At various industry events, I hear a lot about how telephony is becoming cloud-based, but I also hear a lot about how the installed base of legacy systems remains large. At some point, all telephony will be IP-based, and likely cloud-based, but that will be many years down the road. When that time comes, there will be no need to debate this topic, but for now, businesses continue to struggle with how to manage telephony.
Telephony may be the stickiest of all communications applications, although email is likely a close second. Old habits die hard, especially because legacy telephony has been the gold standard of quality for so long. VoIP may be the future, but it will never challenge the track record of legacy. Like a vintage Chevy that’s still going in Cuba, legacy phones were built to last. They came with a price point to match, so it’s not hard to understand why they continue being used, even after many of the vendors have come and gone.
You can certainly keep using your legacy phone system until it truly reaches end of life. PSTN service will be around for years to come — even rotary-dial phones will still work. Perhaps it’s still being financed, and you can’t justify replacement until fully paid for. Of course, you could also remain skeptical of VoIP and this newfangled internet that’s all full of ads nobody wants to see.
Change is not easy, but sometimes there’s more risk in not changing than in hanging on to the status quo. There are lots of things that still work that we no longer use, and in time, you don’t regret moving on. As with anything else, early adopters change quickly, while laggards change later, sometimes much later. The latter speaks to legacy telephone users, and if you’ve read this far along, then you’re probably ready to consider some valid reasons for change. Here are three that come up in the course of my ongoing research.
1. Nobody’s Using the Phones
You can learn a lot about your organization just by walking around. Or by checking usage trends on your network for various communications applications. Of course, this won’t tell you much about legacy phones unless you have access to call records, but it may well show rising traffic for modes like chat or video that could be displacing desk phone activity. A better indicator, actually, is the noise level in your workplace, especially for the ringing of incoming calls.
If you’re looking for them, there are lots of clues that will tell you if these desk phones are being used. For many workers, they have become the mode of last resort, not first resort, and if you took the phones away, they may not even notice or resist. Just because the phones are there, doesn’t mean workers are using them, and this can be problematic if workers are relying more on other modes that are not as immersive.
Modes like chat or email may be more convenient than telephony, but the communication itself may not be as effective, and that could impact the quality of work being done. Updating to VoIP could change that in a big way, especially if the features are richer, and if tied to a collaboration platform like UC.
2. An Offer You Can’t Refuse
There is no end to cloud providers who want your telephony business, and those who really want it won’t be deterred when you tell them your phones work perfectly fine. They are well aware of that, and that actually makes you a prime target for their offerings. With VoIP, telephony is very much a service, and for these providers, the money is in the monthly subscription charge, not in selling the phones. If you’ve had your phone system a long time, the opposite was true since the associated hardware made this a capitalized investment.
These providers know full well that your phone system is a declining asset, and if the utility is also declining — as per #1 above — you’re not really in a position of strength. Aside from that, inertia plays a role in avoiding change, not just because change is hard, but you’re also unsure of the alternatives. For scenarios like this, cloud providers understand that making the change to VoIP easy for you is more important than selling you on the virtues of VoIP and cloud-based technology. You will probably be expecting the latter, but when an offer built around the former comes your way, I’m pretty sure you’re going to take it.
3. Thou Shalt Do Digital Transformation
For a long time, IT has held sway over technology decisions, but with the cloud, that power base has been eroding. In many cases, IT has become so overworked and can no longer keep up with technology change. To make matters worse, the “consumerization of IT” often means that digital natives are more current, and some don’t even rely on IT for guidance. As these instances add up, IT risks falling behind the curve for broader trends like digital transformation.
On one level, this particular trend is about IT adopting the latest technologies, but it’s also about management wanting a more agile organization that can better adapt to change. In cases where IT is following rather than leading this trend, management may set its own strategy for digital transformation, around which all departments must align. For IT groups still supporting legacy telephony, there should be little doubt about what needs to happen next. Whether transitioning to VoIP to support this strategy or for simple job preservation, IT will need to accept that it’s time to move on from legacy telephony.