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Enthusiast

I'm not drinking the 'Kool-Aid' yet...Help me out...

The Cisco Call Manager Kool-Aid that is :) Ok folks, I figured this would be the best place to ask this type of question since you all use this system and maybe have more insight than me. We have a Call Manager 4.0 with Unity voice mail (2 7970 phones, 2 7960 phones and 1 7940). This was purchased ($26,000) as a pilot test to see if we like it enough to start installing it in smaller offices. Right now I have it linked to an Avaya PBX (G3r) via ISDN PRI tie trunks. I'm using the uniform dial plan function in the G3r to send calls to certain extensions over the PRI to the Call Manager phone (only 5 phones right now for the test). Outgoing calls from the Call Manager route over the PRI, through the G3r and out to the PSTN trunks. That's all working fine.

Having been in the phone business as an installer, administrator and trainer since 1993 (I did everything from running the cable, installing the system to training the end users when complete) - at a small but fast growing Avaya business partner, I have loads of experience on everything from small to large Avaya systems and anything you can think of to connect to them (loudspeaker paging, etc). I'm also an Ericsson MD110 (PBX) certified installation technician. Suffice it to say, I'm a phone guy. Now that we've had this Call Manager installed for a few weeks, I've had time to get an impression of it. As of right now, there are more things I don't like about it than things I do like. An example would be a simple task like adding 1 phone. It takes 1 command (1 form to fill out) to add a phone in Avaya's system. But when I jump over to the Call Manager, I find myself having to add a device, add a user ID to go with that device, add a new button template if I want to edit the buttons and then add a new softkey template if I want to edit the softkeys...and of course then go to the phone again and change it so it's using those new templates...and don't forget to restart the phone to apply the new templates. Lots of jumping around for a simple task. All of this can be done on one form in Avaya's system.

Now don't go flaming me for saying I like Avaya better in many respects. There are quite a few things I DO like about the Call Manager, but I'm having trouble trying to make it do all the things I can do in Avaya's system. One of my biggest problems is call coverage. I read some things in Cisco's help guide about setting up hunt groups and doing other things to help cover calls. (I'm very familiar with hunt groups/ACD & call vectoring in Avaya's system) This would be like an executive/admin type of situation where the exec needs more sophisticated call coverage...maybe even needs a call to ring offsite and then pull back to voice mail or continue to cover to other phones in the office before it finally covers to voice mail. I read some about the IPMA feature and good grief it seems like a lot of administration to get setup and I'm not sure it would do what we need to anyway. My issue with Call Manager is the unnecessary complexity and how many steps it takes to do simple things that can be done in 5 minutes in an Avaya system...but it's taking much longer than that in Cisco's system to setup. That and the lack of standard features on Call Manager. When I say lack of standard features I mean when I look at the administration page in our G3r for a phone, I can go to a button and scroll through a list of (literally) 147 features that can be assign to a button. On Cisco's system it seems like there are very few options when it comes to what functions you can put on a button or features in general, on the phone admin page. Don't get me started on the 'services' issue...lol I didn't realize I'd need to be a developer to be able to create and then assign features to a phone! :) Granted, some of the services I've seen are kinda cool...

Continued in next post...

26 REPLIES 26
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Enthusiast

Re: I'm not drinking the 'Kool-Aid' yet...Help me out...

...but everyday users are simply looking for ways to handle their calls better and they can live without checking the weather on their phone.

So my question is (for those that have been using this system for awhile), what's your impression?...and am I just not seeing it's potential because of my limited experience with it? Do you find yourself always scratching your head trying to figure out how to make something work for users?...as in how to make the phone do what they need it to? And if you can find a way to meet the need, is it taking lots of administration, help guide reading and tweaking to do it? My impression right now is Avaya (formerly 'Ma Bell') has been doing telephony since the late 1800's and that's why they have more phone related features/functions than Cisco.

When I say I'm not drinking the kool-aid yet, I say that because I'm worried that out of the 5,000 + users we have, there will be MANY times where I can't meet a user's needs with this system because we're so used to the flexibility and features offered in Avaya's systems. The Call Manager would be GREAT for users that don't have any special call handling issues or needs for features that I simply can't find on Call Manager. But I am honestly concerned that I wouldn't be able to meet people's needs if we were to install this system for 'real' usage. So please give me your real world opinions on this system. Would you do it again? If so, why? What bothers you about it? What do you love about it? Do you find yourself telling users 'you can't do that because the system won't do it...sorry'? I personally handle all telecom issues for about 19 of our U.S. offices. Somewhere around 2,000 extensions (phones, modems, faxes) total. So as you can see, I don't have time to be a developer or spend loads of time trying to figure out if I can make something work for my users. I rarely have a request that I can't do in Avaya's system. I can almost always find a way to do what the user needs to do and almost always very quickly and with minimal administration. This is what I want. Flexibility is a must since many users have different needs and so they have different requirements for phone service. Comments welcome! Please share your 'story'. If I'm just not fully understanding the capabilities of this system, let me know. That's why I'm posting. I'm all for giving it a fair shake...and since we already spent $26k on it....lol Drop in the bucket though I guess in the big picture.

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Enthusiast

Re: I'm not drinking the 'Kool-Aid' yet...Help me out...

I'm not familiar with administration on an Avaya system, so I can't cover a comparison on interface design. I have personally configured many IP Phone systems of various sizes and sympathize with your newbie view of Callmanager's admin screens. Sometimes it can take some hopping around to different pages to make a scenario work. "One Page to Do it All" (cheap Lord of the Rings analogy) certainly sounds great! - Although I have seldom been without a solution for whatever comes up. I know, you can probably reach deep within your war stories to come up with a good challenge. Bring it on... ;-) and I'm sure you can come up with "something" that I can't do in Callmanager. The wildcards here are Cisco Unity, Cisco Emergency Responder, and IPCC to name a few. I've come to know these products well and have often incorporated them to solve many different needs. Unity alone has answered the call a number of times (no pun intended) when I was stuck with a unique calling scenario. Now not everyone goes with a CER or IPCC server, though Callmanager/Unity deployments are commonplace. In a nutshell, those of us who have been using Callmanager, Unity, etc., etc., have figured out how to make it do what we want through experience. As with many software-driven products a newbie can often be overwhelmed by the developer's choice of user interface. Perhaps Cisco can approach Apple on designing an interface. That would be a hoot. But again, and perhaps more seriously, those of us who have used the product often know our way around. And for whatever mundane, rarely-used, but highly coveted in a "we've got it, you don't" comparison ... well that's where software updates come in. Feel free to pose your scenario on the forum here and see what comes up. Many folks here are quite talented in solving problems. Give it a try.

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Enthusiast

Re: I'm not drinking the 'Kool-Aid' yet...Help me out...

Thanks :) I'll be thinking about some specific issues I have and see if I can't get a solution.

Highlighted
Participant

Re: I'm not drinking the 'Kool-Aid' yet...Help me out...

Jon, i also did a few ccm pilots, and at the end of the day I relized that my endusers do use more than a handfull of features that couldn't be easily replicated in ccm world. In addition, ipcc could not easily replicate my avaya callcenter or cms, needed alot of software and hardware. I have the best callcenter software so why downgrade ???

Also there was NO way i was going to manage both a avaya and cisco phone switch just to do ip phones?

(i also couldn't believe how easy it was to admin the avaya system, initially i thought it was going to suck because of no web front end)

So i went with 8700 with 4600 series ip phones and IP softphones(ip agent), on my cisco data network. no issues and endusers are getting the benifits of IPT. oh and by ther way the avaya mobility features are a hit with my executives.. who would of thought?

Highlighted
Enthusiast

Re: I'm not drinking the 'Kool-Aid' yet...Help me out...

We're dumping all of our Nortel gear and switching to Cisco for the network. So I mean even if we don't go with Cisco for IP phones, it's not like they're going hungry :) I don't want to turn this into a 'mine is better than yours' thread...LOL...really. I do understand some of my concerns about the call manager come from me not knowing this system as well as Avaya's. I don't know that I'll have the chance to get to know it that well either. There's just not enough time in the day. We're also testing (well, actually using) an Asterisk SIP box for interoffice calling (using Avaya PBX w/ISDN PRI trunks to a Linux computer that has a T1 card and Asterisk SIP running on it)...also testing Avaya IP phones. I've got an Avaya 4620IP phone on my desk (all of these are operational), a Cisco 7970G, Avaya 8434DX, Avaya 8410D and a plain ole 2500 set (analog phone). Lots going on. I just want to settle on one solution and be done with it :) We're just now getting into IP telephony and I would imagine new systems we install will be all IP ready or full IP (phones, etc).

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Collaborator

Re: I'm not drinking the 'Kool-Aid' yet...Help me out...

One thing to consider is QOS and CAC (call admission control). If you're going to carry calls over your WAN it is imperative that the phone system be smart enough to know how many calls it can allow on any link. We evaluated Nortel IP Telephony, and their idea of CAC was to send a couple ping packets, look at the response time, and if it looked OK place the call. Of course the problem is that calls last an undetermined time, and data traffic is inherently bursty. So you may end up with more calls than the QOS can guarantee quality for, and along comes a big FTP and all the calls go to hell. Cisco does a good job with CAC.

We replaced 50 sites of Nortel PBXs, and key sets with Cisco CCM, CME, Unity, and are pleased with how well it has worked. Our call centers are using I3 EIC that is TAPI integrated with the Call Manager.

Our users are very happy overall, and satisfied with the features. Unity and I3 provides the time of day routing, and special call handling capability we needed.

Highlighted
Participant

Re: I'm not drinking the 'Kool-Aid' yet...Help me out...

You might also want to consider that Cisco is one vendor that does the lot and does it well over 4,000,000 IP phones sold.Cisco has been doning IP for 20 years IP = Cisco

Most Avaya sites use Cisco switches and not cajun switches why is this ?

Then consider Cisco support its the best in the world hands down no competition.

Hmm what about security with Avaya

I'll admit Avaya does have some nice features with S8700 and remote gateways with LSP and vectoring + some other nice features.

They also have very restrictive licensing policy like LSP gateways staying up for a certain amount of hours then shutting down.

Cisco dont operate like this they never have Listen Share Deliver thats Cisco

I have been working with CM since 2.4 and seen it evolve to 4.1 now its onwards and upwards keep watch for V5

Al

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Enthusiast

Re: I'm not drinking the 'Kool-Aid' yet...Help me out...

Apples and Oranges - I wouldn't want to use Cajun switches. Avaya is known for telephony, not switches. Cisco support is good...I know that. I also like how Cisco licenses things...and their service agreements are less expensive.

This is all about features in my opinion. Like I said, if I can't meet the user's needs, what's the point? Time spent doing move/add/change activity is a big factor as well.

One thing I wish someone would tell me how to do on the Call Manager is - How do I get rid of the delay in dialing when you have a non-NANP number you're dialing? Example, I need to send 958080 to another system over ISDN PRI tie trunks. Since I'm not dialing a 4 digit ext, a 7, 10 or 11 digit number, it keeps waiting for me to 'finish' dialing (whatever the default timeout is) and then it finally times out and sends what I dialed. With Avaya, I can specifiy a min/max on whatever dialed digits I'm watching for, but I can't see a way to do this with Cisco. I'd love to know how...if possible. We have some shortcuts setup to dial a few remote offices (we don't have tie trunks to any other office). What we're doing is inserting the rest of the number for the caller in the other system. Once it sees the 95xxxx, it converts it to the real 11 digit long distance number.

Highlighted
Beginner

Re: I'm not drinking the 'Kool-Aid' yet...Help me out...

OK, the kool-aid comment caught my eye and after reading through the comments, I want to add my opinion.

My viewpoint is a little different as I work for a Cisco certified gold partner and install CCM daily. I was also a 'phone guy' on the NEC and Avaya platforms in the vendor environment and I understand the culture change. I hated the web interface...until I was used to it. Going back to NEC's binary was much worse.

I have to say that CCM rocks. The feature availability is definitely better now in CCM 4.1 with the addition of auth codes, client matter codes and time of day routing (no additional apps required.) Almost all feature requests can be addressed, some with additional applications as stated in previous comments. The process may be different with the end result the same.

I would recommend getting some help from Cisco professional services or a certified partner to help out with the design and configuration of your pilot. With someone to help out you can get them to set it up and show you the ins and outs so that you add to it without the stress of trying to figure out how to enable the features you need.

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Participant

Re: I'm not drinking the 'Kool-Aid' yet...Help me out...

nice response.The problem i've had with ccm is what you stated above "Almost all feature requests can be addressed some with additional applications" It's always use the unity server or we will do it with ipcc or some xml app whats the point?? When my existing avaya system does it more efficiently with no adjuct servers or "workarounds" and i still get ip phones???

Beginner

Re: I'm not drinking the 'Kool-Aid' yet...Help me out...

I came from the nortel world and I agree 100% that the administrative interface needs to be addressed in Call Manager. If it's going to stay web based Cisco needs to bring it to a good web designer. As it stands now there is too much involved in adding a user, particulary when IPCC is involved. It doesn't show a whole lot of planning and design.

On the other hand I haven't had that many issues not being able to provide a feature that a user needs, especially with Call Manager 4.1. CCM 3.3 definately had its shortcomings. In fact I think IPCC Express if far more flexible than anything nortel offers for the 50-300 ACD agent space for example.

Some of the other functionality that you mentioned, i.e. pulling a call back from an external transfer, is in Personal Assitant now, but will be added to Unity soon. For your issue routing a call through another PBX, just add a new route pattern specific to what you are trying to do, 95XXX. Since it is the closest match you will get better response time than with 9.@ route patterns. Also, are you using MGCP or H.323 for gateway control? With Call Manager, MGCP, and PRI circuits I have never seen faster call setup.

I'm curious what other scenarios you can't work in the CCM framework. By the way, don't sell XML short. It is a paradigm shift from the traditional PBXs, but providing custom apps to the end user can be EXTEMELY powerful, and often involves time investment at rollout only.

Kevin

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Enthusiast

Re: I'm not drinking the 'Kool-Aid' yet...Help me out...

We're using the MGCP. And yes it's very fast - for example when I call in to the Unity from outside, I don't even hear it ring...it answers immediately!

I did try adding 95XXXX and I also tried the specific number 958080. I looked and looked in the help menus and found nothing that would help with the timeout on dialing issue. I found this bit of info in the help guide and I think this is my 'gotcha' -

"Note : The NANP designates the numbering plan for the PSTN in the United States and its territories, Canada, Bermuda, and many Caribbean nations. NANP includes any number that can be dialed and is recognized in North America."

The key there in that statement is "any number that can be dialed and is recognized in North America". 958080 obviously isn't a standard NANP number...and it doesn't match my extension dial plan either. So I think that's why I have the delay.

Perhaps some of the features I'm not seeing are add-ons and something we didn't buy...like maybe more of a call center/ACD package we didn't buy. Some of the features I do see simply work differently than we're used to and won't work as we need them. Maybe people think I'm being too picky, but all I can say is when someone is asking me for something and they're very specific on how they want it to work, that's where I can see problems.

Another thing I don't see so far is remote access to system dial tone from offiste. For example with Avaya I can setup a DID number to ring into a second dial tone. I enter a passcode and then I have dial tone like I'm at the office. This is good for when I'm offiste and need to test something. Like say a person has trouble dialing something. I can setup remote access and get dial tone from their system like I'm there with them and then I can make test calls and see what's going on. While doing this I can do a status of the trunk I'm using which is also useful. Helps to prove problems with the telco sometimes.

And the help guide (web based help that pops up when you select Help - Contents and Index from CM) is wrong. I see no mention at all of Fast Dials in our help menu. I had to Google it to find a release 3.1 notes on how to set it up. I never even knew about fast dials until our salesman mentioned it. We're on 4.0 If you search for fast dials, fast dial, fastdials, fastdial...you get no results in my help menu.

Highlighted
Beginner

Re: I'm not drinking the 'Kool-Aid' yet...Help me out...

Personal Assistant is probably an answer to a lot of your issues. It is extra equipment and software, but will provide you calling to an external number and pull-back to VM as well as "call-in-to-call-out" remote access functionality. We use it at our office because our staff makes so many international phone calls that our cellular service was killing us. They now dial a local number and we pay for the international calls on our PRI lines.

PA also provides "user friendly" features such as voice dialing that really makes executives grin...

All in all, Cisco's IPT solutions provide most of the features you can provide with a TDM PBX, however, you need to use additional components in many cases. Also, keep in mind that this is a relatively new platform when you compare it to TDM based PBXs (even those with IP integration boards). Many of these gaps are being filled with new development frequently. That might make Cisco undesirable today, but if you blow them off now, you may find yourself way behind the curve tomorrow.

Highlighted
Participant

Re: I'm not drinking the 'Kool-Aid' yet...Help me out...

The CM supports many countries dial plans now.

trry pressing # to prevent waiting for interdigit timeout.

Callmanager ships with 5 agents in CM these days.

Cisco documentation is 1000 times better than Avaya's and if I were you I d go and by the Troubleshooting Cisco IP telephony guide. you will learn how the system operates.

Send all your recomendations to your local cisco se and perhaps you will see them in a upcoming release.

At the end of the day if you dont like it stick with the s8700,8300's g650's what you know best.

Al

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