Hosted IP Office adoption increasing
There are many businesses considering their next steps when it comes to replacing their old phone system. This may seem daunting for a number of reasons:
- The current system is so old, technology has skipped a generations
- Those with experience in selecting the last system are no longer around
- The current system was such a great investment, it set a high bar
- With such a mix of generations in the workforce, can you find something for all
- Changing any major business technology can be a large project
- Using mobile phones to fill the gap and not sure need to replace yet
- Hard to justify funds for a major investment
Technology moves so fast, its hard to keep up
Probably the biggest impediment to most businesses making the decision to move forward is the fear that whatever they choose next will be soon outdated. After all, their current platform has not just been replacing by one major technological leap – from Digital to IP based systems – but now we have cloud or hosted systems as an option.
Those customers on systems from companies like Nortel and Toshiba, for example, who have either been acquired or shutting their doors are even more anxious. Vendors like Avaya and Nortel prided themselves on what they called their ‘evergreen’ philosophy – constantly creating upgrade paths for their customer base. This works great as long as it does not compromise new capabilities and risk being overtaken by nimbler competitors. It took Toshiba 10 years to come up with a migration from their Digital (TDM) system to an IP system and they still disappointed their customer base with the lack of functionality.
Cloud or hosted systems is the current state of the art. Why? Because it leverages several other technology advances. Dramatically increased processing power, dramatically reduced cost of storage along with the ability to get high speed internet almost everywhere at lower prices. So now it is cheaper to house applications in dedicated data centres than to buy and manage your own servers. And we’re not talking about sharing either.
But it also adds increased flexibility in not being as locked in as in the past. Meaning that should technology take a dramatic leap forward again in the next 3 years, you haven’t invested in a lot of hardware to hold you back.
Who will be part of the buying decision process?
Because it was such a major investment the last time around, you probably formed a committee and went through a fairly sophisticated and rigorous process. Employees were interviewed on their needs. Vendors were identified. Perhaps a consultant was brought in. A long list features and capabilities were developed and vendors asked to tick all the boxes. The winning vendor ticked the most boxes for the best price.
And that team likely don’t work there anymore.
The IT team want to dig into every specification, every speed and feed. Yet the reality is much simpler. With the need to make faster business decisions, collaborate more often, engage with customers no matter where your people are located, you need something flexible.
Hosted or cloud phone systems – at least Hosted IP Office – offer a vast array of business phone and collaboration capabilities. Because they are hosted, you can offload the cost of buying and maintaining servers and operating systems. The host worries about that. Your employees can access from anywhere – office, home, road, customer site. Because they are all, equally, part of the same system. It is your mobile workforce that have the greatest demands, so see what fits them best. You know its going to work for those in the office.
The big decision now should be, where is the system hosted, is it secure and reliable and will the system be private.
Hosted IP Office simplifies the decision process. Now all you have to consider is how many users need a standard (office phone) license and how many need a UC or power user license. Then select the telephone sets (those with UC licenses can use their mobiles, tablets or laptops as clients as well as an office phone.)
The current system was such a great investment, it set a high bar
Yes, no question that the current crop of TDM or digital telephone systems were great products and set a high bar for any new technology. Many have been installed for 10, 15 or more years. Today, whole businesses or whole market segments come and go in less time. Video rental companies came out after many of the phone systems in use today were first installed and have closed up shop.
But this only works as long as you are not deeply compromising two things:
- Ability to add functionality to meet current customer needs
- You can continue to support and maintain the current technology
The latter is the biggest problem. Vendors can no longer afford to support manufacturing facilities to produce hardware based on much older technology. In fact, most outsourced their plants so don’t have ultimate control. Components are hard to come by if they are around at all. Spares stockpiles have been depleted. Programmers who know the old code and programming languages have retired or work in other areas. So the software can no longer be maintained let alone adding knew functionality.
In fact, those systems are a risk every day now. One has to consider how important voice communications is to your business. What would happen if your phone system were down for a week or never able to be fixed? Resellers cannot guarantee it can be fixed without manufacturer support which was stopped long ago. Are you willing to rely on parts procured from eBay, Kijiji or some other trading platform?
With such a mix of generations in the workforce, can you find something for all
Sure, most of your younger workforce are probably using their mobile phones and public apps on their tablet or laptops to connect and communicate, while older staff still rely on their desk telephones and email. There is a risk to allowing employees to use tools open to the public, if the information is confidential or proprietary. You also don’t want to promote and us and them mentality within your teams.
New communication platforms are not an either/or proposition. You can support both types of user. You can provide the advanced unified communications apps to those who need them, while allowing others to use the standard office phones. They can all work together seamlessly, working the best for themselves. And you are not risking your proprietary or confidential information by using private, secure tools.
Hosted IP Office offers a standard license to support a standard desk telephone and a UC license to support those that want more advanced functionality.
Changing any major business technology can be a large project
It sure can. But a cloud or hosted platform simplifies the decision process. Decisions of how large a system will be needed – as many systems supported specific size ranges, or what and how many servers will be needed, etc, all go away. The hosting company provides enough capacity to support the maximum size of the system (Hosted IP Office supports up to 3,000 users.)
You also don’t have to wait the weeks or months to get into your IT queue to get these things rolled out. You can start working with your reseller to configure your system which will be spun up in days. The longest delay will often be porting telephone line numbers and training staff. Although staff can use the online, animated video training to reduce this time.
Once telephone handsets are chosen it takes a few days for them to be shipped and pre-configured before delivering to site.
The ‘project’ is much simpler today. See our other post in Installing a Hosted IP Office.
Using mobile phones to fill the gap and not sure need to replace yet
Everyone carries a mobile phone today and they are fairly sophisticated devices. So businesses wonder why they need a regular business phone system. They filled the gap, they say. Well, have they?
First, other than the fact you can get hold of someone when on the road, which voice mail box does the message go? How do you tell where they are? Do you end up in a lot of telephone tag? Things that were solved years ago with the sophisticated unified messaging on business phone systems. Your employees may have advanced mobile phones but are less efficient than before.
What’s worse is that your overall communications costs, including mobile phones, are out of control. No one knows the full detail because it is generally not centrally managed. Some businesses let employees expense all or part of their mobile phone costs. Even if they pay for the phone, they are racking up a lot of mobile costs. OR you may negotiate a deal where you pay centrally for mobile costs and the employee buys the phone at a subsidized price. But you are holding the contract for multiple years.
No one is probably tying this together with their other ongoing telecommunications costs to see the overall impact. When was the last time someone looked at how many Telco lines were really needed?
Yet everyone is clear that they don’t need to update their business phone system.
In fact, a hosted phone system will allow you to manage those mobile phone costs better. Calls are directed to their business phone first, offered to their mobile if not answered and pulled back to a single message box if unanswered. Employees can see each other’s status, saving time normally wasted trying to find them. Better still, they can decide the best method to communicate – text, voice, email and so on. Everyone is more efficient, telecom costs are better controlled and managed.
Hard to justify funds for a major investment
Now we are coming to the issue that is the likely the biggest impediment to moving forward. No one wants to invest more funds into replacement technology. There are always questions from senior management or even the Board, if there is one, on why this is needed – again. Most are not technologists and don’t care to be. They have seen bad IT investments in the past – especially the 90’s when it seemed IT was out of control. But the real question would be what other investment would have given as much use as their current TDM phone system? I doubt any. So they have really had a good run.
While a cloud or hosted solution offers great functional and technology advantages it also provides a huge financial benefit. Other than the phones used on site, the rest is paid on a per user, per month basis. So there is a dramatic reduction in capital investment. In fact, those mobile phones we discussed in the prior section, now become much more effective and may reduce your need for fixed, desk telephones.
By wrapping your monthly recurring telephone line costs, North American LD as well as your ongoing telephone system use costs into a single, monthly bill per user, you can better control and reduce the cost of any new investment.
Never been a better time to look at a hosted or cloud phone system
Hosted IP Office is being adopted by business across Canada. They are seeing how they can re-structure the way they use telecom to innovate within their business. See the great case study on the solutions we rolled out for The Crossing Studios.