What’s Keeping Enterprises from Fully Embracing Free?

Mar 07, 2016

With the news that Slack is beta-testing voice integrated with its chat capabilities, we have to ask: when will companies start forgoing enterprise voice for consumer or “prosumer” alternatives? In Frost & Sullivan’s most recent survey of IT decision makers, almost half report using consumer-grade soft phones today, and another 26 percent expect to do so within the next three years. Those numbers are bigger than the percentages that use enterprise-grade IP telephony (45 percent today, another 25 percent in three years).

And yet, most companies still offer corporate owned and managed telephony to their employees. The question is, why? Of course, much of that infrastructure is legacy, meaning it’s been bought and (largely) paid for. But even so, there are costs associated with ongoing management, maintenance, and support. Throw in the fact that 75 percent of companies in our survey use smart phones today—and 99 percent expect to do so in three years—and you have to wonder why companies continue to spend almost a quarter of their IT budgets on telephony and related services (audio conferencing and messaging). Of course, there will always be certain lines of business that require landlines, like contact centers; and almost all businesses need some landline phones on campus, if only for security reasons. But few need every employee to have an extension built onto the corporate telephony system—let alone all the bells and whistles that come with it.

One reason for the disconnect, I think, is job security. If IT doesn’t need to “own” telephony—still considered one of the most important communications tools in any organization—then are they, perhaps, putting themselves out of a job? The answer is clearly no: with Big Data, the Internet of Things, mobility, security, the virtual workplace, and industry-specific initiatives all requiring time, attention, and resources, there’s little risk that IT departments will simply disappear. But shifting from tactical projects to strategic ones—those that require a deep understanding of the business, as well as the ability to think creatively, learn new skills, and take significant risks—isn’t easy for anyone.

But if there’s anything we can learn from our end-user research it’s this: taking chances on change yields results. Doing things the way they’ve always been done usually does not—at least, not in the fast-paced world of IT. If your organization is holding on to “old” technology because it’s safe, consider making a change. Offload the tactical stuff to someone else—a hosted services provider, say, or even your employees themselves, where appropriate. Then, spend your time and money on the technology that really matters—the software and services (and the devices they run on) that can truly transform your business.


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Melanie Turek

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