Unified Communications Nation

Apr 25 2011   10:45AM GMT

The enterprise desk phone: Who really wants it?

Leigha Leigha Cardwell Profile: Leigha

The many ways in which people can now communicate, collaborate and access information have evolved dramatically in recent years, particularly over the last year with the explosion of tablet devices. Smartphones, social networking, Skype, Google Voice, IM and social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are pulling end users away from the stodgy desk phone. Some traditional phone vendors have made admirable strides to keep pace with trends in unified communications and collaboration, providing feature-rich, integrated desk phones, but do end users really care?

There is a growing percentage of employees opting for softphone clients or smart mobile devices over the desk phone. Alaa Saayed, industry analyst for unified communications at Frost & Sullivan, says there are indications that softphone clients are actually gaining traction, but says IP desk phones will not be leaving the desktop anytime soon.

Though many end users prefer their smart or dual-mode mobile devices and softphones, Saayed says end users are actually holding up the shift to softphones. “We’ve heard one enterprise say that while 70% of managers wanted to consolidate devices, 70% of end users didn’t,” according to Saayed.

Given that many enterprises have phone systems nearing the end of their lifecycles and that employees are increasingly using smart mobile devices and soft clients/PCs over traditional desk phones, should enterprises continue to invest in these standalone end points?

  • Owning desk phones affords companies more control over security and performance, but how valuable is control and monitoring if employees aren’t using the phones?
  • As Jon Arnold, principal of J. Arnold & Associates, told me recently, desk phones don’t break and live on well past their anticipated lifecycle. The move from PBXs to IP PBXs has created a predominantly hybrid telephony environment. Is it worth the time and resources to piecemeal a viable phone system with software patches and workarounds, infrastructure and network upgrades, etc., to provide employees with a mere telephone?
  • Are the new, feature-rich smart desk phones worth the investment?
  • Should companies instead lease smart desk phones (with all the bells and whistles) as an alternative to a large telephony investment? And again, will employees use them to enough to justify the expense?
  • Should enterprises instead focus on creating and implementing policies and guidelines for the enterprise use of “consumer-based” communications solutions?

What do you think? For more information on the future or lack thereof of desk phones, check out Jon Arnold’s post on five reasons why the desk phone will disappear and Jack Gold’s The office phone is dead! 

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