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Will 2021 Be Telephony’s Year of Reckoning?


Hanging up the phone
Image: metamorworks -
It’s a little early for “year in review” articles, but I’m going to get a jump on things with a prediction about what’s likely to be a hot topic for many enterprises in 2021: telephony.
The coming year is likely to be one of reckoning for the status of telephony in many enterprises because of the pandemic, but like so many other effects of the pandemic, it’s more an acceleration of underlying trends than a true transformation. This year’s emptying-out of offices has forced enterprises to live without traditional telephony for many of their workers, and most of those workers seem to be doing just fine without it.
Some enterprises may find it rash to simply eliminate their premises or cloud-based telephony service, and many — especially those with a significant share of users who aren’t desk-based — really do still need this particular service. But with budget pressures likely to be a dominant factor next year, most enterprises will naturally look at telephony as a place to gain major cost reductions.
That’s where today's No Jitter article by Phil Edholm of PKE Consulting can be valuable. Phil offers a deep analysis of cost structures in telephony service delivery, starting with the PBX and Centrex, and moving into the current cloud era. He also compares per-user costs of telephony with those of email and video service, to show why telephony costs need to come into closer alignment with the relative value the service provides.
So enterprise decision-makers are likely to spend a fair amount of time adjusting their telephony strategy to accommodate these new realities and make sure that what they’re paying for telephony reflects the value that the service provides. One starting point we’re already seeing is to fold telephony into the broader collaboration service offerings, to capitalize on the pandemic-driven adoption of these platforms; Zoom Phone and Microsoft Teams Phone System are among the prominent examples of this strategy.
We’ve also seen heightened interest in SIP trunking in the context of the new approaches to telephony. By far the big draw for Enterprise Connect webinars in the second half of 2020 has been the topic of Microsoft Teams Direct Routing, which is how enterprises use SIP trunking with Teams. SIP trunking is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to telephony cost savings, and it seems each generation of telephony offerings brings a renewed approach to this almost two-decade-old service.
Pre-pandemic, a decision to rip out or even phase out your telephony platform would have made a bold statement. If the pandemic had been brought under control sooner and offices re-opened after only a short interval of WFH, end users might have reattached themselves to their old habits with regard to communications. But the longer the pandemic goes on, the more change it forges, and the more pressure it puts on enterprise IT to act decisively and quickly to optimize cost structures. At many enterprises, that could mean big decisions about telephony.