The telephone remains the undisputed champion of business communications, but the shortcomings of aging analog phone systems and older Voice over IP (VoIP) systems are becoming increasingly obvious. While they have served users well for years, these systems are at risk of failure or disruption due to rising maintenance costs, a scarcity of legacy voice engineers and hard-to-find replacement parts.
Such risks have led businesses to begin evaluating and implementing modern unified communications (UC) systems. In addition to delivering the immediacy and contextual clarity of voice, today’s UC platforms serve as the foundation for text messaging, email, video, conferencing and a host of emerging technologies that allow users to communicate with both colleagues and customers.
According to new estimates from the Technavio market research firm, the global UC market is expected to grow at a 12.3 percent compound annual rate through 2020, when it will reach a market value of $48.61 billion. The firm says this growth is being sparked by business requirements for enhanced operational flexibility, agility and collaboration.
While the transition to a new communications infrastructure can produce undeniable business benefits, it isn’t a simple process. This isn’t a rip-and-replace, weekend initiative. Besides the obvious cost considerations, a business must plan carefully to avoid a significant interruption of operations.
Because a phone system transition touches every member of the organization and can create significant network overhead, it is important to take a measured approach to the transition. Enterprise organizations, in particular, must consider the varied communication requirements of multiple business units.
In larger organizations that have grown through mergers and acquisitions, there may be multiple legacy phone systems in play. These systems may not be entirely compatible, resulting in technology silos within the organization. To effectively transition to a new UC platform, there has to be a plan for ensuring that all kinds of unique user needs are taken into account.
For this reason, it is important to assemble a team of key stakeholders representing all areas of the organization, including management, end-users and IT. Many experts recommend a measured transition, starting with units that would get the most immediate benefit from the new communication and collaboration tools. Other units could gradually be moved off the legacy system over a period of months or even years.
During such a prolonged transition, enterprises can still extend UC benefits throughout the organization by bolting on applications that will provide new features while the legacy system continues to handle inbound and outbound voice traffic. ShoreTel, for example, offers a path for organizations to implement tools such as unified messaging, multichannel contact center, conferencing and collaboration, and mobility services as they make the transition.
There is something to be said for conserving capital by delaying technology upgrades until absolutely necessary, but the risks of such a strategy must be considered. Nothing lasts forever. Waiting too long to upgrade the core communications infrastructure could result in a failure that seriously damages the businesses. Upgrading to a modern UC platform can not only minimize such risks but deliver significant business advantage with advanced productivity and collaboration tools. Best of all, ShoreTel offers ways to leverage existing investments while making a measured and well-planned transition.