Remember the good old days when life was simpler, before CTI, IP-PBX, BYOD, UC, cloud, and team collaboration? Remember when most PBXs had the same features and reliability, and the purchase decision came down to which telephone deskset and interconnect company you liked most, making it nearly impossible to make a bad choice?
As the business communications market has evolved, every constituency in the industry, including vendors, channel partners, customers, consultants, industry analysts, and even the press, has had to learn new disciplines. Each stage in the evolution has required additional knowledge and expertise for each community.
When the IP-PBX was introduced, the voice community had to learn data networking, and the networking community had to learn about voice. When UC was introduced, the converged (voice/network) community had to learn about applications and systems integration. Add cloud, mobility, team collaboration, and you get the picture -- our industry has become much more complicated and will continue to do so as markets and technology evolve.
When you look back to where we were 20 years ago, before the IP-PBX, and where we are today, you begin to appreciate how complicated our industry has become. Over time it has become more challenging to find a vendor that can provide a complete solution.
In a recent No Jitter article, "Warning: Enhanced Meetings Aren't Collaboration," my colleague Marty Parker noted, "Generic 'enhanced meetings' aren't likely to meet all the collaboration requirements for most organizations," and offered examples of solutions for specific workflows. When you look at workflows, you start to see that generic solutions are useful, but often fall short of a solution that optimizes the business process that needs to be addressed.
Historically, platform vendors have focused on horizontal markets. They added many features and capabilities to their platforms, including contact center, video conferencing, and collaboration, but most have been general-purpose solutions. Many platform vendors are now partnering with vertical market specialists to provide solutions that address specific workflows. Vendors integrating Salesforce into their solutions is a good example.
Most businesses can benefit from custom business communications solutions -- solutions that address their specific business needs. While many vendors have solutions that address most of a business' needs, they generally don't offer custom vertical market solutions that will improve efficiency and help create a competitive advantage.
Based on this, it's unlikely you can find a single vendor solution, providing one throat to choke. The good news is, the alternative is to opt for a best-in-class solution. Businesses have two approaches to take, as well as a combination of the two:
- Hire a consultant that understands your business and market. They can recommend vendors to consider.
- Engage with a managed service provider (MSP) that understands your business and market. Historically these systems integrators, as they were previously defined, supported and offered solutions from a limited number of vendors.
Things have changed, and many MSPs like Black Box, Carousel, ConvergeOne (with recent acquisitions on Arrow SI and SPS), Meridian IT, Paetec, Presidio, and others provide solutions from competing vendors such as 8x8, Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, Mitel, NEC, RingCentral, Unify, and Vonage. No MSP listed is a partner with all the vendors listed, but all partner with a number of competing vendors.
The speed of business is fast, the level of complexity high -- businesses need the best tools possible to compete. This means best-in-class solutions, available through an MSP with expertise in your vertical market and possibly a consultant. This will give you two throats to choke, which may be better than just one.