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The Phone is Dead! Long Live the Audio Endpoint!

Posted by Kevin Gulley

Aug 29, 2014

The trends and demographics are working against the deskphone. It’s not the deskphone’s fault...they’re just not cool anymore (sort of like Facebook for my teenage daughter). audio endpoints the next stage in telephonyIn fact, as eWeek stated when highlighting a recent Ring Central report:

A great majority of corporate employees (86 percent) use their personal smartphones to get work done even outside business hours, the survey found. Further, half of the people polled said they'd prefer to use their personal phone, even when sitting next to a desk phone.

This may sound like a big number, but a Forrester Mobile Workforce Adoption Trends report upped the ante and found that 64% of 10,000 workers surveyed said they use their personal phones at their work desks for business purposes….and that survey came out over a year ago. As for Millennials and younger workers the numbers are significantly higher….they literally want to cut the corporate cord.

Unified Communications and Voice

Another trend working against the traditional deskphone is the deployment of Unified Communications solutions, although according to Jeremy Stinson, the Segment Marketing Manager for SMB Solutions at Jabra, voice is not necessarily the first area of focus for many businesses deploying UC. “While employees are looking to their own devices to increase mobility and flexibility and they are leveraging hands free solutions for increased productivity, what we see is that the wholesale replacement of traditional voice infrastructure with a UC solution is moving more slowly.” According to Stinson, many businesses are focused on initially deploying presence management, corporate IM solutions and collaboration apps like audio conferencing, and then moving towards pilot programs for voice deployments in which the UC platform replaces landlines and deskphones as a second phase.

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A recent report from Informationweek on the 2014 State of Unified Communications seems to back that up. While 44% of the businesses surveyed have currently deployed Unified Communications solutions, only about a third had provided 75% or more of their employees with UC capabilities and roughly half state that the majority of their employees still make their calls from deskphones. While the report highlights improved employee collaboration via web and video conferences as a leading business driver of UC adoption (62% cite collaboration first when it comes to calculating ROI), it isn’t clear what audio endpoint employees are using to access those calls.

I’m Not Dead Yet

Even with these mega-trends pushing for the deskphone’s demise, they still are a dominant form of voice communications. In my notes from a session at Enterprise Connect earlier this year I noted that a speaker mentioned 76% of business calls are still made from deskphones. Even so, according to the eWeek article, employees foresee the day when deskphones are displaced:
The survey also found 70 percent of respondents to believe that office phones will eventually be replaced by mobile phones. Millennials were most inclined to believe this, with 74 percent saying desk phones were headed for File 13, versus 69 percent of Gen X-ers and 66 percent of Baby Boomers.

They continue, citing a separate survey conducted by Dimensional Research on behalf of Ring Central:in which 70 percent of respondents said they found their current desk phone lacking, That certainly makes sense considering the limitations of a deskphone when compared to a smartphone. So what are workers looking for when it comes to audio endpoint?

Audio Endpoints: It’s All About The Worker’s Needs

According to Stinson, there are three major trends driving the change towards thinking about voice communications in terms of audio endpoints as opposed to a good old fashioned phone; Mobility, Productivity and Flexibility.

“Employees obviously want and need to have mobility with their phones,” says Stinson. “They have it in their personal lives and they want to be able to utilize their device both on-work and off-work. Having access to the key applications and functionality enables them to be as efficient as possible at their jobs, regardless of where they are.”

When it comes to productivity, that is all about hands-free says Stinson. “Headsets have been around for a long time, especially in contact centers. However, today’s knowledge workers are making so many of their calls via softphones, through UC clients, or via their (or the company provided) smartphone while at their desk or on the road, that having your hands free to get work done is a tremendous productivity driver.” Several reports over the years have indicated that knowledge workers leveraging headsets as their audio endpoints experience productivity increases of 25 - 40% or more.

Finally, it is about flexibility. “Today’s mobile workers want to be able to have calls that start from their deskphone or their softphone and be able to easily pick up and leave their desk to continue the call while they head to the airport,” explains Stinson.. Having UC infrastructure in place along with a wireless headset provides the ability to seamlessly handle calls on multiple devices (whether that is a deskphone, a softphone or a smartphone), eliminate variables and keeps employees producing.

So maybe the deskphone isn’t dead yet, but it just received it’s membership card via snailmail from AARP. With the number of knowledge workers leveraging their smartphones as their primary work phones, UC solutions continuing to gain steam, and the increased employee focus on mobility and productivity, deskphones are facing a long, slow decline.

Topics: Technology, Voice, Mobility, UC Industry