. Tools such as File Hippo’s Update Checker and Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector will alert as to new security updates available for third-party programs.
Remove any unneeded software from dedicated systems used to access the Bank’s site. In particular, unneeded plugins (such as Java) should be junked.
Avoid opening attachments in email that the client is not expecting. Be particularly wary of emails that warn of some dire consequence unless action is taken immediately.
Provide the client with a bookmark to access the Bank’s site. Have the client avoid “direct navigation,” which involves manually typing the bank’s address into a browser; a fat-fingered keystroke may send the client to a look-alike phishing Web site or one that tries to foist malicious software.
Remember that antivirus software is no substitute for common sense. A majority of today’s cyberheists begin with malware that is spread via email attachments. Many of these threats will go undetected by antivirus tools in the first few days.
Provide the client with ACH Positive Pay. Any item that meets the established criteria will automatically post to its account. The company will be notified via email and/or text message of any rejected electronic item(s) that does not meet the company’s filter criteria. Upon receipt of the rejected items, the company can then return (or have the Bank) them or conveniently add filter criteria for future electronic transactions.
Require two people to sign off on every transaction. This fundamental anti-fraud technique can help block “cyberheists” (and employee fraud).
Additionally, the Bank can provide its clients with multi-factor authentication for its transactions.

Bennett Quillen – Banks: Save your Clients from Cyber Attacks

The best way to prevent one of your commercial clients becoming a victim of a “cyberheist” is not to let computer crooks into the computers they use to access the organization’s bank accounts online. The surest way to do that is to have the company maintain a clean computer: start with a fresh install of the operating system and all available security updates, or adopt a “live CD” approach.
Make sure that the client uses a dedicated system to access the Bank’s site. The dedicated machine should be restricted from visiting all but a handful of sites necessary to interact with the Bank and manage the organization’s finances. This can be done using custom firewall rules and hosts files, or services like OpenDNS. Remember that the dedicated system approach only works if the company only accesses the Bank’s site from locked-down, dedicated machines. Making any occasional exceptions undermines the whole purpose of this approach.
If possible, install an operating system other than Microsoft Windows. Most malware only runs in a Microsoft Windows environment, so using a different operating system for the dedicated machine is an excellent way to drastically reduce the likelihood of becoming a “cyberheist” victim. Have a “live CD” available, as it is a free and relatively painless way to temporarily boot a Windows PC into a Linux environment. The benefit of this approach is that even if the company fails to maintain a clean Windows PC, malicious software can’t touch or eavesdrop on its banking session while the company is booted into the Live CD installation.
If the company must use a multi-purpose machine on which it checks email, avoid clicking links in email. Also, set email to display without HTML formatting if possible.
Make sure that the client keeps the operating system up-to-date and necessary third-party software with patches. This includes browser plugins. One leading cause of malware infections are exploit kits, which are attack tools stitched into hacked Web sites that exploit unlatched or undocumented vulnerabilities in widely-used browser plugins. Tools such as File Hippo’s Update Checker and Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector will alert as to new security updates available for third-party programs.
Remove any unneeded software from dedicated systems used to access the Bank’s site. In particular, unneeded plugins (such as Java) should be junked.
Avoid opening attachments in email that the client is not expecting. Be particularly wary of emails that warn of some dire consequence unless action is taken immediately.
Provide the client with a bookmark to access the Bank’s site. Have the client avoid “direct navigation,” which involves manually typing the bank’s address into a browser; a fat-fingered keystroke may send the client to a look-alike phishing Web site or one that tries to foist malicious software.
Remember that antivirus software is no substitute for common sense. A majority of today’s cyberheists begin with malware that is spread via email attachments. Many of these threats will go undetected by antivirus tools in the first few days.
Provide the client with ACH Positive Pay. Any item that meets the established criteria will automatically post to its account. The company will be notified via email and/or text message of any rejected electronic item(s) that does not meet the company’s filter criteria. Upon receipt of the rejected items, the company can then return (or have the Bank) them or conveniently add filter criteria for future electronic transactions.
Require two people to sign off on every transaction. This fundamental anti-fraud technique can help block “cyberheists” (and employee fraud).
Additionally, the Bank can provide its clients with multi-factor authentication for its transactions.

Bennett B Quillen – Banks: Save your Clients from Cyber Attacks

The best way to prevent one of your commercial clients becoming a victim of a “cyberheist” is not to let computer crooks into the computers they use to access the organization’s bank accounts online. The surest way to do that is to have the company maintain a clean computer: start with a fresh install of the operating system and all available security updates, or adopt a “live CD” approach.
Make sure that the client uses a dedicated system to access the Bank’s site. The dedicated machine should be restricted from visiting all but a handful of sites necessary to interact with the Bank and manage the organization’s finances. This can be done using custom firewall rules and hosts files, or services like OpenDNS. Remember that the dedicated system approach only works if the company only accesses the Bank’s site from locked-down, dedicated machines. Making any occasional exceptions undermines the whole purpose of this approach.
If possible, install an operating system other than Microsoft Windows. Most malware only runs in a Microsoft Windows environment, so using a different operating system for the dedicated machine is an excellent way to drastically reduce the likelihood of becoming a “cyberheist” victim. Have a “live CD” available, as it is a free and relatively painless way to temporarily boot a Windows PC into a Linux environment. The benefit of this approach is that even if the company fails to maintain a clean Windows PC, malicious software can’t touch or eavesdrop on its banking session while the company is booted into the Live CD installation.
If the company must use a multi-purpose machine on which it checks email, avoid clicking links in email. Also, set email to display without HTML formatting if possible.
Make sure that the client keeps the operating system up-to-date and necessary third-party software with patches. This includes browser plugins. One leading cause of malware infections are exploit kits, which are attack tools stitched into hacked Web sites that exploit unlatched or undocumented vulnerabilities in widely-used browser plugins. Tools such as File Hippo’s Update Checker and Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector will alert as to new security updates available for third-party programs.
Remove any unneeded software from dedicated systems used to access the Bank’s site. In particular, unneeded plugins (such as Java) should be junked.
Avoid opening attachments in email that the client is not expecting. Be particularly wary of emails that warn of some dire consequence unless action is taken immediately.
Provide the client with a bookmark to access the Bank’s site. Have the client avoid “direct navigation,” which involves manually typing the bank’s address into a browser; a fat-fingered keystroke may send the client to a look-alike phishing Web site or one that tries to foist malicious software.
Remember that antivirus software is no substitute for common sense. A majority of today’s cyberheists begin with malware that is spread via email attachments. Many of these threats will go undetected by antivirus tools in the first few days.
Provide the client with ACH Positive Pay. Any item that meets the established criteria will automatically post to its account. The company will be notified via email and/or text message of any rejected electronic item(s) that does not meet the company’s filter criteria. Upon receipt of the rejected items, the company can then return (or have the Bank) them or conveniently add filter criteria for future electronic transactions.
Require two people to sign off on every transaction. This fundamental anti-fraud technique can help block “cyberheists” (and employee fraud).
Additionally, the Bank can provide its clients with multi-factor authentication for its transactions.

Bennett Quillen – Negotiating a Phone Sysgtem

Introduction

Determining which phone system is best for your
organization’s needs can be a time consuming
process. Yet, evaluating a new phone system
demands your careful due diligence. Why?
Because if you choose the wrong system, it could
result in a costly mistake and produce long term
consequences if your employees are stuck with
a system that doesn’t fulfill your business needs.

When looking at what seems to be an endless
variety of business phone systems on the
market, don’t be afraid to hold your phone
system vendor representatives accountable for
making you comfortable when you’re ready to
buy. Your vendor representative should be able
to thoroughly answer every question you pose to
them, and provide business terms that you feel
comfortable with.

Whether you’re researching phone systems for
a small- to medium-size business or a large
enterprise, you’ll have the advantage when you
thoroughly prepare before you talk to vendors.

Make sure that you define your organization’s
phone system needs ahead of time and ask
vendor representatives the right questions only
after you’re properly prepared. This will help

selecting the wrong system and help ensure you
get the best deal on the right phone system for
your company.

Following are ten vital questions to ask phone
system vendors while negotiating and well before
you agree to make a purchase.

Question #1

“Will you repeat our phone system needs that
I’ve just described?”

Clarity Is Key

After you define your phone system needs
and then describe them to a vendor, ask their
representative to repeat those needs back to you
so you know that both of you are on the same
page.

This question may seem fairly obvious, however,
you want to make sure your vendor representative
clearly understands your specific phone system
needs so you’ll have the confidence they’ll meet
or even better than that – exceed them.

Question #2

Why is your phone system better than your
competitors?

you eliminate the various risks involved with

1

Title

Don’t Rush Your Rep!

You may be researching a variety of phone
system vendors, but be sure to ask your vendor
representatives to tell you in their own words
why their system is better, more cost effective,
or more suitable for your needs than any other
service available. You may have noted certain
differences and similarities during your discussion.
See if they can highlight others, or if they can’t
really differentiate at all. They’re undoubtedly
more familiar with their competitors than you
are and it’s up to your vendor representative to
differentiate her company’s products from her
competition. So don’t rush your representative.
Allow her plenty of time to highlight her system’s
advantages and benefits.

Question #3

Does this phone system have (specific features)
and is there an extra cost associated with getting
those feature?

Features, Features, Features

You’ll want to have a clear understanding of the
features you want in your phone system before
you begin talking to a vendor. They may suggest
those features you hadn’t thought of that can be
useful as well. Once you identify all of the key
features, determine what, if any, the extra costs

will be.

Vendors vary greatly when it comes to what’s
included in a particular package and what’s
considered an add-on to the service. For
instance, some providers offer a variety of
different phone types that are considered
add-ons to the service. You may end up being
able to get the same phones somewhere else for
less. In addition, certain features, such as voice
mail, might seem like obvious inclusions, but are
actually considered add-ons with an extra cost.

Question #4

Is this system SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)-
based and is it compatible with other technologies?

Will The Marriage Work?

SIP is a signaling protocol used for establishing
sessions in an IP network, and it is now the
protocol of choice among VoIP users. SIP works
very well with Internet applications, and with an
SIP-based system, you have access to a host
of innovative services, including: voice-enriched
e-commerce; click-to-call on Web pages; instant
messaging with buddy lists; collaborative, multi-
party, multimedia conference calls; and more.
Ensuring that your phone system is SIP-based
can save you a lot of headaches over the long
term.

2

Title

In addition, you want to ensure that your
phone system can be integrated with the other
technologies you use, such as Microsoft Outlook
for email and sharing calendars. Tell your vendor
representative about the other technologies you
use – both in your office and remotely – and have
them explain compatibilities and other important
issues.

Question #5

Can this phone system scale as my business
grows, and will there be extra costs if or when
we expand?

Avoiding Growing Pains

If you are planning to grow your business, open
new locations, or otherwise make changes to
your existing infrastructure, make sure your
phone system is going to be flexible enough to
make those changes with you, without adding on
a lot of extra costs and hassles.

For example, do your employees change desks
or move locations frequently? Are the phone lines
and phone numbers easily transferable? Ask
your vendor representative to share examples
with you about how other clients’ business needs
changed over time and how their particular phone
system performed amidst those changes.

Question #6

“How many data centers do you have and where
are they located?”

Location Affects Speed

Along with scaling as your business changes,
let your vendor representative know where and
how your phone system will be used, such as
whether it will be used mainly for local calls or
internationally. Your phone system provider
needs to have adequate data centers placed in
enough locations to ensure that geographical
distance is not a hindrance to speed and
efficiency.

Question #7

“Since we are considering a VoIP setup for our
new phone system, what can you tell me about
bandwidth requirements and any internal network
requirements?”

Handling The Load

Because VoIP requires a broadband connection,
ask your vendor representative about what
kind of bandwidth you’ll need for simultaneous
users. As for your internal network, such as your
routers and switches, ask your representative

3

Title

about any load capacity issues that you need to
be aware of and what type of router you should
use. Most providers will suggest using a router
with configurable Quality of Service settings and
assigning VoIP traffic high priority to maximize
quality.

Question #8

“Are businesses similar to mine using your phone
systems?”

Where’s The Evidence?

Now that your vendor representative understands
your needs, ask him if other businesses similar to
yours (in size and usage patterns, for example)
are using his company’s phone systems.
Vendors should be able to provide you with
evidence such as case studies (also known as
customer success stories), which can go a long
way in helping you make your decision. This is
a good time to ask for references or additional
testimonials as well. If your representative balks
at your request, or is unable to provide a positive
response, view that as a definite “red flag” and
consider other vendor options.

Question #9

“Can I talk to 2-3 of your current customers about

Learn From Voices of Experience

Don’t be shy about asking your vendor
representative for references. Sure, they will
never give you the name of a past customer who
was unhappy with the service, but if they can give
you two to three references from customers who
are happy and willing to share their experiences
with you, that’s a good indicator. And more often
than not, once you’re able to connect with a
reference on the phone, they will be candid with
you about their experiences.

Question #10

“What kind of service and support will I get for
both installation and on an ongoing basis?”

Customer Support Can Vary

If problems arise, you’ll want to know who to
call and when they’ll be available to help you.
You don’t want to get into a situation where you
sign a contract and then your vendor is totally
unavailable. Level of service and support
is another aspect to buying a phone system
that can vary widely among vendors. This is
something you want to be clear about before you
sign your contract vs. being disappointed later on
when there’s no one there to help you except an
inadequate FAQs page on the vendor’s website.

how they like the phone system?”

Bennett B Quillen – Negotiating a Phone System

Introduction

Determining which phone system is best for your
organization’s needs can be a time consuming
process. Yet, evaluating a new phone system
demands your careful due diligence. Why?
Because if you choose the wrong system, it could
result in a costly mistake and produce long term
consequences if your employees are stuck with
a system that doesn’t fulfill your business needs.

When looking at what seems to be an endless
variety of business phone systems on the
market, don’t be afraid to hold your phone
system vendor representatives accountable for
making you comfortable when you’re ready to
buy. Your vendor representative should be able
to thoroughly answer every question you pose to
them, and provide business terms that you feel
comfortable with.

Whether you’re researching phone systems for
a small- to medium-size business or a large
enterprise, you’ll have the advantage when you
thoroughly prepare before you talk to vendors.

Make sure that you define your organization’s
phone system needs ahead of time and ask
vendor representatives the right questions only
after you’re properly prepared. This will help

selecting the wrong system and help ensure you
get the best deal on the right phone system for
your company.

Following are ten vital questions to ask phone
system vendors while negotiating and well before
you agree to make a purchase.

Question #1

“Will you repeat our phone system needs that
I’ve just described?”

Clarity Is Key

After you define your phone system needs
and then describe them to a vendor, ask their
representative to repeat those needs back to you
so you know that both of you are on the same
page.

This question may seem fairly obvious, however,
you want to make sure your vendor representative
clearly understands your specific phone system
needs so you’ll have the confidence they’ll meet
or even better than that – exceed them.

Question #2

Why is your phone system better than your
competitors?

you eliminate the various risks involved with

1

Title

Don’t Rush Your Rep!

You may be researching a variety of phone
system vendors, but be sure to ask your vendor
representatives to tell you in their own words
why their system is better, more cost effective,
or more suitable for your needs than any other
service available. You may have noted certain
differences and similarities during your discussion.
See if they can highlight others, or if they can’t
really differentiate at all. They’re undoubtedly
more familiar with their competitors than you
are and it’s up to your vendor representative to
differentiate her company’s products from her
competition. So don’t rush your representative.
Allow her plenty of time to highlight her system’s
advantages and benefits.

Question #3

Does this phone system have (specific features)
and is there an extra cost associated with getting
those feature?

Features, Features, Features

You’ll want to have a clear understanding of the
features you want in your phone system before
you begin talking to a vendor. They may suggest
those features you hadn’t thought of that can be
useful as well. Once you identify all of the key
features, determine what, if any, the extra costs

will be.

Vendors vary greatly when it comes to what’s
included in a particular package and what’s
considered an add-on to the service. For
instance, some providers offer a variety of
different phone types that are considered
add-ons to the service. You may end up being
able to get the same phones somewhere else for
less. In addition, certain features, such as voice
mail, might seem like obvious inclusions, but are
actually considered add-ons with an extra cost.

Question #4

Is this system SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)-
based and is it compatible with other technologies?

Will The Marriage Work?

SIP is a signaling protocol used for establishing
sessions in an IP network, and it is now the
protocol of choice among VoIP users. SIP works
very well with Internet applications, and with an
SIP-based system, you have access to a host
of innovative services, including: voice-enriched
e-commerce; click-to-call on Web pages; instant
messaging with buddy lists; collaborative, multi-
party, multimedia conference calls; and more.
Ensuring that your phone system is SIP-based
can save you a lot of headaches over the long
term.

2

Title

In addition, you want to ensure that your
phone system can be integrated with the other
technologies you use, such as Microsoft Outlook
for email and sharing calendars. Tell your vendor
representative about the other technologies you
use – both in your office and remotely – and have
them explain compatibilities and other important
issues.

Question #5

Can this phone system scale as my business
grows, and will there be extra costs if or when
we expand?

Avoiding Growing Pains

If you are planning to grow your business, open
new locations, or otherwise make changes to
your existing infrastructure, make sure your
phone system is going to be flexible enough to
make those changes with you, without adding on
a lot of extra costs and hassles.

For example, do your employees change desks
or move locations frequently? Are the phone lines
and phone numbers easily transferable? Ask
your vendor representative to share examples
with you about how other clients’ business needs
changed over time and how their particular phone
system performed amidst those changes.

Question #6

“How many data centers do you have and where
are they located?”

Location Affects Speed

Along with scaling as your business changes,
let your vendor representative know where and
how your phone system will be used, such as
whether it will be used mainly for local calls or
internationally. Your phone system provider
needs to have adequate data centers placed in
enough locations to ensure that geographical
distance is not a hindrance to speed and
efficiency.

Question #7

“Since we are considering a VoIP setup for our
new phone system, what can you tell me about
bandwidth requirements and any internal network
requirements?”

Handling The Load

Because VoIP requires a broadband connection,
ask your vendor representative about what
kind of bandwidth you’ll need for simultaneous
users. As for your internal network, such as your
routers and switches, ask your representative

3

Title

about any load capacity issues that you need to
be aware of and what type of router you should
use. Most providers will suggest using a router
with configurable Quality of Service settings and
assigning VoIP traffic high priority to maximize
quality.

Question #8

“Are businesses similar to mine using your phone
systems?”

Where’s The Evidence?

Now that your vendor representative understands
your needs, ask him if other businesses similar to
yours (in size and usage patterns, for example)
are using his company’s phone systems.
Vendors should be able to provide you with
evidence such as case studies (also known as
customer success stories), which can go a long
way in helping you make your decision. This is
a good time to ask for references or additional
testimonials as well. If your representative balks
at your request, or is unable to provide a positive
response, view that as a definite “red flag” and
consider other vendor options.

Question #9

“Can I talk to 2-3 of your current customers about

Learn From Voices of Experience

Don’t be shy about asking your vendor
representative for references. Sure, they will
never give you the name of a past customer who
was unhappy with the service, but if they can give
you two to three references from customers who
are happy and willing to share their experiences
with you, that’s a good indicator. And more often
than not, once you’re able to connect with a
reference on the phone, they will be candid with
you about their experiences.

Question #10

“What kind of service and support will I get for
both installation and on an ongoing basis?”

Customer Support Can Vary

If problems arise, you’ll want to know who to
call and when they’ll be available to help you.
You don’t want to get into a situation where you
sign a contract and then your vendor is totally
unavailable. Level of service and support
is another aspect to buying a phone system
that can vary widely among vendors. This is
something you want to be clear about before you
sign your contract vs. being disappointed later on
when there’s no one there to help you except an
inadequate FAQs page on the vendor’s website.

how they like the phone system?”

Introduction

Determining which phone system is best for your
organization’s needs can be a time consuming
process. Yet, evaluating a new phone system
demands your careful due diligence. Why?
Because if you choose the wrong system, it could
result in a costly mistake and produce long term
consequences if your employees are stuck with
a system that doesn’t fulfill your business needs.

When looking at what seems to be an endless
variety of business phone systems on the
market, don’t be afraid to hold your phone
system vendor representatives accountable for
making you comfortable when you’re ready to
buy. Your vendor representative should be able
to thoroughly answer every question you pose to
them, and provide business terms that you feel
comfortable with.

Whether you’re researching phone systems for
a small- to medium-size business or a large
enterprise, you’ll have the advantage when you
thoroughly prepare before you talk to vendors.

Make sure that you define your organization’s
phone system needs ahead of time and ask
vendor representatives the right questions only
after you’re properly prepared. This will help

selecting the wrong system and help ensure you
get the best deal on the right phone system for
your company.

Following are ten vital questions to ask phone
system vendors while negotiating and well before
you agree to make a purchase.

Question #1

“Will you repeat our phone system needs that
I’ve just described?”

Clarity Is Key

After you define your phone system needs
and then describe them to a vendor, ask their
representative to repeat those needs back to you
so you know that both of you are on the same
page.

This question may seem fairly obvious, however,
you want to make sure your vendor representative
clearly understands your specific phone system
needs so you’ll have the confidence they’ll meet
or even better than that – exceed them.

Question #2

Why is your phone system better than your
competitors?

you eliminate the various risks involved with

1

Title

Don’t Rush Your Rep!

You may be researching a variety of phone
system vendors, but be sure to ask your vendor
representatives to tell you in their own words
why their system is better, more cost effective,
or more suitable for your needs than any other
service available. You may have noted certain
differences and similarities during your discussion.
See if they can highlight others, or if they can’t
really differentiate at all. They’re undoubtedly
more familiar with their competitors than you
are and it’s up to your vendor representative to
differentiate her company’s products from her
competition. So don’t rush your representative.
Allow her plenty of time to highlight her system’s
advantages and benefits.

Question #3

Does this phone system have (specific features)
and is there an extra cost associated with getting
those feature?

Features, Features, Features

You’ll want to have a clear understanding of the
features you want in your phone system before
you begin talking to a vendor. They may suggest
those features you hadn’t thought of that can be
useful as well. Once you identify all of the key
features, determine what, if any, the extra costs

will be.

Vendors vary greatly when it comes to what’s
included in a particular package and what’s
considered an add-on to the service. For
instance, some providers offer a variety of
different phone types that are considered
add-ons to the service. You may end up being
able to get the same phones somewhere else for
less. In addition, certain features, such as voice
mail, might seem like obvious inclusions, but are
actually considered add-ons with an extra cost.

Question #4

Is this system SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)-
based and is it compatible with other technologies?

Will The Marriage Work?

SIP is a signaling protocol used for establishing
sessions in an IP network, and it is now the
protocol of choice among VoIP users. SIP works
very well with Internet applications, and with an
SIP-based system, you have access to a host
of innovative services, including: voice-enriched
e-commerce; click-to-call on Web pages; instant
messaging with buddy lists; collaborative, multi-
party, multimedia conference calls; and more.
Ensuring that your phone system is SIP-based
can save you a lot of headaches over the long
term.

2

Title

In addition, you want to ensure that your
phone system can be integrated with the other
technologies you use, such as Microsoft Outlook
for email and sharing calendars. Tell your vendor
representative about the other technologies you
use – both in your office and remotely – and have
them explain compatibilities and other important
issues.

Question #5

Can this phone system scale as my business
grows, and will there be extra costs if or when
we expand?

Avoiding Growing Pains

If you are planning to grow your business, open
new locations, or otherwise make changes to
your existing infrastructure, make sure your
phone system is going to be flexible enough to
make those changes with you, without adding on
a lot of extra costs and hassles.

For example, do your employees change desks
or move locations frequently? Are the phone lines
and phone numbers easily transferable? Ask
your vendor representative to share examples
with you about how other clients’ business needs
changed over time and how their particular phone
system performed amidst those changes.

Question #6

“How many data centers do you have and where
are they located?”

Location Affects Speed

Along with scaling as your business changes,
let your vendor representative know where and
how your phone system will be used, such as
whether it will be used mainly for local calls or
internationally. Your phone system provider
needs to have adequate data centers placed in
enough locations to ensure that geographical
distance is not a hindrance to speed and
efficiency.

Question #7

“Since we are considering a VoIP setup for our
new phone system, what can you tell me about
bandwidth requirements and any internal network
requirements?”

Handling The Load

Because VoIP requires a broadband connection,
ask your vendor representative about what
kind of bandwidth you’ll need for simultaneous
users. As for your internal network, such as your
routers and switches, ask your representative

3

Title

about any load capacity issues that you need to
be aware of and what type of router you should
use. Most providers will suggest using a router
with configurable Quality of Service settings and
assigning VoIP traffic high priority to maximize
quality.

Question #8

“Are businesses similar to mine using your phone
systems?”

Where’s The Evidence?

Now that your vendor representative understands
your needs, ask him if other businesses similar to
yours (in size and usage patterns, for example)
are using his company’s phone systems.
Vendors should be able to provide you with
evidence such as case studies (also known as
customer success stories), which can go a long
way in helping you make your decision. This is
a good time to ask for references or additional
testimonials as well. If your representative balks
at your request, or is unable to provide a positive
response, view that as a definite “red flag” and
consider other vendor options.

Question #9

“Can I talk to 2-3 of your current customers about

Learn From Voices of Experience

Don’t be shy about asking your vendor
representative for references. Sure, they will
never give you the name of a past customer who
was unhappy with the service, but if they can give
you two to three references from customers who
are happy and willing to share their experiences
with you, that’s a good indicator. And more often
than not, once you’re able to connect with a
reference on the phone, they will be candid with
you about their experiences.

Question #10

“What kind of service and support will I get for
both installation and on an ongoing basis?”

Customer Support Can Vary

If problems arise, you’ll want to know who to
call and when they’ll be available to help you.
You don’t want to get into a situation where you
sign a contract and then your vendor is totally
unavailable. Level of service and support
is another aspect to buying a phone system
that can vary widely among vendors. This is
something you want to be clear about before you
sign your contract vs. being disappointed later on
when there’s no one there to help you except an
inadequate FAQs page on the vendor’s website.

how they like the phone system?”