Marty Parker
Marty Parker brings over three decades of experience in both computing solutions and communications technology. Marty has been a...
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Marty Parker | June 21, 2016 |


Have You Bought Your Last PBX?

Have You Bought Your Last PBX? Your answer is very likely, yes -- and you can prepare by following these four steps.

Your answer is very likely, yes -- and you can prepare by following these four steps.

The technology is at hand and the economics are such that the on-premises PBX your company already owns could be, or even should be, the last one you will ever need.

Oh, yes, we will still have voice conversations, but more and more of those conversations will be on devices and networks that don't need the PBX. Meanwhile, connections to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) via T-1, E-1, and SIP trunks are standardized, so you'll have no reason to buy a replacement PBX due to innovation in that area.

Let's look at this idea one piece at a time.

Mobility: Employees whose jobs aren't tied to an office -- sales, field services, inspectors, adjustors, real estate agents, drivers, and many others -- are now doing their jobs on their mobile phones. Usually, this is in conjunction with a mobile business application such as or any of the many specialized applications for each type of user in each industry. These applications contain the customer information and employee directories for phone calls, so voice communications is simply a click to call from within the mobile app. Considering Apple's recent announcement that iOS 10 will allow VoIP services, including those from the UC vendors, to use the native dialing capabilities of the iPhone, you could even think of the latest iPhone or iPad as a "Personal Branch eXchange," or sort of an iPBX. With these tools, mobile personnel certainly don't need PBX user accounts.

Operations: Employees whose jobs are operational -- production, policy management, service delivery, logistics, and many similar titles across industries -- usually do their work with the support of enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management , website interaction, workflow management, and other such software, as well as with vertical-oriented software such as electronic health record or point-of-sale packages. All the information the user needs to communicate is right there in those applications. Increasingly, these packages include either a softphone capability or a list of connectors to cloud-based voice communications services, thus bypassing the PBX.

Collaboration: This is the "next big thing" in our enterprise communications community, as Unify, Cisco, and others seek beachheads in the messaging-first collaborative workspace category. Interestingly, neither of these industry-leading PBX companies launched their respective Circuit and Spark offers with PBX capabilities or connectivity. Of course, they quickly came along with connectors to their own PBX systems, but they will soon realize that those limitations will not be competitive, especially since these offers are at least five years late to the business social networks and collaborative workspace market segments. Whether the collaboration users are on Microsoft Yammer, Jive, IBM Connections or on Circuit or Spark, they will clearly be using either their mobile devices (see above) or PSTN connectors.

Marketing and Customer Care: This category is shifting rapidly, as all forms of consumer services are moving to websites and mobile apps. While the traditional contact center vendors do offer multichannel solutions, responsibility for managing customer services via Web and mobile often fall outside the contact center. As Marketing, Customer Care, and other departments take on these responsibilities, they select tools geared toward their use, not the contact center's use.

The migration of users away from the PBX may not be as obvious in other work categories, so those may still need PBX and contact center functionalities. Some companies may even need to keep basic phones on basic PBX systems, such as those in hospitality or healthcare environments, though they do have the option of supporting basic phones from directory-enabled gateways (see No. 1 below). But even if the current PBX or contact center system needs replacement at some point, that is likely to come from cloud-native UC-as-a-service providers (i.e., multitenant solutions with the best economies of scale, not just hosted instances of on-premises products).

What's the best course of action? Here are four things that will prepare your enterprise for this disruption:

  1. Learn about, install and use directory-enabled gateways. These provide an economical bridge between the current PBX and the new communications platforms.
  2. Know your user and usage profiles. As described above, the migration away from the PBX will proceed by workgroup rather than by replacement of the entire system.
  3. Have a roadmap. The best roadmap will match user needs, business requirements, and strategic directions to the technology shifts.
  4. Shop, negotiate, transform. With all of this in mind, you can begin to pull the levers to deliver the communications solutions for the future with the best return on investment for your enterprise.

Your enterprise has a lot to gain from this transformation. Sure, it's always good to sweat the assets, but be sure to show your organization's leadership where it can invest in these new technologies for business transformation. Here's to your awesome success!


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