Unified Communications Featured Article

Simplicity the Key to Unified Communications Growth

August 24, 2010

Adoption of VoIP and Unified Communications systems is, unquestionably, on the rise, as businesses continue to look for ways to reduce expenses and enable their employees to be more productive. The question, given the multi-faceted benefits of UC, is why has uptake not been faster to date.

There are several reasons, including cost, the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” strategy, and concerns regarding interoperability with existing infrastructure (which are being addressed by groups like the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum, which is holding its first-ever all-member meeting at ITEXPO West in October).

But, perhaps chief among reasons for not implementing a UC strategy is a fear of deployment complexity, including installation, setup, management, as well as end-user operation. In fact, a recent survey by ShoreTel of 475 CIOs and IT/telecom professional at companies ranging in size from less than 50 to more than 1,000 employees indicated that along with reliability (80 percent), the most important communications system qualities are ease of use for end users (80 percent) and ease of management (76 percent).

These sentiments, as one might expect, were also reflected in respondents’ areas of frustration with their VoIP and UC experiences to date. Naturally, hidden costs topped the list, but management difficulty and cost (65 percent), learning curve for end users (57 percent), and support issues for remote users (57 percent) followed closely.

ShoreTel, which has branded its UC solution as “brilliantly simple,” has built its recent success on just these key considerations – making its systems easy and intuitive to manage and use. Eighty-one percent of its survey respondents claim a desire to simplify their communications solutions, helping shed light on the company’s record-setting 2009, when it posted its highest annual revenues to date and its highest margins to date, though it did experience a wider fiscal Q4 loss, but that can largely be attributed to increased spend on R&D and marketing, which has allowed it to introduce new versions of its UC and contact center solutions in the past month.

According to Bernard Gutnick, who spoke with TMC CEO Rich Tehrani recently in San Jose, ShoreTel’s consideration rate increased to 67 percent in situations where they were actually able to get to the table and demonstrate its simplicity and ease of use.

Still another data point from the survey indicates that the most significant challenges respondents face with their existing systems are management time/complexity, cost for moves/adds/changes, and end-user complaints. At ITEXPO West 2009 in Los Angeles, I sat with Bernard and the team from ShoreTel at their booth and experienced firsthand how easy moves, adds, and changes are with the ShoreTel system – even setting up new employees myself, then changing their properties.

“From the very beginning, our mission was to eliminate complexity with brilliantly simple solutions that help our customers improve business efficiency, reduce costs and increase productivity,” says Kevin Gavin, Vice President of Marketing, ShoreTel.

The fact is that, despite an economy that is recovering, businesses are not likely to increase their budgets simply because they can. They have seen what they can accomplish with the right unified communications system, and will continue to focus on TOC and ROI, opting for the solution that represents the best combination of features, ease of use/management, and cost.

Interestingly, despite such a high percentage of respondents suggesting a desire for greater simplicity in their communications systems, only 47 percent say they have actually developed strategies for accomplishing that goal. While one can never be certain what the future holds, ShoreTel is likely eagerly anticipating the remainder of those surveyed firms beginning to actively look for a new system.

ShoreTel is a Platinum sponsor of ITEXPO West 2010. To be held Oct. 4 to 6 in Los Angeles, ITEXPO is the world’s premier IP communications event. Visit ShoreTel in booth #512. Don’t wait. Register now.

Erik Linask is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Erik Linask