In 2003, Ford Motor Co. became an early adopter of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) when it installed several lines from its Dearborn, Mich., headquarters to offices in Asia and Latin America and ran voice calls over the same lines that carry e-mails and other data. The savings, in drastically reduced per-minute charges, so impressed Ford executives that they recently

expanded the program.

Today, George Surdu, Ford's director of global information technology, is overseeing one of the largest corporate conversions to Web-based telephony to date. The automaker hired Cisco Systems Inc. and SBC Communications Inc. to connect more than 50,000 users in 110 facilities across Michigan, and despite the estimated $100 million price tag for the three-year project, the company says it is confident about its investment. "The savings are not trivial," says Surdu. Although he declined to put a number on the savings, "reductions in moves-and-changes charges, service reductions and transport reductions all came into our total savings proposition."

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