The era of the traditional PBX is over, and the cloud push isn’t coming from your support or sales teams, or any division in your operations.
It’s coming directly from the phone and software providers you use to power your phones, communications and contact centers.
The old cliche, "It's not a matter of if, but when..." couldn't be more appropriate.
You can see the writing on the wall by visiting the websites of major on-premise phone solution providers — think Cisco and Mitel. They have the strategy, the plans, and they're making their move.
The packages they offer, services they highlight, and the articles you read all prioritize UCaaS (unified communications as a service) because that’s where their R&D dollars are being invested.
However, while they may be gently forcing your hand, it presents you with a smart, significant opportunity to begin looking at future cloud-based solutions that supports your overall business goals more than your current PBX ever could.
R&D in the cloud
The majority of systems makers are putting their efforts in the cloud because that’s what their clients demand. A cloud approach allows them to adapt to next-gen communication systems, bridging a wide range of tools and channels.
By building out a cloud platform, they can offer more services on a greater number of devices, and with greater control over the use of their services.
Cloud-based phone and communication platforms make it easy to troubleshoot user problems, configure deployments, perform 24x7 proactive monitoring, and even put product experts into a client’s system without needing to go on-site.
The future is in the cloud as it allows providers to scale revenue in ways that on-premise solutions don’t.
Is the PBX being abandoned?
Traditional PBX systems — specifically the hardware — are being phased out. It is an old hardware and control style that is slowly following the progression of many other business technologies.
The PBX feels like an office staple because it has been around since the 1960s. It wasn’t until the 2000s when the majority of new PBX installations used IP technology, once enterprises were convinced that the Internet could be a reliable service.
That led to hybrid platforms that allowed existing, hardwired PBX systems to access Internet-based options but gave people savings such as not requiring additional PBX installations to add more business locations.
Disruption takes time and costs money, which is why many major companies and providers — such as Mitel — still recommend hybrid solutions. Companies can use the equipment they have already, access new features, and minimize downtime.
The downside to hybrid is that most often you won’t have access to the same set of features as companies who are on 100% hosted (cloud) platforms. The mix is different based on your manufacturer and provider, but hybrid can be limited.
So, why would someone still use a PBX system, even a hybrid? There are a few common examples we see around the world, and they typically revolve around business practices and spending:
Security requirements and/or government regulations require them to have on-site control.
They don’t have a current need for supporting multiple digital channels of customer service. Think wholesale manufacturers and B2B industries with few potential partners and clients.
A company invested heavily in a PBX platform and still has many years left in the life of that product.
Depreciation has not yet reached a point where the cost of migration is justifiable.
Companies with small service demands where an existing PBX is adequate.
Again, here the cost of migration wouldn’t provide a significant ROI until the PBX is no longer supported or license renewals become too cost-prohibited.
Enterprises with a large, interconnected footprint.
For some vast businesses, cloud platforms can’t always adequately replace the multiple PBX and hybrid PBX solutions they have. Companies of this size typically have their own advanced network and data-sharing solutions, multiple software integrations to manage, and custom platform tools that would need to be re-engineered to work with a cloud-only platform.
If your business falls into those categories and will remain in them for years to come, hybrid can make sense.
However, current trends show vendors placing an emphasis on cloud technologies, especially for large enterprises and changing workforces.
Signs from your Phone Provider
Reading the tea leaves from the phone provider isn’t as complicated as it may seem when it comes to cloud.
Typically, there are clues that they’ve decided to focus on UCaaS over hardware, and you might lose functionality or service quality if you stick with the on-site service.
Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself about your on-site pbx phone provider:
- Has the frequency of new product feature releases for your onsite PBX increased or decreased?
- Has the quality of support decreased or increased for PBX bug fixes?
- Are they outsourcing support and service?
- Are you noticing PBX options being phased out?
When you start answering “yes,” it’s a sign that your phone vendor is investing elsewhere.
Other signs that they’re prioritizing cloud is when you start seeing product updates and new service lines but they’re “not yet available” for your PBX.
If you hear more about new cloud products and benefits and less about physical infrastructure, you can be sure that they see a clear cloud future.
Some of this might be upsetting, especially if you’ve invested heavily in a PBX recently. However, if consumer demand is driving corporate decisions to invest in the cloud, can you blame them for heading there?
Choosing based on your business
How long are you willing to gamble that your current PBX will last and not fail or need updates and feature support that’s no longer available?
End-of-service and end-of-life dates apply to PBXs and many are quickly approaching. It’s unlikely that manufacturers are going to extend these indefinitely when their future is in the cloud.
For example, if your softphone isn’t keeping up with your needs, it might be time to consider a larger change and solution.
You’ll also want to look at how you use phone systems to respond to customer demands.
Today’s clients want 24/7 support. That usually means a mix of chatbots on websites, live chat agents, and care reps on the phone.
What’s most important to your customer is that you’re there when they have an issue, especially if they need support on a new channel like chat, text, or video.
To meet the demand, companies large and small are relying on a global workforce. Whether they outsource the contact center or hire their own teams in different regions, companies are working to have live agents available at any time of day.
True remote work allows greater flexibility here but would come with greater costs if you needed an on-site solution at your HQ to manage each out-of-office worker.
Cloud-based unified communication tools might enable you to save as you grow operational capabilities. We’ve seen it before with cloud technology, not just email but also marketing solutions, accounting, and IT talent.
Where to start if cloud is next for you
The choice your company faces is to know when the right time is to switch to a cloud-based system. While it is an eventuality for us all, timing can be strategic and minimize both impact and cost. If it’s starting to make sense for your business, there are four stages you should follow:
Research and bring information to your executive team.
Tell them about the growth of cloud, new functionality, and where you may save.
Review your IT capabilities for adopting cloud.
Work with your IT department to determine if they can migrate your systems to a cloud platform or if you need a vendor to help.
We recommend choosing a partner of the platform you are reviewing to help you create a strategy based on an analysis of your business operations.
As a RingCentral Premier Partner and Mitel Platinum Partner, it is amazing how many areas our customers are not aware that had they not worked together with us would have led to disaster. To get an idea of what's involved in the migration, download our PBX to Cloud Migration Ebook.
Create your timeline.
After you find a solution and strategy, plus determine its cost, work with leadership and your IT vendors or partner to find out how long migration takes and when you can afford to do it.
Finalize your plans.
Agree on the details, sign the agreements, and start the migration process.
Even if you’re facing a two-year plan, the time to begin learning about solutions has started. Then, when you’re ready to agree on the details of what a transition looks like, you can begin the process in earnest.
Phone vendors are putting pressure on businesses to move to the cloud. For help understanding when and if a cloud communications platform right for your business or what you might need to do to get ready, contact us today.
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Converged Technology Professionals is a RingCentral Premier Partner and a Mitel Platinum partner experienced in helping businesses migrate their phone and communications to the cloud. Converged has offices in Milwaukee, Crystal Lake, Illinois, Indianapolis, and the Grand Rapids area.