PBX Sweet Spot

PBX Sweet Spot

The sub-100 user market is now the most competitive battleground for manufacturers as innovative technology continues to filter down from the enterprise sector – creating maximum returns on investment.

The SME user today is more demanding than ever before, and features which were once the preserve of the larger company are now demanded by smaller organisations at an affordable price.

According to Tim Webb at Toshiba the 50-100 extension market continues to be a strong and important market for them.

“We have a number of strong products in this area, including the Strata CIX100 with up to 72 extensions and the CIX200 with up to 120 extensions.

“One particular trend in this market is an increase in

networking. For the smaller sub or branch office networking this is increasingly important, as it enables them to consolidate hardware and applications which benefits businesses of that size. For example, using centralised applications such as voice mail allows overheads to be reduced and improved management of the system; having less trunks means it is easier to support business growth, as new extensions can be brought online quickly.

“We also see a continuing growth in remote and home working in the 50-100 extension market. There is a demand for FMC applications which can help businesses improve their agility, at the same time as reducing costs and carbon emissions.

Likewise in the UK, the SMB space continues to be a buoyant market for Aastra Telecom. Its IntelliGate range caters for the up to 600 extension market and by far the greatest growth in system sales has been in the sub-25 extensions segments with the Aastra IntelliGate 150 and their 300 chassis. Both are squarely aimed at the smaller and branch end of the market.

 

Michael Calvert, UK General Manager, Aastra: “To operate efficiently in today’s competitive market, SMBs expect ACD functionality for their sales teams, the integration of remote and home workers, presence management and for their phone to work with their IT systems and databases.

IntelliGate products offer such advanced features and more with, for example, multi-site networking. Aastra launched a few months ago OfficeSuite, an advanced desktop CTI application tightly integrated with Microsoft Exchange and FMC solutions based on the SIP standard. OfficeSuite has met a tremendous positive response from our customers and Aastra has since launched a new softphone, the 2380ip for the SMB market. Such products are a testament to the increasing role of applications in helping staff members to work and communicate better together.”

Trevor Evans, Business Development Manager at Alcatel-Lucent believes that their Office Communications Solutions 2008 gives business partners direct access to a complete voice, data and applications portfolio, including IP infrastructure, telephony, mobility, collaboration and knowledge sharing features.

“Office Communication Solutions is complemented by open source for individual business needs, designed from the ground up to help SMEs move to

Michael Calvert of Aastra
Michael Calvert of Aastra

“To operate efficiently in today’s competitive market, SMBs expect ACD functionality for their sales teams…”

a dynamic communications model, and supported by a dedicated SME channel programme.”

Recently introduced features include a range of new Gigabit IP phones, the OmniSwitch 6400 – a new Gigabit LAN switch for SMEs, a onenumber routing service to make mobile phones appear as extensions off the OmniPCX Office IP PBX, and new mobility software for Nokia eSeries mobiles and the Windows Mobile 6 OS, giving users the same functionality as desktop IP touch phone users. Furthermore, Alcatel-Lucent has developed special open source packages based around information sharing, project management and e-commerce, that can be delivered pre-integrated with the Alcatel-Lucent solutions, allowing SMEs to start using these applications immediately.

“Since the launch of Alcatel-Lucent Office Communication Solutions in May 2008, we’ve been working with resellers to help them effectively market the new offering in the SME space. Key to its appeal is the ability to incorporate open source applications into the mix, helping organisations lower investment costs and boost efficiency. This is particularly important since SMEs are increasingly looking to go beyond just product spec and make purchasing decisions based on the support and additional services offered by partners. Delivering open source applications that can be tailored or modified as company requirements change will help partners develop closer longterm relationships with customers through retained consultancy.”

 

Different Strokes

Rob Pickering, Director, ipcortex has seen a big difference in the way that convergence has helped organisations of various sizes. “Small companies have a completely different set of priorities when looking for a solution – least of all whether to opt for a CPE or hosted solution. In the 50-100 user market, we’ve found that the IP PBX is currently key, and control, ease of management, installation and configuration to be just as important as functionality and reliability – to both end-users and their resellers.”

It is with this in mind that Pickering highlights four ways that convergence has changed the game for resellers in this space.

Consolidation of voice and data cabling. Use of existing data infrastructure reduces the cost of cabling, the cost of time spent on installation and planning, and also reduces cost of productivity lost through workplace disruption – with the biggest impact on larger implementations.

Improved internal and external communication. Communication serves as the glue between internal departments, and also between an organisation and its stakeholders. Using convergence to strengthen those bonds can result in an altogether more cohesive, unified organisation – very important in larger organisations.

Simplified configuration and installation. Resellers rejoice – couple auto provisioning and intuitive user interfaces, and you can have a system configured within hours. One of the resellers of our VoIPCortex IP PBXs once commented that the lengthiest part of the installation was removing the phone handsets from their boxes – and this is particularly applicable when implementing a 50-100 seat solution.

• Freedom of choice. With a wealth of proprietary and open solutions available, there’s likely to be an appropriate system for every environment. This extends to user interfaces – nominally the handset. The benefits of this become truly apparent in the 50-100 user market, where different handsets can be selected according to required features and budget. With a large selection of vendors available, this can help to both close the initial sale and continue to generate incremental revenue later, when additional or special purpose terminals are required.

 

An Easier Sell

Alexandra Ernst, VP Corporate Development at Swyx says her company is seeing more frequent demand coming from this sector, particularly at the higher end, above say 70 users. Feedback from their channel partners is that it is easier to sell concepts such as unified communications to these types of buyers because they have a better understanding of the paybacks and can therefore justify the spending.

“These sizes of companies typically have technical personnel in-house so are more receptive to a higher level of system and application integration, which is when you can really optimise the benefits of UC. The advantage of SwyxWare is that it is completely software-based so the end-customer does not have to worry about upgrading hardware, this can make it a much easier sale, because there are less obstacles.”

She continued, “One of the chief drivers for choosing Swyx is that it is software-based, so it’s simple to integrate with other Microsoft applications. Swyx’s softphone SwyxIt! also gives the customer greater functionality because you can integrate with all types of web-based applications and it allows you to deploy controlled business-class IM.”

Back to Basics

SpliceCom’s recent release of two new IP handsets has coincided with a ‘back to basics’ focus for the UK-based PBX vendor and their channel partners. “Unified Communications, Fixed Mobile Convergence, IT Application Integration, SIP Trunking, Presence Detection, Microsoft OCS connectivity; with all the new technology that vendors are asking the reseller community to

Alexandra Ernst of Swyx
Alexandra Ernst of Swyx

“…it is easier to sell concepts such as unified communications to these types of buyers because they have a better understanding of the paybacks…”

embrace it’s very easy to lose sight of the basic need that continues to drive 99% of channel sales, especially those in the sub- 50 extension PBX sector – good, oldfashioned business telephony,” states Robin Hayman, SpliceCom’s Director of Marketing & Product Management.

“It’s been brought home to us by the rate of acceptance, uptake and deployment of our new IP phones, which have exceeded even our most widely optimistic forecasts. Indeed, so much so that we’ve had to bring our second production run forward to meet the demand.”

SpliceCom’s PCS 570 IP Phone teams 18 self-labelling keys with unlimited pages on its Full Colour, Context Sensitive Display, whilst the PCS 560 features 9 keys. “The colour, clarity and flexibility of the PCS 560 & PCS 570’s display elevates business telephony to a new level,” says Hayman. With each user’s configuration, settings and preferences being held on SpliceCom’s maximiser business telephone system – rather than on the phone as is normally the case – it allows these new IP Phones to be dynamically loaded with each employee’s personal profile as and when required; be that permanently or on log-in for Hot-Desk environments. This includes the Home Screen, which is selectable on a User-by- User basis and Favourites; multi-functional Personal Speed Dial, Direct Station Select, Busy Lamp Field, Line Appearance/Call Queuing and Call Pick-up entries and icons.

“With Favourites we’ve updated the traditional ‘Key & Lamp” functionality and brought it into the 21st Century, making PCS 560 & PCS 570 the perfect IP Phones for today’s dynamic and mobile business practices. With these phones you’re not limited by whatever’s been previously loaded into the preprogrammed keys as is the case with other IP and Digital phones,” says Hayman. “By providing unlimited pages for Favourites, each User can have as many individual entries as they like. In addition sub-menus allow a Departmental entry, let’s use Sales as an example, to display single or multiple pages populated by everyone in Sales. “This feature allows users to see the status of the entire sales team, use one touch dialling or even choose to pick-up their unanswered calls,” states Hayman.

Returning to expand on his original theme, Hayman says, “If you introduce Unified Communications, application convergence and the like into your pitch, unless they’re specifically on the customer’s agenda, you will prolong your sales cycle. Why? Because these IT-centric requirements inevitably require a wider circle of end-user ‘interested parties,’ ‘influencers, ‘ ‘technical recommender’ and ‘decision makers’ to get involved. This will delay the sale’s closure, or in the present economic climate, cause it to grind to a complete halt. If the initial sale isn’t dependent on them, the time to talk about these things is post-sale – it gives resellers another excuse to re-visit their customers and explore more opportunities. For SpliceCom the bottom line is that going back to basics has allowed our channel partners to greatly reduce their sales cycles because the PCS 560 & PCS 570 IP Phones gives them something new, exciting and unique to say about desktop telephony,” concludes Hayman.

 

Distributor Viewpoint – Nimans

Ian Brindle, Head of Dealer Sales at Nimans says the distributor has noted how increased adoption of IP is generating new ways for dealers to raise revenue streams.

“The way vendor strategies have evolved is very interesting. Cost-effective applications such as GSM integration, CTI and unified messaging are now within reach of the majority, when a few years ago they were just not viable. Companies would have required a specific need to justify the investment whereas now it is much more mainstream,” said Ian.

“As our own portfolio demonstrates, it is now a very cost effective and viable solution for businesses in the 50-100 sector to use technology that was once aimed at much bigger markets. Return on investment is no longer an issue.”

He continued: “IP extensions are definitely on the increase and will continue to grow in popularity, although demand for traditional analogue systems remains very strong. IP is the driving force for these new services and applications. Dealers now have a much more dynamic and broader sales portfolio at their disposal, opening up many more opportunities for them to generate revenue, on top of just installing a traditional telephone system as they would have done

Ian Brindle of Nimans
Ian Brindle of Nimans

“The way vendor strategies have evolved is very interesting.”

in the past.

“It’s all about increasing business performance and efficiency, delivering feature rich applications on top of the basic solution. Manufacturers recognise the importance of maximising ROI and minimising purchase costs.”

Brindle points out the latest technology is opening up more flexible ways of working, particularly from home, based on networks and conferencing. “As fuel prices increase and more emphasis is placed on reducing carbon footprints, this part of the market will only get stronger.”

He added: “The biggest sales volume for a manufacturer comes from the small to medium enterprise, the sub-100 arena, so it’s understandable this is where their main focus is on. Technology has filtered through and costs have come down, making it extremely attractive.”

 

Distributor Viewpoint – MTV Telecom

Chris Harris, Head of Sales at MTV Telecom says one of the keys to success is working closely with your distributor partner.

“With new product launches and new initiatives from many of our Business partnersbusiness at MTV telecom continues strongly. The flexibility of today’s platforms enables resellers to have a portfolio of products and service offering to meet even the most demanding customer and a range of applications that can assist the end-user maximising their recourses and personnel whilst controlling or reducing their expenditure.

“As IP becomes mainstream and the applications that were for the ‘early adopter’ are available and cost-effective for business of all sizes the opportunity for telecoms resellers is very exciting. Of course resellers need to make that investment in themselves to ensure that they know all the applications and innovations are relevant to their users and in this respect the ‘get closer’ to MTV telecom campaign is designed to run workshops and training sessions to help resellers maximise their end-user opportunities.”

Distributor Viewpoint – ICON

ICON, Vertical Communications UK distributor has been active in the 50-100 users sector for many years and has seen its portfolio change as the market moves from traditional to IP telephony. Its current comms platform, Vertical Communications TeleVantage, has led the way in providing an IP-PBX solution to the channel. The new product from Vertical, the Wave 2500, has already been released in the USA and is on schedule to ship a significant number of units a month this year. Wave will be available in the UK in the last quarter of 2008.

ICON’s Mark Shane commented, “The future CPE 50-100 user solution will be SIP,

Trevor Evans of Alcatel-Lucent
Trevor Evans of Alcatel-Lucent

“SMEs are increasingly looking to go beyond just product spec and make purchasing decisions based on the support and additional services offered by partners.”

integrated, and flexible. Vertical Communications Wave has been built with 50-100 market in mind. It includes as standard applications such as unified messaging, desktop call management, call recoding and voice mail and it can be extended to add in a conference manager, contact centre and voice server for those companies which need these.”

Shane believes that there are few solutions available in the UK which offer the same degree of integration and flexibility. “Flexibility to work with legacy phones and which can accommodate migration to IP is becoming increasingly important as 21CN is rolled out.” Mark believes that solutions which don’t protect a customer’s legacy investment or which require a wholesale overnight migration to IP will increasingly struggle to find customers. “ The winners in this market will be the solutions such as Vertical Communications Wave which offers the customer the assurance that they can migrate to IP in their own time but are able to invest today in an advanced communications solution.”

 

Ed Says

If you consider we’ve covered a lot of ground here without including any of the ‘Top 10’ vendors then you can understand just how crowded and competitive this market really is for everybody. Likewise, distributors find the 50-100 user market equally demanding yet it is here that they probably have the best opportunity to develop new and additional income streams.

 
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