Although there is now significant movement in the retail industry, this has been one of the slower markets to adopt IP telephony, at least at the store level. At various regional and/or headquarter locations, the value proposition from the distributed nature of IPT is as relevant in this industry as in any other. However, for this discussion, the focus is limited to the actual stores.

In focusing on stores, it is helpful to expand the definition of retail. Retail, as far as this discussion is concerned, includes any storefront that sells products and/or services, which would include traditional retail shopping, specialty stores, grocery stores, drug stores, and gas stations.

In each of these cases, the value proposition for IP telephony applications usually focus on enhanced, faster communications, updates, and cost controls. Generally, these markets are margin driven, so any means of cutting and controlling costs on an ongoing basis is good news—obviously good news for any company, but also necessary for survival in these markets.

Chapter 4 described how one of the major benefits of IP telephony was the ability to help drive down company costs in various business processes, beyond the maintenance of the PBX. Nowhere is this more evident than in the retail industry. From the costs for supporting the help desk to payroll/timecard costs, new IPT applications can have a significant impact on these costs. With the exception of K—12 schools, clearly the most imaginative applications are being developed in the retail market.

Chapter 6, "A Different View of ROI," explains how toll charges can be dramatically reduced by IP telephony without necessarily passing voice traffic over the IP network. In one example, only data commands traverse the network, and therefore bandwidth impact is minimal.

Another type of application could be called "timecard maintenance." Initially, this sounds like a fairly simple application, but it can have an

This document was created by an unregistered ChmMagic, please go to to register it. Thanks incredibly far-reaching impact.

Timecard entry on an IP phone is a new way to track employee work hours. The ongoing costs of punch cards and punch machines can be eliminated. The real value, however, lies in automating and electronically tracking the employee clocking-in/clocking-out process. This means that application parameters can be set to detect when a person should have clocked out, but hasn't. An alert can then be sent to that person's manager, either via IP phone, cell phone, or pager, etc.

For example, it is now 5:05 P.M. and seven employees who should be off the clock have yet to punch out. The application detects this, alerts management, who can then take action. With this application, unplanned and/or unauthorized overtime payments are avoided, which helps the company's bottom line.

Another issue that can be tackled by such an application is fraudulent reporting of hours. For example, the same timecard maintenance application can be expanded to provide additional services to the employee. When an employee enters their employee ID and a personal identification number (PIN), the menu could provide the following options:

® Last pay stub ® Year-to-date earnings

In reality, most employees won't necessarily want to check their last pay stub or their year-to-date earnings, but having these options as part of the time clocking application isn't necessarily limited to employee benefit alone. By adding this personal and private information, the company has just made it a bit more difficult for John, who is 30 minutes away from the store and running late, to call his buddy Mark and have Mark clock him in. Now, in order for Mark to clock John in, John must share his employee ID and PIN with Mark, which gives Mark access to John's personal information. This provides an electronic time clock and an imaginative way to deal with fraudulent reporting, all enabled by a convergence application.

These are just two examples of what is occurring in the retail space. NetCom Systems recently rolled out an IP dial-out application to a large, national energy company. According to Alok Jain, director of Applications Development, the long-term opportunity for this company is to place intelligent voice/data terminals at each of this company's gas stations, whereby station managers can receive corporate-initiated price changes in seconds, visually on their workstation, with a voice message attached to the price change. An example, in this case, of revenue-impacting applications.

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