It’s not so long ago that businesses had a single choice as to how to run their telecoms. This basically involved installing and running expensive hardware and tethering this to an equally expensive voice contract. Using the internet would involve a separate bill on top of that with the voice and data networks effectively separate. This was great news for the incumbents at the time – of which Avaya was one of them – but not so great for the rest of us who were lumbered with high costs and a lack of flexibility.
The news a few days ago that Avaya is seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy is, for me, proof (if any were needed) that the days of outdated private branch exchange (PBX) based telecoms is finally coming to an end. The US news site Computer Dealer News perhaps summed this up best when it said:
“This is a reminder to telecom users that the days of ‘big iron’ PBX is effectively over. When the voice services and the associated unified communications (UC) are migrated to the IP Network, they are subject to the same software assurance, server renewal programs and associated timeframes that the IT department has for the rest of the technology investments… [and that’s a positive and progressive step]”
It’s a good thing for business that true UC is finally a reality. It means that organisations can simplify their infrastructure with one platform (and one bill) for calling, conferencing, video, and sharing. Indeed, analyst firm IDC expects 55% of mid-sized firms to deploy some form of UC in the next 12 months. As a further indicator of the transition that’s gathering pace, Global Market Insights suggests that the UC market will be worth £77 billion by 2023.
Why the high number? It’s simply because we are currently in a wave of business transformation. At the heart of this is mobility. Employees do not want to be tethered to the office and instead work from wherever is the best location according to the circumstances of any given day – whether that be at a client site, home or even a motorway service station. Leading UC solutions such as Skype for Business give that consistent experience whether it be on mobile, tablet or laptop. It means that we can all be more productive and flexible in how we work.
However, step into many offices today and we will still see banks of landline telephones and wired infrastructure. Many businesses are either unaware of the potential of UC, see it as something in the ‘future’ or fear it will not work as well as a fixed landline. Equally, many recognise the benefits but are afraid of the migration – ‘if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it’. Yet, what we have perhaps seen with Avaya, is that the very system itself is fast becoming broken.
There are no guarantees that legacy PBX suppliers will be around in the years ahead to support creaking infrastructure.
Back to the question – what does the Avaya Chapter 11 news mean for UK business? It’s perhaps most sensible to look at the market trend – the old way of doing telecoms is dying and will eventually be dead. Organisations should take Avaya’s news as a moment for reflection. They should be looking hard at their choices and building an integrated approach to their telecoms and IT that will not only get them ahead today, but will set them up for the next decade or more. True UC is a reality now – it will save money, it will enable you to collaborate better and it will create a modern workplace. And, if you are going to go a UC route, it’s hard to argue against a Gartner listed leader – Microsoft.
Jon Seddon is head of product development at GCI.