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Communications consulting is a profession that assists corporations and other organizations to determine what they need in the way of communications equipment and services in order to function with maximum efficiency. In many instances, consultants will not only advise on what is needed to establish a viable communications network, but also actively assist in the purchase process. The exact approach followed by a communications consultant will vary based on the culture of the corporation, the current type of services and equipment needed, and the company’s plans for short term and long term growth.
The goal of communications consulting is to ensure that the client has everything required to manage communications efforts successfully and be poised for future expansion of the communication network. At the same time, consultants will also be sensitive to any limitations on the part of the client. For example, if a company has a limited budget to devote to revamping or establishing a communications network, the consultant will seek to identify the most critical devices and services required and make sure they are established first. Remaining line items are prioritized based on desirability and the remaining balance of the funds set aside to create the network.
Communications consulting can address any type of electronic communications services and equipment required or desired by the client. One of the most common consulting jobs involves the assembly of an effective telephone system within the corporate structure. This involves assessing the current needs of the business in terms of the number of lines needed for the system, how many desktop units are required, and the number of handheld devices that must be able to connect with the network. The evaluation will also identify the features that will be helpful in doing business, such as voice mail, call routing and prioritizing, forwarding and call parking.
Along with the basic phone system, communications consulting will also address other communication tools that may be of assistance to the business. This may include determining if the company generates enough audio and video conferencing activity to merit the purchase of bridging equipment and the establishment of trunk groups from a provider to handle the conferencing activity. Alternatively, the consultant may determine it is in the best interests of the company to outsource these services. If that is the case, the consultant will identify and evaluate various audio, web, and video conferencing providers and seek to negotiate the most attractive rates possible for his or her client.
In the event that a company wishes to establish an internal data network to integrate such functions as marketing, sales, and accounting, communications consulting will focus on the purchase of equipment to meet these needs. This will also include the task of evaluating different software packages that make it possible to assign various levels of access based on login credentials and position responsibilities. For example, salespeople can be limited to viewing customer invoices, but not be able to create or alter an invoice. By the same token, members of the accounting team may have access to information about rates or contracts issued by Sales to a particular customer, but not have access to notes entered by the sales team or any other sales function.
In the end, communications consulting is about creating the framework of a communications network that will serve a client well today, while also establishing a foundation for future expansion as needed. In some cases, consultants are kept on retainer and perform an annual evaluation of a client’s communications needs. At other times, the consultant may establish a contract with a specified duration and list of items that will be addressed during that time. It is not unusual for a consultant to be actively engaged in more than one client project at a time.