What Happens When the Cost of Call Control Approaches Zero?
The PBX is not going away in the near term, but it will lose its monopoly on telecommunications.
Question: What do Skype, Lync, "free" cell phone minutes, virtualization, WebRTC and softphones all have in common?
Answer: They all drive down the cost of call control...way down. What's more, they also move communications away from being dependent upon the PBX.
Question: Does that mean the PBX is going away?
Answer: No, it's just losing its monopoly on telecommunications. Phil Edholm says that the PBX of today is analogous to dedicated Wang word processors from 30 years ago: A dedicated word processor may be a relic of the past, but that doesn't mean word processing is obsolete; it just means that word processing is done differently today. Tools like MS Word and Google Docs make word processing widely available, and possible on a variety of devices.
With a combination of services like Skype and cellular networks, together with personal productivity tools and BYOD, telephony is being liberated from the PBX. In order to remain relevant, the PBX has to offer value, and Unified Communications has a mixed track record at best. The most logical way to deliver value is to integrate with the other business processes and be part of Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP), which has the potential to deliver enormous improvements.
With technologies like WebRTC and users' willingness to use devices other than a traditional desktop telephone (i.e., smartphones, PCs, and tablets) for communications, the PBX role is changing. More and more, business applications will integrate to the user for communications by going around the PBX, not through it.
Question: What does that mean for customers?
Answer: Customers should be less concerned about simply upgrading systems from incumbent suppliers, and more vigilant in exploring the best long-term solutions. Suppliers with financial problems are less likely to deliver on promised roadmaps.
It is inevitable that communications solutions that can integrate or interoperate with your enterprise databases and applications are going to become increasingly important. In addition, solutions that also incorporate non-voice communications modes (email, web/chat, text, social media, etc.), are a better fit, since this is the way that people and organizations also communicate. Telecommunications capabilities are one thing; putting the building blocks in place to deliver communications-enabled business solutions is another.
Question: What impact is this having on the traditional telephony vendors?
Answer: A lot--look at the financials of the traditional telecommunications suppliers. If you are getting ready to make a new purchase or major upgrade, it is imperative to understand the financial health of suppliers. At some point, your management may have questions about whether you exercised appropriate due diligence.
Question: What is the bottom line?
Answer: The landscape is changing and the traditional telecommunications pond is drying up. Phone systems that just deliver basic functionality will see continued price erosion that put increased pressure on manufacturers and resellers that are already under siege. Expect an increase in channel conflict as partners fight over prices, services and other items as they all cope with the shrinking pie. This is the time to start thinking about a long-range strategy and to work with vendors who can help you in the long term.