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Electronic Circuit Board - Vodafone Business

The desk phone is not dead – yet

For years, experts have described the death of the desk phone as inevitable, however for some functions it remains essential

For years, experts have described the death of the desk phone as inevitable: “Why run to the desk to make calls when you have all the Unified Collaboration tools you need on the smartphone in your pocket?”.  Businesses often mirror consumers, and it is interesting to see how many households are losing love for their landlines. According to Pew Research, 77% of Americans now have smartphones and have become used to portable communication and information.

Work is changing as employees move to a Digital Workplace providing enhanced collaboration capabilities for teams wherever they are based. Offices are increasing deploying wireless technologies that enable teams to work in changing spaces and not be limited by a fixed location or desk. Rogers, in Canada, is seeing an increasing number of wireless businesses that have gone completely wireless internally.

But few businesses are green field environments and many have static, inflexible, communication systems including a tethered deskphone.  Any enterprise that reviews their call logs may see surprisingly low desk phone usage results and wonder why they are still paying monthly maintenance for these idle devices.

Analysis on the subject would most likely show that certain occupations are likely to continue to use landlines for a while yet. One example is an airport: while we are waiting at the gate to board our getaway plane, the fixed phone is used as a lifeline for the stressed ground crew to call for support when needed.  The phone is not tied to one person, but to a specific role and each gate will continue to have at least one for staff use.

Similarly, nurse stations require fast and reliable communication to access a range of services.  Like the airport ground crew, a phone at the nurses’ station is ready to provide communication to other departments quickly and efficiently.

But what about Mobility, desktop collaboration and Fixed Mobile Convergence?

Many occupations are about knowledge sharing, and in the Digital Workplace it is essential for team members to communicate in ways that are relevant to the data being shared.  Imagine trying to share a document as an “attachment” when on the phone?  This is where softphones such as Skype for Business (soon to be Teams) or Cisco Webex Teams come into play.  Get an IM or post or email from a colleague, click on the message and speak directly to the author.  No need to pick up another device, no need to find an address and key in numbers, no need to leave a message!

Many occupations no longer require a desk phone.  Why provide a landline to a company where it will ring unanswered while employees are traveling or away from their desks? Individuals prefer to use a landline when they are expecting longer calls or need to set up meetings. A softphone with an accompanying headset can seem more effective than simply holding a mobile phone to your ear for longer periods of time, however, a smartphone is more beneficial for employees when they are on the road. So instead of seeing a smartphone and softphones as independent of each other, we can imagine them as complementary.

What about a solution that allows users to switch between devices as they move to and from their desk? That way, they could have the best of both worlds.  One number for their contacts to reach them, one voicemail to leave messages at, and only one contract for the head of IT to have to deal with. The IT department could give a mobile phone to those that don’t require a landline and make a step towards Unified Communications by linking the desk phone and mobile phone to each other.

It’s not just about voice

An article in CIO magazine (Oct 2015) highlighted that only 6.5% of respondents between ages 25 and 34 say they are comfortable using a landline! So how about providing additional enterprise communication tools to ensure more comfortable and appropriate usage of these devices? Users of G Suite or Office 365 may well be familiar with Hangouts Meet or Skype for Business. This integrated trilogy of landlines, smartphones and softphones provide users with a wide range of possible collaboration methods. Now, working in teams becomes so much easier when using web or video conferencing, editing documents together on the fly or sharing design images in real time, driving decision making and boosting productivity.

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