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Walkthrough Wednesdays

The Future of the Desk Phone: It's All about Choice


While we're undergoing a mobile revolution, are we overlooking the desk worker?

There's no doubt that mobility is a fast-growing global phenomenon, driven by employee demand to use devices, applications, and cloud services from wherever they choose. Today, 89% of organizations allow their workers to bring their own devices to work, and smartphone handsets are expected to exceed 50% of mobile data traffic in 2013. All signs point to a mobile revolution.

But as we focus on this "mobile revolution," have we overlooked the desk worker?

Over the summer, we partnered with Forrester on a global survey asking 2,300+ business and IT decision-makers across the US, Australia, Brazil, the UK, Germany, China and India about how people work across the enterprise and what employees want from their devices. The findings indicate that seven out of 10 workers still spend 4-5 days a week at an assigned desk; 88% of phone calls are still made from a desk, and more than half of work-related calls are actually made using a desk phone (an endpoint that is continually powered, always available and always connected).

Have rumors of the "death of the desk phone" been exaggerated? What I've heard from customers and have seen from the Forrester results demonstrates a continued appetite for workplace technology (for further proof, see Who Needs (Better) Desk Phones? People with Desks). I hear from IT leaders and executives how they are looking for the best ways to equip employees with the most effective tools to succeed and be productive wherever they work.

We're familiar with the profiles of a typical mobile user--road warriors that are constantly out at customer sites, or consultants without a fixed desk environment. In other environments, however, desk workers still largely rely on their fixed phone to get the job done. These desk workers hold jobs that involve sitting at a desk and talking to customers, coworkers, managers and staff remotely. These workers care about reliability, voice and video quality and how their devices integrate with other software applications.

For some of these roles, the desk phone is actually an essential tool of their job. For example, call center agents need devices that can withstand heavy call volumes with extreme reliability to ensure they are providing the best customer service. There are many other cases in different roles where the desk phone is just a better tool for the job. I continually hear from customers that these users prefer to escalate customer service inquiries to their desk phones versus their mobile phones.

While choice and devices are changing workplace collaboration, there still remains a market that relies on a desk phone to get the job done. Mobility does not only mean the ability to use mobile devices, but the capability to move your user profile and all its attributes (content, contacts, logs, applications, etc.) from device to device, so you can choose the device that better fits the task, without compromising your convenience.

The desk phone is not extinct, but evolving. The rich communication and collaboration environment demanded by business imperatives has created a new set of requirements from all workers; specifically, a request to make all available devices work in a complementary way. How many times have you looked for a contact in your mobile phone before dialing a number on your desk phone? Or, how often have you been in a place where your mobile coverage is so subpar that you stop a conversation to switch to a landline?

The next device on the desktop will be a "smarter" desk phone that offers seamless integration and content sharing between the desk phone and a smartphone; easy and secure VPN access for the remote teleworker or branch team; or a smartphone-like user experience built on an open operating system where workers can access a full range of applications.

While the future may be fully mobile, flexible and open, it's not yet here today. Similar to past evolutions--like the one from desktops to laptops or TDM to IP--these transitions take time and may never account for 100% of all use cases. There is no such thing as a one size-fits-all approach, and employees will always want choice based on their specific needs, work habits and work stations. The desk phone continues to be an important (and sometimes essential) element of the communication and collaboration environment, and more value can be delivered by having better integrated devices than by eliminating them.

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