“…any company that stays stationary in their technology will be exceeded by its competitors.”
– Elon Musk
Every day we are impacted by the change in technology at an increasingly rapid rate. In a recent discussion with Elon Musk, he asked everyone to think about how 40 years ago we were playing the game Pong with two lines on a screen and a ball, while today we have photorealistic games. Technology is changing at a rate we have not seen. If we’ve come this far in 40 years, how far will we come in the next 40 years? Think about your cell phone just 10 years ago. Now look at the one in your pocket today. Unless you’re my dad, it’s probably changed almost 5 times and each time increasing productivity as well as ease of use.
This weekend the entire country was re-introduced to geocaching, in the form of a Pokémon GO – something that has been around since 2000. This is a prime example of how technology is allowing us to innovate. Nintendo took something existing – geocaching – and made it into something consumers want, or in this case are going crazy for. The business phone system world is not much different. The root of all phone systems has been the same since the first PBX phone system. It is a platform to communicate within an organization and outside of an organization. It provides clients and vendors the ability to talk with representatives within a company. No one is changing that. However, the technology around this solid foundation is changing and providing innovation the consumers want.
In researching this article, I kept coming across people and organizations saying that the future of phone systems is VoIP, hosted Voice of IP, unified communications, and so on. Well, to me that is the present! Yes, all of those might be more advanced than what your business is using today, but it’s not the future of the phone system.
The first thing I want to do is replace some terminology. Let’s take the term “phone system” out of our vocabulary for the time being. I believe a typical small business phone system features a multi-line desk phone and a room in the building only ventured in by a technician, and is a cluttered mess of wires. Most of us don’t go near this room for fear that even looking at it will cause the system to crash. I would like to replace “phone system” with communication platform. (this is going to get me in trouble with the SEO guys…). (Note from SEO guys: no worries; we’re not about to step in the way of technological progress!)
The advent of VoIP, availability and increasingly declining cost of bandwidth, and platform integrations allow for us to position a communication platform and escape the stigma of a “phone system.” Most of what other blogs on the topic are discussing are the back end workings of a phone system. Let’s be honest, when was the last time any of us cared how something like this actually works? We care about:
- whether it works and it works when we need it
- the invitingness of the platform
- the interface ease of navigation
- how much easier it is going to make my life?
I regularly talk to clients inquiring about “what is the future of the phone system, is it safe to buy something new, and will I even have a phone system in 10 years?” These are all very valid concerns. In this article we’ll answer these questions and tell you what to expect and why you should still value your phone system.
Where are Business Communication Platforms Headed?
Business communication platforms are not just a phone, but instead all of your communications unified in a dashboard. Think instant messaging, faxes, voicemails, conferencing, video, etc. Unified Communications started years ago as an integration of your voicemail and email. This allows users to receive voicemails in their email as an attached .wav file. Since then this has morphed into a much broader scope of communications such as voicemail transcribed into email. With these innovations I believe the writing is on the wall for the PBX phone system. I do not believe we’ll see the disappearance of onsite communications equipment, with everything relegated to a cloud phone system. I do believe that given call quality issues with internet telephony and people’s reluctance for “the cloud,” we will still have a need for on-premise equipment. However, this will no longer be a phone system, but instead a server.
Many manufacturers have already moved this way and are delivering the platform as a virtual instance. It’s no secret major Telco’s are wanting to abandon the copper line infrastructure and bring voice traffic over fiber. This will fall right in line with the change to virtual instances and servers. But enough about the back end – let’s talk about things that actually impact us on a daily basis.
Integration is where we’re seeing the most innovation and development. With more and more being added to a data network it opens up the door for increasing integration. Think about the Internet of Things (IoT) developments over the past few years. Once a communication platform is connected to a data network it has the ability to share data with and from other platforms on the network. This brings us virtually limitless possibilities for integration.
- CRM integration within a communication platform is in its infancy. Today we provide platforms with Salesforce and other CRM integration. Meaning you dial from Salesforce, you dock your communication controls in your Salesforce, or you create a screen pop-up when someone calls. But the future of CRM and other software integrations, to me, is the most exciting innovation and upcoming development. Today I can program a platform to allow certain numbers to reach me at certain times. That is cool. But what if the communication platform could know existing vendors can reach me during these times, solicitations can reach me at another time, and internal communication can reach me at yet another time? What if a salesperson could have the platform intelligently prioritize my calls, based on CRM data?
- Marketing software will be another area of exciting development. What if the platform could tell me a.) someone is calling, and b.) they just spent 20 minutes on my webpage researching video surveillance products? What if the platform could tell me the person calling has opened multiple marketing emails about unified communications? It’s easy to see how this knowledge could be used to dramatically improve lead flow and conversion rates.
- Being accessible where we want to accessible is a huge benefit for client-facing roles. Sales and client satisfaction employees are here to serve clients. If a company can provide support, answer a question, provide a quote, or schedule a discussion on a client or prospect’s first attempt, they will have a happy client or portray a better image than the competition.
- Integration with mobility allows for these roles to be available at all times, and also allow for better remote collaboration. By the communication platform integrating with a mobile device or a remote office, the organization is still getting the data received from the call because it stays on the organization’s network and is not passed to the mobile carrier or separate system. Although mobility integration is not cutting edge, we’re seeing huge developments in the operation of mobile apps and remote capabilities. We have some clients that have opted to not even use desk phones; they’re either using softphones with headsets and USB handsets or using their cell phone with an app. For instance, did you know you can run a full ACD call center by staffing people in homes with a softphone or SIP phone? For more on mobility solutions and your business, let us educate you.
So…When Is This All Coming?
Most of the innovations being discussed in this article already exist – they just aren’t as developed as what they eventually will be. The beauty of IP communication platforms is that features are licensed-based. This means your software will always continue to get better, as long as you update it. Fortunately, most providers offer software subscriptions. This is the best way of futureproofing your business and staying ready for the advancements so you’re not left behind.
Who Do I Trust to Help Me?
The change in the technology may lead some to question who to turn to for assistance. This is a great question, and it has a simple answer. If your voice solution provider is not also a data network or IT expert, find one immediately. For example, here at Taylored Systems we have seen these developments and changes coming for years. We understand not every business is the same, and we understand that you’ll need some flexibility and hand-holding along the way. However, we look at each client, educate them on their purchase, train them, and make sure the decisions made will be beneficial well in the future – a time when Elon Musk’s self-driving cars zip us around while we ponder the evolution of what was once humbly known as a “phone system.”