Important Results from UC RFPs at Enterprise Connect 2012

Important Results from UC RFPs at Enterprise Connect 2012

By Marty Parker April 2, 2012 1 Comments
Important Results from UC RFPs at Enterprise Connect 2012 by Marty Parker

Save Time, Save Money, Get Better Results by “Sweating” Your PBX Assets

The Enterprise Connect 2012 RFPs proved two very important points for enterprise UC roadmap planning:

  1. You CAN install unified communications (UC) without replacing or upgrading your PBX!

  2. You can SAVE 37% on average and as much as 78% by not replacing the phones or the contact center and by using the existing PBX as a PSTN gateway.

These results come from comparing two of the RFP sessions at Enterprise Connect, as described in our March 9, 2012, UC Strategies Podcast:

  • Option 1: UC With a New PBX (organized by Dave Stein, with the session title of, “Enterprise Communications Platform: Premise IP Telephony + UC RFP.” This session included three configurations; the second configuration which included desk phones, contact center, and the same UC features as in the other UC RFP versions (see below) is the one used for comparison.

    Nine vendors responded to this RFP including Aastra, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, Interactive Intelligence, Microsoft (with Aspect), NEC, ShoreTel and Siemens.

  • Option 3: UC Without a New PBX (organized by Marty Parker) which included all UC capabilities for all 2,000 employees including Presence, IM, click-to-communicate (voice, video and screen/app sharing), conferencing (voice, video and screen/app sharing), mobile device clients, and communications-enabled business process (CEBP) functions.

    Eight vendors responded to this RFP including Avaya, Cisco, Esnatech, IBM, Microsoft, NEC, RIM, and Siemens.

How are the two important points possible and what do they mean to most enterprises?

The vendor responses were very surprising, since the leaders in IP Telephony (Avaya, Cisco, NEC, Siemens), leaders in e-mail/productivity software/social software (IBM, Microsoft), and specialists in business mobility (RIM) and Google Apps integration (Esnatech) all provided solutions that worked as an overlay to the installed PBX systems (RFP specified mix of Avaya, Siemens, & NEC systems).

In every case for UC Without a New PBX, the vendors bid their Unified Communications software as the vehicle for controlling all of the user’s UC functions, including voice and video. The concept is that the users will prefer to use the rich, multi-modal, presence-aware functionality of the UC client on their PC, MAC, tablet, and/or smartphone rather than communicating in separate silos and via single-mode devices such as a desk phone.

In most bid responses, if the user wants his or her calls to ring on the desk phone, it is a simple setting in the UC client to have incoming calls ring the desk phone and to have out-going calls ring the desk phone before being extended to the called party on the PBX or via the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). The great thing about this option is that it works for the user’s home phone and cell phone, too. Also, this approach shows “on-hook/off-hook” or “in a call” presence status for all calls, with the exception of a call where the user picks up the phone and dials the call directly; as suggested, this will be less frequent as the users learn the rich functionality of the UC client.

Even more surprising was that the IP Telephony providers offered the most aggressive pricing for this option. Based on a five-year cost including software licensing, hardware, installation services, and 8 x 5 maintenance, the Siemens proposal came in with the lowest total price at $35 per user per year for 2,000 users for five years (total price of $346,995). This price is approximately 67% less than the average price for the second configuration of option 1, UC with a new PBX, and approximately 78% less than the highest price for the second configuration of option 1, UC with a new PBX. Avaya was also very competitive, at $45 per user per year for UC Without a New PBX, as was NEC, at $74 per user per year. The average price across all 8 vendors was $96 per user per year.

One person in the audience pointed out that buying UC without a new PBX requires that the existing PBX must still be maintained. This is an important point, since most PBX vendors charge so much for maintenance (often in the range of $100 per station per year). The key factor to consider is that most PBXs are on multi-year maintenance contracts, usually prepaid or without cancellation options. So, the only way not to have that on-going maintenance cost in parallel with UC (whether with or without buying a new PBX) is to buy the UC functions or the new PBX from the incumbent PBX vendor. That may be the right thing to do, but even in that case, it is still compelling to buy and install UC Without buying a New PBX and avoid the capital and expense of telephone replacements or contact center upgrades.

Once the UC layer is in place, you can the track the phone usage. In most cases, users will just stop using the desk phones. Then, when it is time to renew the PBX maintenance agreement, you can save large amounts by reducing the number of supported licenses and end points, and perhaps even trim back the amount of hardware needing support and periodic upgrades.


In summary, by running the three parallel RFPs at Enterprise Connect Orlando 2012, it became clear that:

(a) UC is ready for prime time – all the leading vendors are offering well-qualified UC solutions,

(b) UC can be installed without requiring a PBX/contact center upgrade or replacement, and

(c) UC is affordable and major PBX upgrade or replacement costs can be avoided.

It is also usually true that the UC solution can be rolled out in far less time, with better adoption, and with greater enterprise benefits if it is not burdened by the time, cost and effort of PBX replacement.

Dave Stein, Brent Kelly and I plan to publish a more detailed review of all three options and will post an update when that is available. My thanks to each and every vendor who contributed their time, skill and knowledge to help all of us better understand the options and to show us that moving forward to UC independently of a PBX investment is certainly a valid option worthy of consideration.


1 Responses to "Important Results from UC RFPs at Enterprise Connect 2012" - Add Yours

Scott Richardson 4/5/2012 3:07:58 PM

Do you have any insights regarding vendor specific client topology requirements? Ideally the UC (software) client would be form factor agnostic (e.g. PC, pad, smart phone) as well as compatible with a variety of OS (Windows, Linux, etc.)

To Leave a Comment, Please Login or Register

UC Alerts
UC Blogs
UC ROI Tool RSS Feeds