voip_unified_communicationsJust as with any technology that runs its course, you can always find parts and support from the dark corners of the internet and gray marketplace to keep things running like MacGyver, but after a while, this type of patchwork planning will become more trouble for a business than is actually worth, the bottom line is that sometimes sticking with the status quo, due to a reluctance to change can be the right decision, but not with VoIP.

The vendors may not be accustomed to change, but there’s too much at stake to stick with the status quo, and now they can’t move fast enough to IP, this is a great example, where when you look outside your specific world, it can tell you a lot about what needs to happen inside your business world.
For example, when it comes to legacy/traditional phone systems, you don’t really think about change very much. You probably don’t even remember how long ago, you purchased your current system, or it could have been there before your time.

Legacy telephone systems were built to last, and only a total breakdown would give you reason to buy a replacement.

In today’s world Small-to-mid businesses are typically cash-strapped, and to give consideration to upgrading a system any further, they really need a compelling business reason. Legacy telecom vendors have little incentive to transition you to VoIP, and as long as the phone system is working, you’ll need to discover those reasons yourself.

That is where this post is drawn from. We carefully compiled research about how SMB owners and managers think about their phone systems and the trigger points that lead to making a change.

From this research, we have identified five such reasons that can signal the time is right for a VoIP phone system.

Any one of these reasons can provide a strong rationale, and however much thought you’ve given this, we believe it’s not likely that all five of these have come to your mind, so, If that’s the case, then this information will provide a new perspective along with a deeper understanding on two fronts.

First, it is important to see how much your old system is holding back the business, and flipping the coin, to then see just how much that can change once you decide to invest in a VoIP phone system. A first principal with VoIP is that like all things IP, these technologies are designed to be self-managed. This means the onus is on you to initiate change, and once that happens, you’ll be moving into a new world. This may seem daunting, but these guides have been researched and written to help you navigate your transition to VoIP. Unless your legacy phone system simply breaks down, you need to be on the alert for signs that a VoIP phone system will be a better choice.

This section highlights five such signs, and any one of them could be reason enough to make the move. Before VoIP can come to you, you have to know what to look for. This means getting a good grounding in the basics of VoIP, especially in terms of how they can be drivers to support your decisions for telephony. Not only that, but your legacy phone vendors will not likely be steering
you this way, so don’t count on them for the best advice. In short, you need to be proactive, and to do that, you need to know what to look out

The First Sign is Cost

dollarsCost will most likely be the prime driver for any decision your business makes around telephone service and systems, but it’s not the only clue that a change to VoIP is in order. When looked at face value, if the math adds up, and all else is relatively equal, this can be an easy decision to make. However, “adding up” can actually be quite complex, and needs further consideration.

Putting the IP telephony aside for a moment, let’s say, if your old system is paid up, it would be a mistake for you to assume that there are no costs beyond the service from your telecom carrier. Not only are there on-going maintenance costs, but your telecom vendor may be in no rush to steer you over to IP.

As your legacy system ages, maintenance and support costs will only rise, and this represents good revenue for the vendor. You don’t want to get into a situation where your phone system becomes more of a liability to the business than an asset, so without even looking at the cost of VoIP, there may be enough issues here to shape your thinking towards an upgrade.

Another consideration is the notion that legacy phone systems are expensive, and cash-strapped SMBs will keep them going for as long as possible If you’re thinking about this high cost extends to VoIP phone systems, that will inhibit you from moving to IP. In other words, if the new technology is viewed as costly, there is less incentive to make a change from legacy, especially if you are not confident that VoIP is up to the task.

The reality is a bit different, and you may be pleased to learn that VoIP phone systems are affordable, certainly compared to a legacy PBX, and quite frankly, we have options to get your business new, Voip equipment for FREE.

This is a nice surprise that should change how you view the relationship between cost and a new VOIP phone system. It’s important to have a realistic sense about the costs associated with a VoIP phone system. There is little question that VoIP phone service is cheaper than Traditional Telecom service and your legacy system can support both types of technology. That being said, you can reduce that piece of your overall telephony spend without changing your current phone system.  IP phone systems bring in less revenue for vendors, and require less support so old school vendors try and down play the technology and its benefits the constantly changing technology related to VoIP The main message here is that cost may well be the best indicator for making a change, but make sure to get the whole story, Cost trends are not uniform for all modes of telephony, and the drivers for legacy are not the same as for VoIP.

In most cases, the final tally should favor VoIP, but the spread could also end up being too close to call. When the latter does occur, you should by no means discount the other clues in this section as drivers for a change, and we can help determine all the factors.
The Second Sign is Nobody is using the desk phones

ServicemanEmployee use and behavior may be the best indicator of the need to change, but only if you’re paying attention. Human nature is infinitely varied, and there is a tendency for technology-centric people to see everything through a technology-centric lens. For businesses that think and act this way, the most obvious clues will elude them, simply because they’re not looking in the right places there’s a big difference between seeing and observing, and the path to knowledge begins with identifying a problem.

This is the “what”, in the process, a thoughtful discovery process will lead to the more important “how” and “why”. When it comes to your phone system, you may pay little attention, especially if it’s paid off. So long as the related ongoing monthly costs stay on par, there is probably no cause for concern. This can be misleading, since those costs won’t change if usage declines, even a lot Furthermore, if business performance is good, and if whatever productivity metrics you use are holding up, you may have no idea what’s actually going on with your phone system.

Let’s look at the “what” to the “how” and the “why”. You’ll have a hard time gathering these types of metrics, but doing simple observational research about everyday activity will tell you enough regarding your phone system.  Employees may be on phone calls as much as ever, but less is happening at their desks and on their desk phones. This activity is shifting more to PC screens, tablets and personal mobile devices, even when working at their desks.  Also, you may have noticed that employees are using a lot of chat, video and texting, in place of having a voice conversation. Seeing things like this says a lot about how employees behaviors are changing, and this begs the question of why. Before we had all these productivity tools, almost everything had to be done via the phone system.

Today, Legacy phone systems work just as well as they did in the past, but in the world of IP-based communications, Legacy systems lack the ability of integration with everything else and reduces their utility to employees.  Employees, will use the desk phone when they’re absolutely sure the other person can take their call, but that’s more the exception than the rule. Simply put, other methods and applications serve their needs better. Employees spend less time at their desk, as well as in the office, and that’s where mobile devices provide greater value that older legacy phone systems just can’t deliver. Furthermore, these traditional systems provide no intelligence. Being IP-based, VoIP phone systems can utilize the presence feature to get real-time status of everyone in the company directory. Just think about how well that improves the efficiency of communications. It’s not a big jump to understand why employees are using text-based messaging to communicate. Not only is it faster than having a phone conversation, it is also near real-time instead of real-time but with presence, they only engage when all parties are available.

No longer are they wasting time and energy leaving messages and getting lost in a game of phone tag. These are just a few examples that can tie how communications can effect productivity, and when you look at how and why employees are using these particular tools, the limitations of your legacy phone system become more apparent.

You may have several other reasons for keeping it in place, but if driving productivity is a higher priority, then this is a pretty strong sign that you need a VoIP phone system.

The third Sign – Legacy telephone System is hurting productivity
As we discussed above, the factor is a bigger picture issue that management is keenly interested in. The more productive an employee is, the better the overall business can perform, and when connected to communications, the conversation becomes more strategic.

As mentioned earlier, today we have way more communication options, and a telecom centric model is actually quite problematic. VoIP has become a powerful force for businesses in bringing down costs of telephony, and rising productivity, and while this raises valid concerns about the business case for maintaining a dedicated network and infrastructure just for this service. IP-based options that are readily available.

Aside from just the financial aspect of VOIP, there is also the upside to consider that comes from converging voice and data on to a single network. This delivers a host of new cost savings, and operational efficiencies that any IT department would welcome. Since VoIP service is simply just another data application, it can easily be added to the LAN, and thus streamlining every aspect of telephony.

While email is quasi real-time, and chat/IM is near real-time, voice is the essence of real-time, and will always be the next best thing to speaking in person the immediacy of voice communications makes it an ideal medium for conveying information to get things done NOW, but when that includes reviewing documents, sharing files, or engaging with other people on the go or remotely, the use of legacy telephony is clearly a holdback for productivity.

When getting a phone call at the desk is all you need, it’s a great tool, but by observing how employees get things done, you’ll likely find that this only applies to a handful of situations.

Think about how productive an employee can be if they can use all the tools in the same environment. Not only can they collaborate more effectively, but the process of communicating will be more seamless. This is a key reason why the use of desk phones is declining is because employees aren’t there very much, and other applications do a better job of reaching people when you need them.

This is a key problem with legacy phone systems, in that their isolation from everything else requires employees to often duplicate effort when their quest to reach others starts out on a desk phone.  Nobody likes to waste time, and keeping your legacy system in place does nothing to eradicate that problem.

Number 4 – Voice has more value as data

A key reason why your phone system may be hurting productivity is that its value is declining relative to other communications options.

Overall, the important takeaway here is that employees are communicating more, thanks in a large part to the Internet. It not only provided more accessible, easy-to-use applications, but they are often free. A difficult combination to resist, with the net impact being more communication.

So long as that remains the norm for making phone calls, you’re limited vision for the value of voice brings to the business. You don’t need to sell your employees on the value of voice, so that’s not the problem, you’ll likely find that employees are talking as much as ever before, and may even be talking more. We certainly know that they’re using other modes more, especially text and chat, but this doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a substitution effect at work.  When you remove cost out of the equation, adoption of these tools is quick, and as long as that translates into business gains, everyone is happy.  This is where the paths diverge for VoIP and legacy telephony.

Despite all these new options, voice remains the method of choice for all kinds sorts of reasons. Employees will seek it out and use the offering that has the most utility for them. Both technologies can deliver voice effectively, but they do so in very different ways. Legacy telephony runs over its own network, and while it’s great for voice, it isn’t good for much else. VoIP, on the other hand, is a form of data that runs over a network that seamlessly supports all communications modes.

The Final Sign is Vendor landscape

While there has always been lots phone vendors to choose from, the landscape has become more crowded with VoIP suppliers. Everywhere you look, a vendor has a line of IP-based phones and phone systems. Legacy vendors however, still generate the majority of their revenues from Traditional phones, but most all the new business is coming from VoIP. From companies like Avaya, Nortel, Mitel, Aastra, ShoreTel, NEC, Panasonic, Polycom, snom. With many other Next generation players around, and offer only IP-based phones, with Cisco being the best-known example.

When it comes to telephony, businesses usually have long term relationship with some vendor, and that poses the challenge.  The last time you were in the market for a new phone system, most of these VOIP options did not exist, so the landscape has definitely changed. Many of the same companies remain, but the offerings are different.

You may be happy to keep your existing system going, and if it’s fully paid off, that can be an easy position to defend. Today’s Small businesses remain budget-conscious, and if the phone system is in good shape, there appears to be little incentive to change, but it’s hard to ignore what’s happening with the vendors and technology. Just as VoIP brings lower telephony costs to your business, it lowers the barriers to entry for new vendors. These vendors can compete successfully on price against legacy systems, leaving incumbent vendors with no choice but to offer IP-based phones.

Sometimes sticking with the status quo due to a reluctance to change can be the right decision, but not with VoIP. The vendors may not be accustomed to change, but there’s too much at stake to stick with the status quo, and now  they can’t move fast enough to IP. This is a great example whereby looking outside your world can tell you a lot about what needs to happen inside your world.

For a complete review of your needs and options contact Randercom today for a free consultation call us at (920)731-3944.