At a recently attended unified communications (UC) conference in San Diego, I made five observations that convinced me that office computers and office phones as we've always known them will be all but extinct within the next ten years (if not much sooner).
Observation #1: At a UC conference where the majority of attendees were business phone system equipment manufacturers and distributors, most every speaker talked not about the importance of desk phones integrating with office computers, they talked about the importance of "critical business applications" working equally well on any "end point" whether that was a desktop computer, smartphone (iPhone or Android) or a tablet computer like an iPad. The main references made to office equipment was the necessity to source good office "docking stations" that employees could drop their tablets and smartphones into when they were actually working in the office.
Observation #2: Through one conference presentation after another, when I looked at the 100+ business executives in the conference audience, at any one time, at least two-thirds were quite busy conducting their normal daily business tapping away on the face of their smartphones and iPads. They would politely look up at the speaker now and then to acknowledge an important speaking point - but then they'd go right back to tapping and swiping their keyless glass tablets and smartphones.
Observation #3: The conference attendees in the audience were all collaborating on work projects with employees back at their offices without talking on the phone. In two and a half days of conference presentations I think I only saw two people ever stop swiping and tapping their phones and tablets because they actually had to step out of the seminar room to speak with someone the old-fashioned way - with their voice.
Observation #4: They were "pointing" at files, not downloading or uploading them. While many business networks have sufficient bandwidth to exchange most any size file between one computer and another, most wireless networks outside of an office environment do not. Not a problem for today's "road warrior" as the file to be shared with others rarely leaves its cloud "filing cabinet". Instead of passing files back and forth, collaborating employees were all simply pointing to where the file was and if they needed to view it together they simply looked at it together "in the cloud".
Observation #5: More than one conference speaker indicated that voice phone calls, outside of a scheduled employee conference call or customer sales presentation, seemed to indicate some sort of communication failure within a business eco-system. In a world where every buyer and seller on the planet has Internet access to the global "marketplace", it seems that very few people actually want to have their workday extended by actually having to make an unscheduled voice phone call. In today's business world, a voice phone call between two humans can be the most expensive "widget" that goes into any product a company is trying to sell. Having to make an unscheduled voice call means that an instant message was missed, an email was not read or a conference call was not attended. Oh my!
So What Does This All Mean for Business Owners?
I think it means that if your best employees are at peak productivity and that you've made almost any attempt at all to allow your employees to collaborate with each other and your customers during work hours the same way they collaborate with their friends and relatives outside of work hours (hint: text, instant message and social media) then you likely don't really need to supply them with an expensive desk phone and office computer if they already have a smartphone and a tablet computer.
So what do you do now?
Since most small business owners have not yet implemented a fully functional way for employees to collaborate and do their assigned job functions without a receptionist or auto-attendant, telephone and voicemail or an email inbox, the time is right to get together with a "unified communications" specialist to help you look at how your business could function more effectively without telephone auto-attendents, voicemail or email messages.
Looking for a "unified communications" consultant? Give me a call!
While I've certainly learned a lot about UC at the various UC conferences I've attended, I've learned even more by simply trying to communicate with my kids at college who never answer their phones and don't even remember they have an email in-box.
The good news?
Migrating your business to a place that eliminates unneeded and costly voice calls and emails can be done incrementally so you don't need to invest a lot of cash up front. In many cases, UC will pay for itself in the long run by eventually eliminating your need to give each of your employees two phones and two computers.