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Phone or No Phone? The UC Debate

I participated in an interesting and animated discussion during the opening night of the most recent Lync Conference in Toronto; the session started with the question: "Is the desktop phone doomed?"

First, let's clarify that there are situations where phones are mandatory for public safety reasons--school classrooms, elevators, emergency call stations, hotel pools and other spaces that are required by either building or fire codes. Phones are "expected" items in conference rooms, shared office space locations, un-staffed lobbies and similar locations.

Given that, all those involved in the discussion agreed that for some business roles, it is clearly now possible to work in a Lync-client-and-headset-only mode, freeing up desk space that would otherwise be consumed by a desk phone. However, the conversation got interesting when the question of costs got engaged: "Is it less expensive if you eliminate the phone?"

So we did a set of back-of-the-cocktail-napkin computations for a desktop phone and wired headset, calculating both the CAPEX and the annual OPEX, assuming the phone would last 5 years and the wired headset would need to be replaced every six months (they do break and wear out):

If, instead, we buy every employee a Lync-compatible wired headset only (no IP Phone) and assume the headset would need to be replaced every six months:

Things get more interesting if you add a Bluetooth headset to the mix--personal experience has taught me that they get lost, left at home, batteries die and accidentally get worn in the shower (don't ask). Expect two Bluetooth headsets/person/year. Also, because of the battery life issue, a Bluetooth headset cannot be your only headset, so we assumed each user would also get one wired headset for the desk that would be replaced once a year.

What does this tell us?

It also says that today, the convenience of a hands-free Bluetooth office is expensive. Surely the costs for Lync-compatible headsets will come down over time, but for the near-term, Lync compatibility will make them more expensive than the more-popular RJ-11 run-of-the-mill phone-only headsets.

What's a reasonable compromise that businesses can follow?

There is a reasonable expectation to provide employees with the most cost effective solution (an IP Phone and wired headset), but you can still allow employees to BYOD for the Bluetooth headsets. This ensures the employee has what is needed to do their work (a phone and headset), but puts the expensive part that gets lost/broken/left at home/worn in the shower (the Bluetooth headset) on their dime--encouraging that they keep track of it.

Don't get me wrong, I love my Bluetooth headset(s), and they're worth every dime, but I need to get into the habit of checking my ear before jumping in the shower....

The "phone or no-phone" debate will go on for some time, until then, do share your thoughts and feedback.

You can reach me at: [email protected]