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Deskphones: Going, Going, Not Gone Yet

Well it's 2015, and what is the future trend for deskphones in the enterprise? I have polled consultants in the U.S. and Europe to see what the reality is on this topic.

From the US Perspective:
It is my opinion that deskphones in the enterprise are dwindling in their usefulness. I say this because I have had two deployments now where they went with no deskphones -- just headsets and using the client application on the laptop/PC. (See "What ... No Deskphones?").

We also are just coming off of a 40-hour/week project in corporate America. I had my own cubicle, and I can recall only a handful of times during the three-month project that I ever heard a deskphone ring. Day-to-day communications in corporate America with both employees and customers has changed to:

  1. Checking presence before communicating
  2. Instant messaging
  3. Emailing
  4. Click-to-Call
  5. Texting

While on the three-month project, we did use a deskphone (Star Polycom conference phones) for every conference call we had with vendors for our weekly updates on the project, but that was about it. I recall one IT person in our area who always had his conversations with vendors on his mobile phone while kicking a soccer ball around the office. He preferred this to sitting at his desk on the deskphone, so he could walk around – he said it "calmed him" while discussing complex IT network situations.

Many of the U.S. consultants polled for this article are still deploying deskphones in large areas of the company where the employees are desk-centric. If the employee has a job that requires him/her to be on the road or remote for a large percentage of their job, they do not need deskphones, and instead use softphones with headsets and their mobile device.

Across the Pond Perspective:
According to Dave Mailer of U.K.-based independent consultancy 4C Strategies Ltd, there are two aspects to this shift away from deskphones: Acceptance of softphones and a willingness to let hardphones go.

"We are seeing a moderate acceptance of softphones, but a very slow willingness to let hardphones go," Mailer said. "Nearly every enterprise system replacement we have done over the past three years has set out with the goal of maximizing softphones but has ended up deploying at least 80% hardphones. The exception is where the user's primary activity is using the telephone (e.g. contact center agents), where the benefit of a client application has been recognized and embraced."

Mailer noted the focus changing from replacement of hardphones with a PC-based softphone to a desire to replace hardphones with smartphone applications. However, two factors are presently inhibiting this change in Mailer's client base:

  1. Wi-Fi networks are not sufficiently pervasive and robust
  2. The integration between the PBX vendor's apps and the cellular phone itself is not sufficiently mature

"Deskphones live on.... at least for the moment," Mailer said.

Decline of Voicemail Hits US National News
This shift away from deskphones was further emphasized when Brian Williams of NBC News dedicated a spot on the newscast to Coca-Cola's cutting of voicemail. In the segment, Williams reported that voicemail was shut down at Coca-Cola in an effort to simplify workflow and increase productivity. He went on to say that it is all part of the explosion of smartphones, portable phone numbers, and the slow painful death of landlines.

We are finding that our clients' utilization of voicemail has dwindled in the enterprise as well. Lots of customers are going to corporate voicemail, but fewer and fewer are leaving messages. If customers are unable to reach their intended party the first time by dialing the office number, they are hanging up and calling the cell phone or sending an email.

What are you seeing out there? Please share your observations in the comments below.

"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants (SCTC), an international organization of independent information and communication technology (ICT) professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.

Barb Grothe will be presenting the session "Deskphones: Going, Going, But Never Gone?" at Enterprise Connect Orlando, taking place March 16-19. Register with code NJSPEAKER to save $300 on conference passes.

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