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Norstar Replaces Altigen

You've read it correctly. Why would a customer want to go from an IP based solution back to a TDM, legacy Norstar system?When Lockheed Martin is one of your prime customers and they tell you "do something with your phone system," you can bet my new customer did.

What went wrong?

According to my customer, the building is in a shared tenant services mode of operation meaning, three different companies share the Altigen system. Shared tenant services isn't as easy to pull off as some think -it does require more than just plugging it in. The customer states that only two (2) call park zones are in the system and employees from all companies are always mixing up calls - picking up the wrong caller. The biggest complaint among all the employees in my customer's company is that the Altigen is not providing line appearances of all the lines. Then, when callers are placed on hold, the called party can't retrieve the call. To season their dislike of the system - I heard today about the constant down time when the system goes down for no apparent reason.

Granted- all these issues are correctable and easily. But why weren't they?

Let me explain to no discredit towards Altigen, what I saw today during cutover. First, the Altigen installation looks like hades. There were numerous un-terminated cables hanging down behind the racks along with cables connecting to carrier CSUs for T1's and PRIs. The Altigen phones are nice looking sets and these sets are wired using just one pair adapted at the 66-block to a serial cable (RJ21x to Serial) connecting into the Altigen system. YUCK! But what really got me is as I was leaving the equipment room, I noticed a red light on the UPS connected to the Altigen. The red light is APC speak for "time to replace the batteries" in the UPS. Ugly and poor installation practices, unresponsiveness to the customer and lack of maintenance are telltale signs of trouble.

Now the first thing out of the rep's mouth is "the dealer needs more training." No, he doesn't, he needs a new career and not one in telephony. The second thing I hear is Altigen or any other manufacturer needs to straighten out their dealers and stiffen the requirements. That doesn't always work either - in fact, more telephony manufacturers lose more revenue because their dealer/VAR requirements are too tight and some of the BDMs (Business Development Managers) have in their heads they want to act like Cisco and require a long list of "to do's" for their dealers. (You BDMs know who you are) The biggest and worst telephony sin I see is opportunity selling. According to an old NATA study on SMB telephony VARS vs data VARS - 70% of a voice guy's or gal's business is repeat business and only 30% of a data VARS business is repeat. Think about these numbers. Granted, while things are still converging; companies on both sides (voice - data) are still acquiring new skill sets, and let's face it - going to class doesn't make you an expert. Time in the field is what counts. The old ad that 3Com ran with two butts under the desk promised we'd have only one. It still isn't the rule. In fact, after last year's IPT troubleshooting session in Orlando, I commented that we now have Doctors (Doctorates) fixing telephony. Going back to the 3Com ad, that one butt commands a lot of dough though - just ask the Cisco telephony guys.

If your installation is ugly, it shows a lack of pride. If your installation lacks maintenance or you are unresponsive to your customer then someone else will fill in the blanks. Times are tough, especially for those that don't understand that selling a telephone system isn't a one-time deal. Again, I don't discredit Altigen for a bone headed dealer. There are billions of dollars of Nortel assets out there in telephone land. Nortel's legacy gear works great, lasts a long time and has a good resale value even on ebay. TDM isn't going to go away for a long time. That's my argument of old and as long as boneheads do IPT installs like this, I'll keep making money even when times are tough. That's my story and I'm sticking to it and what works (for the customer).

In case you're wondering: Did I sell the customer a Norstar (new or used)? No! The customer owns a couple of buildings and one that is partially vacant was equipped with a Norstar system, voice mail and phones. What a deal. He asked, "do I use this one or should I buy a new system?" Money's tight even for bankers these days and whether or not TDM is obsolete as some think; there's still value in the legacy gear. Putting off an investment in a new system wasn't on this customer's agenda. The customer contacted me originally to buy a new system and found me on the factory website. At the end of the day, he simply wanted what he had before.