Despite many large corporations switching to IT telephony solutions, it seems they're taking the next step, to Unified Communications, more cautiously. Is that because they don't understand it?
The argument for a move to a basic IP telephony solution is a fairly straightforward one — it's generally cheaper than a switched (PSTN) service. Replacing an old-fashioned ISDN link with a shared SIP trunk provides a good savings before you even consider the benefits of on-net calling between premises. That's presumably why 23 per cent of respondents to the ZDNet 2010 IT Priorities study saw IP telephony as a priority over the next six months. In the finance sector it's as high as 33 per cent.
Many argue, though, that the real benefits come from the productivity gains of what has historically been termed Unified Communications (UC) — all those neat little tools that let you integrate your computer and telephone, convert voice to text, share corporate directories across multiple locations, see who is online, and much more.
If you've got IP telephony, why wouldn't you want all this stuff? Yet only 13.5 per cent of IT managers listed Unified Communications as a top interest in the 2010 study and 14.7 per cent gave it as a priority over the next six months (19 per cent in the finance sector). That's about half those looking at IP telephony.
Bigger companies are far more interested in the possibilities of Unified Communications and IT managers are slightly more excited about it than other senior managers, but only by a whisker. Indian respondents showed far more inclination than those in any other country surveyed, although, to be honest, respondents in the sub continent seemed to show far more enthusiasm for everything.
There are two other telling statistics here. First, 12 per cent of respondents are looking at a PABX solution in the next six months. That's one of the lowest rankings for any communications decision, but pretty much what you'd expect for a seven-year renewal cycle on a piece of hardware. Presumably most of those will now be considering an IP-PBX, unless they really are sticklers for an old-fashioned life.
The second interesting figure is the relative lack of interest in cloud computing. 8.5 per cent of respondents said it was a top interest for their organisations, which fell a long way behind mobile solutions (13.8 per cent), virtualisation (16.9 per cent) and security enhancements (17.7 per cent). For more on this see IT managers' virtual love.
So it looks like many companies have not considered, or are not ready, to take the leap to a cloud-based telephony solution. Hosted IP-PBX solutions are becoming more and more common and it seems a natural step for an organisation to take, particularly for multi-location businesses who can disband with physical PBX systems in each location and treat their whole business as if it was a single site.
We can perhaps forgive a lack of interest in unified communications. The term has probably had its day. The benefits are more to do with collaboration really, so maybe it's time we put UC out to pasture. But looking at IP telephony without considering the cloud seems like an opportunity missed.