In the past couple of years, many people have written off the traditional office desk phone, as UC (unified communications) takes on the task of connecting our businesses.
It certainly makes sense both practically and fiscally that users should consolidate their communications by using alternative methods to communicate, like softphones, instead. Why spend money on a desk phone for each employee when you could simply install a softphone application on their laptop, tablet or smartphone, equipping them with instant connectivity from the get-go, regardless of their location.
However, after a little investigation, it appears that such predictions about the death of the desk phone may be somewhat hyperbolic and that actually, they may be ringing for some time yet.
When it comes to the question of whether to use a desk phone or softphone in an office, there seems to be a conflict of interest between top level management and end users.
Alas Saayed, Industry Analyst for Unified Communications at Frost & Sullivan says “We’ve heard one enterprise say that while 70 percent of the managers wanted to consolidate devices, 70 percent of end users didn’t”.
For the CEO, it represents a chance to get the most bang for their buck, whilst also increasing workplace productivity, allowing their employees to be more flexible, dynamic and visible. However, for the end user, it represents a significant change in their working habits.
Studies in human behaviour have shown us time and time and again that people do not like change. Change represents a loss of control, unfamiliarity and raises questions over the competence of an employee and if they can adapt to new situations. Ultimately, and perhaps most telling, change also represents more work.
We asked an employee of ours, why he continued to use a desk phone and not switch to a UC client for his communication needs. To be frank, he could not answer. He didn’t know why he didn’t, just that he thought it was easier to use his desk phone.
A more articulate explanation can be found in the form of this quote from blogger Michael Graves, “My desk phone has never blue screened. [It has] Never shown me a “sad mac” icon. It doesn’t react poorly to the various goings on within my desktop PC. It seldom requires a reboot. It doesn’t even require power near my desk as it’s powered via a POE switch on a UPS in the wiring closet 26”.
Desk phones clearly seem more reliable and less fiddly than a softphone to end users, yet the benefits of UC are still there in black and white for all to see. The question is how do you get the best of both worlds?
Hardware manufacturers have recognised the threat of UC to their existence and have started to make their devices media powerhouses. Functionality like desktop collaboration, video calling, device pairing and Bluetooth connectivity have made desk phones more dynamic and actually allow them to support the unified communications revolution, rather than ostracize themselves out of the equation. In adding these features, they stand to remain relevant for the next generation of workers.
The IP phone market forecasts that 28.8 million units will be shipped in 2015, up from 26.5 million units in 2014, indicating that the market is actually still growing with some pedigree.
By making desk phones more UC friendly, they cater to the desires of the bigwigs who are demanding more productivity, whilst also offering employees the familiarity that they’re accustomed to.
What is clear is that the future generations will have the option to choose how they communicate. Whether it's using UC, a desk phone or even a smart phone (or all 3), no one size fits all and we expect that it will be down to the individual's tastes or personal targets/goals in what comes to the front of the queue when making a decision. One thing for certain is that desk phones are not going anywhere yet.
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