In 2018, however, things are very different. The rise of mobility and emergence of cloud-based platforms has radically increased the telephony options for businesses of all sizes. Understanding what each offers and the benefits they deliver is vital.
A rapidly shifting landscape
Just as computing has undergone a dramatic evolution during the past 20 years, so too has business telephony. Analogue connections were replaced by digital technologies such as ISDN and later migrated to internet-based platforms using SIP. The emergence of services such as Skype has blurred the lines between telephony and computing altogether.
At the same time, a large volume of voice traffic has shifted from wired handsets to mobile devices. Staff are just as likely to speak with colleagues and customers on their mobile phone as they are sitting at their desk.
Evidence of the shifting landscape can be seen in the fact that Telstra will begin phasing out its ISDN services in June this year (https://enterprise-support.telstra.com.au/t5/Knowledge-Articles/ISDN-Product-Cease-Sale-and-longer-term-exit/ta-p/3628 ). The telco plans to turn off the service, once a core foundation for business telephony, by 2020.
Shifting to new alternatives
As a result of these fundamental changes, many businesses need to rethink their approach to telephony. They need to understand what new technologies offer and how they can be put to work to drive business value.
Just as many organisations have opted to migrate some (or all) of their IT infrastructure to a cloud-based platform, increasing numbers are considering a similar strategy for their telephony infrastructure. Rather than investing in a complex and costly PBX, they see merit in taking advantage of a hosted alternative.
The approach is working for SMBs too. Instead of installing/upgrading key systems, IP-based handsets can provide staff with access to a host of services and features delivered by a cloud-based provider.
Some users are still using advanced features offered by traditional PABX vendors. Telephony services are also increasingly being offered in totally new ways. A growing number of customer relationship management (CRM) (https://www.zoho.com/crm/telephony.html) systems are bundling telephony as an included service(https://www.bitrix24.com/uses/free-crm-with-voip.php). Telephony is also available as part of collaboration tools like Skype for Business (https://products.office.com/en-au/skype-for-business/phone-system).
However, while these alternatives can be beneficial for some staff/departments, it can actually end up adding complexity for the organisation. Different groups or departments could end up using different services or applications for telephony. Ensuring each can efficiently and seamlessly communicate with the others can become challenging.
A strategic approach
With the number of telephony alternatives increasing by the day, it can be hard for an organisation to know which to choose and where to make investments. It can also become difficult to ensure that all parts of the operation are following a similar path.
To ensure the most appropriate telephony infrastructure is selected and deployed, an organisation should undertake four important steps:
1. Audit: The place to start is with the existing use cases. Every telephony use case across the business should be reviewed to determine whether it is being handled the best way possible or should be improved/changed. The audit should cover the primary telephony system as well as any alternatives that are being used by staff in specific areas.
2. Strategy: Once there is a clear understanding of all the current use cases, a strategy should be developed based on changing business requirements. How will new offices be supported? Does migrating to a cloud-based platform make sense? How flexible does the telephony solution(s) need to be to match future demands?
3. Infrastructure: If you are considering cloud-based telephony solutions, will the networking infrastructure be able to handle the load and QoS requirements? Does the existing internet have enough bandwidth? How many users would still need handsets on their desks or can they all be replaced by softphones? These points need to be carefully evaluated before even considering a cloud telephony alternative.
4. Selection: With requirements, strategy and pre-requisites clearly documented, the business can then go to the market and review vendors and service providers. Each can be evaluated to determine which most closely matches the organisation’s requirements and can deliver the best value for money.
5. Deployment: Once a decision is taken, deployment must be carried out in such a way as to create as little disruption to the business as possible. Changing age old telephony habits and practices can cause lot of frustrations. All use cases that touch on telephony need to be integrated and end users should be able to communicate with other within the organisation without having to use different applications depending on who they are contacting.
A future-proof telephony system
It’s clear that business telephony is going to continue to evolve at an ever-increasing pace. For this reason, it’s important that a chosen infrastructure has the flexibility to change as business requirements change.
By taking the time now to carefully review its existing telephony systems and fully evaluate new alternatives, an organisation can ensure it will have in place an infrastructure that will support operations well into the future.
TeleApps (http://www.teleapps.com.au/) Australia is a provider of collaboration solutions incorporating various technology platforms including; enterprise telephony, multi media contact centre, enterprise networking and connectivity services. Integrated, managed and maintained by our extensive support and technology teams working with Australian businesses for more than eleven years. TeleApps helps organisations define their future ways of working by transforming their corporate communications and customer experience.