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The Business Case for the Deskphone in a Unified Communications World

Posted by Kevin Gulley

Apr 12, 2016


A few years back I wrote an article I called The Phone is Dead! Long Live the Audio Endpoint, in which I detailed the demise of the ubiquitous desk phone. As is often the case with predictions, this one was way off the mark. A recent Frost & Sullivan study has shown that not only is the deskphone market not shrinking, it’s growing at a respectable pace. Who would have thought?!?  The study went on to predict growth for at least the next few years, before pressure from UC, headsets, mobility, a younger workforce and other market forces cause a leveling off in the deskphone market.

To get some more insight into the state of the deskphone and its evolving role in the modern enterprise, I recently had recorded a podcast interview with an expert on the subject. Tom Ostrander is president of sales for the Americas at Snom, a leading maker of deskphones, IP phones, wireless phones and voice peripherals for the business market. I wanted to get his take on the current market for deskphones, and what forces he sees that may impact this universal business tool.

Why Are Deskphones Proving So Resilient?

As Tom explained to me, this question is one of the most talked about in his industry. He said that he can attribute the resiliency to one primary factor – ROI.  “You buy a phone for a worker, and it sits there on the desk doing what it was designed to do for years. It is a keystone tool in how businesses make money.  No other IT device has a better record in terms of ROI.”

Of course the modern deskphone has also evolved over time into a much more useful tool than it was originally intended.  It has become more applications-based, and can be used to stream video, provide call and contact history, and for all sorts of secondary and tertiary uses.  For example, new phones integrate with Unified Communications clients and can provide insight into applications like presence management.  “Being able to quickly glance up and see the availability of your important contacts takes the functionality of your deskphone to the next level,” explained Ostrander.  This type of evolution towards important applications running on deskphones has helped to maintain their relevance in a mobile, UC-driven communications environment.

Trends Impacting the Deskphone Market

Many organizations still rely on the security and control that comes with centralized telephony and deskphones. That said, Tom sees the biggest impact on the deskphone market coming from mobile phones and smart devices – the shift toward a bring-your-own-device business culture. Another threat to deskphones comes from the move toward hosted voice and client apps on the PC.

However, deskphones have also evolved and adapted to meet the needs of the enterprise. Tom pointed to hoteling as a trend that allows users to sit down at any desk, punch a code into a phone and have their contact lists and personalized messages follow them.  Another feature that’s important to many organizations is intercomming, and deskphones provide an easy way to accomplish this sometimes vital need.

In spite of trends and the encroachment of other tools on the deskphone space, there seems to be a strong desire to keep them in place. “When I talk to people, even those who travel a lot for their jobs, most tell me that when they’re in the office, they like to have a phone on their desk.”

One area that is going to cause issues for the deskphone market over the next several years is just pure demographics.  Younger workers aren’t interested in deskphones and as more and more of them come into the workforce, the call for them will continue to diminish.  This is certainly something Frost & Sullivan expects as well.

Other Business Drivers for Deskphones in the Enterpise

With more employees working from home for all or a portion of their time, it may seem the deskphone would not play much of a part in this trend. However, one big concern for business is the security aspect of corporate communications. By using a desktop phone with a VPN client at the remote employee’s location, this device is as secure as if it were in the office.

Skype for Business is another driver for certain types of deskphones, in particular some of the newer devices with color screens and even video. This type of deskphone integrates well with Skype for Business, and can be used for bring UC capabilities to the desktop device. They can allow employees to more easily keep track of contacts and manage buddy lists. It is these capabilities, along with UC integration, that’s keeping the deskphone relevant in today’s office environment.

Dig Deeper:  Download Two Ways to Propel Skype for Business Usage

Wireless deskphones and handsets are also becoming more common in many office settings. Some companies don’t want all of their employees’ mobile phones and smart devices connecting to their WiFi network and taking up bandwidth. In these cases it makes sense for a company to deploy wireless handsets and base stations to allow for flexibility, while limiting the strain on the network.

You can listen to our entire conversation here.  What is your company’s plan when it comes to deskphones?  Are you growing your fleet?  Upgrading them?  Providing them only for certain types of workers?  Let us know in the comment section below.

Topics: Voice, Business Case, Industry News, Phones, Telephony