Understanding the Evolution of Endpoints

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It has been five years since our first "no desk phone" deployment with a 750-user client installing Microsoft Lync 2013. The enterprise was forward-thinking and the CIO was adamant that this deployment would be heavy on "collaboration tools" and light on desk phones. Obviously, five years ago this was a bold move, but its dictum from the top meant that employees would 'play along.' The word was out -- employees would receive headsets only and desk phones were "gone." The result? Only two out of the 750 employees retained desk phones; 748 Bluetooth headsets were deployed and the cultural shift to UC was underway.

Five years later, the UC environment at this organization looks slightly different. Although aggressive at the outset, approximately 20% of company employees now have their desk phones back and the rest of the users have had their headsets replaced with newer, even more user friendly models. The organization is now looking at Microsoft Skype for Business in the cloud to replace their on-premises Lync versions. Hmmm, what will the endpoint decision be in the cloud era?

Here is a question for you to ponder: Does the uptick in desk phones mean that the CIO's mandate failed? Not at all. It followed the same evolutionary track that endpoints have followed; the future is even more exciting with endpoint options for enterprises opening up new pathways in the cloud era.

But let's back up. To be brutally honest, at the time that I undertook this project, I had never heard the term "collaboration tools." Now that term is a household name. Years ago, when we thought about deploying communication or collaboration tools, it meant:

  • Employees were usually physically located in one place
  • Communication typically required a wired connection to the Internet or phone line
  • Collaboration with other employees only occurred during regular business hours -- yours or your employees

All of that seems so five years ago. At a minimum, the evolution that has occurred in five short years has enabled:

  • Collaboration by employees, partners, and vendors, in different parts of the world
  • Communication can occur via conference calls, video chats, and instant messaging over the air through smartphone, tablet, laptop, and even desktop technologies -- any device, anywhere
  • Collaboration (for better or worse, a topic for another day), occurs during the world's business hours.... 24/7

What does the evolution look like? My own workstation provides a great visual. Currently, I have access to:

  1. A Laptop
  2. UC application software
  3. Desk phone
  4. Smartphone
  5. iPad

Each of these devices stands as an example of today's evolved endpoints, and each of these serves a very specific purpose -- to communicate, collaborate and remain connected. Yet when it comes to collaboration tools, which of these five devices do you think I use the most? It's my laptop with the UC application.

As a remote employee, physically separated from my colleagues by hundreds of miles, I appreciate being able to find others quickly and connect to them without any delays. I know if they are out of the office; and if they are in the office and on a call, I know that I have chat options available to connect. It is a valuable way to remain connected.

Now every enterprise is going to be different and will build its own understanding of what is valuable today, and into the future. Ultimately, like so many other arenas in communications, making the decision on endpoints boils down to consultant Marty Parker's famous phrase, "What is the use case?"

Case in point, a few months back I participated in a Twitter chat with analysts and consultants who were brought together to discuss the very question of endpoints and use cases. Here are two we uncovered:

The future is here for intelligent headsets. In fact, "context awareness" in this hardware has become reality. For example, when talking on your headset in a noisy environment, the headset software detects and automatically filters out the noise as well as adjusts the volume.

Device-as-a-Service is ready for prime-time and it is truly cost effective. There is a movement underway toward mobile devices and soft clients, with roughly 40% of customers recently surveyed by Global Data Technology going this route. More specifically 27% are opting for desk phones, while 15% of those surveyed indicated getting a mix of all three of these endpoints. Even better, the pricing and payment models are simple and flexible – both in cloud deployments as well as on-prem.

From a CIO's mandate to a household name, endpoints and collaboration tools are truly driving business communications today. Every day brings new technologies, "X-as-a-Service" initiatives, hardware changes, and more! Want to stay on top of it? Join me at Enterprise Connect in Orlando, for a panel discussion titled, "Phones & Personas: Endpoint Decisions in the Cloud Era,"scheduled for Thursday, March 15 at 8:00 a.m. In this session, I and several UC/Cloud Vendors will dig into some questions addressing top trends in endpoints, including:

  • How successful have enterprises been in driving adoption/usage of mobile UC clients?
  • How do you match the right endpoint to the right user?
  • What's been the experience among enterprise that have gotten rid of desk phones entirely?
  • How do you decide when there are so many choices out there on endpoints?
  • How do you uncomplicated endpoints when you are faced with a diverse set of users who are driven by unique demands and certain preference for one device or another?

See you in Orlando!

Learn more about Unified Communications & Collaboration at Enterprise Connect 2018, March 12 to 15, in Orlando, Fla. Register now using the code NOJITTER to save an additional $200 off the Early Bird Pricing or get a free Expo Plus pass.

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