UC Endpoint Devices: Bake-off between IP Phone, Headset and Mobile Phone
As Unify Square continues to deepen and underscore our focus on the end user experience and the “last mile” of the UC transmission, the actual endpoint devices being used by the end-user assumes ever larger importance. We continue to see IT leaders struggle with the process of endpoint device management, choosing the right device for their users, and doing it in a cost effective manner. Not only is it difficult to assess which users will accept which UC endpoint device, but the heterogeneity of equipment present in any given enterprise UC system makes it hard to deliver a good user experience with Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams. This blog post aims to simplify the issues, create a quick decision criteria for choice (the “bake-off”), and also to introduce a somewhat “controversial” topic (especially for a UC provider) suggesting that perhaps mobile phones are the long term answer to much of the complexity.
Common UC Endpoint Device Mistakes
For as much as IT has learned about how to run a great on-prem UC system, there is still so much to learn about UC endpoint device management (and choosing UC devices). Here are some of the most frequent oops! issues that we encounter with our customers:
- Device Monitoring: Far too many organizations don’t have proper device monitoring and management capabilities deployed. As such, being able to watch for abnormalities, such as an excessive number of short duration calls, abandoned calls, or calls with indications of poor audio quality is not available and the user experience (and overall UC system) suffers.
- IP Phones: Instead of making this an opt-in option, users are given the choice of only opting out.
- Headset Incompatibility: As much as the pendulum is swinging to headsets and softphones, there remain certain types of users who are simply incompatible with headsets.
- Meetings, Chats & Calls: In spite of what Microsoft and Cisco would lead us to believe, not ALL users in the organization need access to ALL of these modalities. Instead of making blanket roll-outs of all apps (leading to unnecessary spend and user confusion), look to ensure that users only get what they need.
- Headsets & User Experience: Enterprises that skip out on investing in (help desk resources, user training, WLAN infrastructure, etc.) the user experience are missing the opportunity to achieve higher softphone adoption rates and increased deployment agility.
- Headset Adoption: According to Gartner, by year-end 2018, 66% of enterprises will provide softphones to, on average, 31.8% of their employees (and Unify Square data shows this figure even running closer to 70% with our customers), and this figure is expected to increase.
- IP Phone vs Headset Cost Misconception: As Gartner warns us, “Given the variability of factors such as the actual headset life span from a given vendor, the number of headsets required by each user, or where in the support life cycle of a desk phone new ones are purchased, application leaders should not assume that a shift from desk phones to softphones, by itself, will reduce costs significantly.”
How to Choose Between UC Endpoint Device Types
Now that we’ve shared common mistakes with UC endpoint devices, we’ll go a step further to unveil the primary choice factors we’ve seen work for our customers as they select devices for their users.
- Choose IP Phones when consistent audio quality and device familiarity is of paramount importance, but be aware of potential higher costs and lower ongoing deployment flexibility.
- Choose Headsets when use case and deployment flexibility is targeted AND perhaps when costs are a factor. On the flipside, though, be aware of perishability factors of the device and the need to invest in device monitoring and user training.
- Choose Mobile Phones when even lower cost and even higher flexibility needs are in play for the organization. The key challenge with the smartphone approach for UC is that the chasm hasn’t been crossed yet – inconsistent indoor coverage and voice plans still make this a potentially risky strategy.
In addition, Gartner offers up this handy chart to further aid in UC endpoint device selection:
The “Rise” of Mobile Phones in UC?
In spite of the ubiquitous presence of mobile phones in the office environment, the prevailing IT wisdom has always been that the higher mobile carrier costs and unreliable indoor coverage, combined with the traditionally poor UCC mobile apps from Microsoft and Cisco make mobile phones a poor choice for a UC endpoint device. In many cases, this prevailing wisdom still remains true today, however we’re beginning to see signs that change is afoot. More aggressive mobile carrier calling plans, increasing in indoor mobile call quality and, most especially, the fact that most of the leading workstream collaboration software vendors have begun to prioritize the mobile client, are leading us to a tipping point.
Part of the mobile trend comes back to usage patterns for unified communications and collaboration. IT rolls out a UC system to all users, but categories of users either never use UC, never use IM, never use video conferencing (including whiteboarding and app sharing), or never use chat….but pretty much all of them use voice.
So, the IT opportunity becomes that of cleverly identifying a way to meet the requirements for specific users without buying too much and without impacting productivity. A mobile phone with an unlimited voice contract delivers audio, some level of IM and presence, and also offers collaboration tools like Slack or Teams. For many users, this may be “enough.” Added to the functionality 80/20 rule is the fact that Gartner speculates that the enterprise savings from a mobile-only approach could be up to 50% per user per month, compared with the current UC environment. And then, perhaps the pièce de résistance – in some cases mobile call quality may even be superior to the call quality of a UCaaS solution, depending on access technology.
To learn more about UC Endpoint Device Management, and how UC devices impact overall UC service health, register for our upcoming webinar with Unify Square’s Sr. Program Manager, Andreas Strebel.