UCC Is THE Only Term Going Forward…
Several articles have appeared recently with respect to Unified Communications and Collaboration and the fact that effectively the “PBX is Dead.” I'm referring to of course Marty Parker's great article on March 27 entitled “The PBX Is Dead: What Do You Do Now?” Dave Michels’ recent post on May 23 on “Restarting the Conversation,” and the latest article on UCStrategies published on May 30, “The Shift to UC is Visible: What Does It Mean?”
The UCStrategies team also did a podcast just this week around the idea that IT is now dead, referring to the lesser value of IT; if it is not becoming strategic and just tactical serving its community.
So What Does All This Mean?
So what does all this mean? Simply, the word PBX or even IP-PBX acronyms are really no longer relevant in today's market. Phone systems are just considered plumbing, with no real “wow factor” value to the end user community outside of basic “have to” communications.
Our firm is fortunate enough to be engaged by several large enterprise clients in excess of 10,000 endpoints, and the conversation and discussions around the Needs Assessment discovery phase of the project is no longer about the telephone. The telephone is simply a device that provides basic communications, simply a means to communicate at the rudimentary function, and does not provide any “wow” factor or differentiator really needed in today's super-competitive marketplace. We are currently performing Needs Assessments for three clients, and in none of those discussions do we emphasize the telephone as a strategic device or way to communicate. A telephone is an expected device when considering replacement technologies, either a have-to basic device or even something to possibly eliminate altogether.
Interviews and discovery with the enterprise user community have uncovered some interesting talking points. They include:
- A phone is just a phone and a way to communicate. Everyone realizes that there will be training involved if they migrate to a new manufacturer. But the basic means to communicate using a telephone, is simply that, a basic way to communicate, period.
- Areas that generate greater interest from the front line departments include:
o Unified Messaging – Centralized Inbox with Email, Voice, Fax – this is an instant “hit” among users and requires little-to-no training and can eliminate fax machines altogether.
o Unified Communications – IM/chat, Presence, Audio conferencing, Videoconferencing, doc sharing, whiteboarding, integration to Microsoft Exchange or Google Gmail/Apps, softphone – all of these features have been available for some time and are finally getting the traction they deserve.
o Mobility – One can publish a single reach number and have the ability to send to a remote phone, voice mail, or mobile phone. Additionally, the “twinning” feature provides functionality and a means to migrate a land line call in progress to one’s mobile phone and to continue the conversation as one leaves the building. UCC integrated features such a conferencing, presence and chat functions are now available and integrated in mobile UCC client apps.
o Remote Workers – the remote worker topic has become of keen interest to many of those interviewed, providing a means to work from anywhere, anytime using a softphone or hard phone. In almost all cases, there is an organizational policy that must be put into place for at-home or remote workers, which opens the “door” to utilizing this feature/function.
o Notification – Emergency Notification, General Notification, Announcements, Alerts – these systems can provide real-time notifications or announcements. And it’s no longer just about emergency notification – it may be about a meeting room being moved to a new building, inclement weather notification, meeting cancelled – and real time, not just an e-mail notification but a text, e-mail, voice mail, call.
o Corporate Directory – using LDAP, one can look up any individual in the organization by name and dial (no more paper directories) from desktop phone, any softphone.
o Caller ID – it’s not just about Caller ID, but a way of leveraging the land line DID number for all outbound calling – individuals can dial anywhere from a softphone, mobile phone, or home phone, and by dialing ‘through” the network, not have to reveal their home number or personal cell phone number. In many organizations, this level of privacy can be critical.
o Virtual Office – Individuals can work from any remote office and leverage all of the characteristics of their native phone from that remote office – callers think they are reaching that individual at their desk.
Some of our recent interviews have unveiled an interest using a softphone as a possible replacement for a desk phone, with interest from both road warriors and lower usage individuals. Those same interviews have shown an interest for non-critical departments to run their environment on less than five 9s model, with a periodic outage at three 9s or four 9s being acceptable.
Additionally, when we facilitated development of RFP for one of those clients, the acronym IP-PBX was totally eliminated and replaced with “Unified Communications System.” The term IP-PBX does not even show up once in the RFP.
Why the Adoption?
So why is the enterprise community adapting to some of these new features and functions? Why are they all of a sudden embracing these new tools? I personally think that phones are necessary (and even sometimes unnecessary) and has become fairly mundane as a means to communicate. Organizations appear to be ready to embrace Unified Communication and Collaboration as a key differentiator.
From my vantage point, I see a few key drivers:
- Consumer-based technologies such as SMS texting (a.k.a. IM/Chat function) used now for some time and an inherent communications tool among X and Y “Genners” and is now acceptable in the business community. For iPad users, FaceTime is a common tool for videoconferencing among family members, and thus desktop videoconferencing is a way to communicate among constituents in the organization. Presence has been used extensively by consumers, utilizing Facebook and other tools to see which friends are available online.
- Organizations now need to take a real proactive approach regarding staying competitive in this intensely competitive marketplace and even get ahead of the competition leveraging technology tools as a means to stay ahead. In my opinion, if organizations do NOT embrace this key point, then I can tell you for sure that your competition will – it’s just a matter of time.
- Organizations have been using some form of these tools for some time, and therefore it just makes sense to utilize these tools in a more integrated way. For example,
An end point can be any end point: a desk phone, a remote IP phone, a mobile phone, a soft phone client on a PC, a soft phone client on a tablet, and more. It’s not just a phone any longer – period.
- Using Meet-me Conferencing and scheduling a meeting are commonplace. Integrated UCC tools provide this tool integrally.
- Sharing documents or attending a Webinar is just another form of white boarding or document sharing that organizations are used to using.
So in essence, we have been using many of these UCC tools for some time but have not used them in a strategic, intentional way to differentiate ourselves from our competition. It’s time that we did so.
In today's market, if you want to stay current with the times, eliminate the word IP-PBX or PBX from your vocabulary altogether. Unified Communications and Collaboration are now the current key terms being used by the enterprise community at large.
And it’s time to embrace UCC as a strategic business tool. If we don’t, the organization we currently work for will be left behind, and some day possibly be no more. So let’s get strategic with UCC and leverage these tools in order to innovate our organizations, manage costs (sometimes even dramatically), and maintain and enhance operations for those front line organizations we serve.