SMBs Confront Barriers to IP Adoption
Roughly 8 percent of small businesses (fewer than 100 employees) and 35 percent of medium businesses (100 to 999 employees) in the United States have deployed some form of IP communications, according to a new research report by AMI-Partners. Still, SMBs are spending nearly $75 billion on telecommunication products and services, which, according to AMI, represents a huge opportunity for the escalating number of vendors that offer IP communications solutions. "For an SMB the decision to purchase an IP communications solution is complex," says Janet Stone, director of IP/Telecommunications Practice at AMI-Partners.
"Many are still unclear about the different choices on the market today for IP communications and what will be their options going forward," she says. "They are confused by the technical buzzwords and uncertain whether IP communications is really business-ready from a quality of service and security perspective."
The rapid evolution and introduction of new IP technology, the mind-numbing list of features and functions, and the changes to infrastructure that must be made to implement it are the prime reasons for slow SMB adoption. Less than 10 percent of SMBs have adopted IP and/or VoIP technology, according to "Ten Steps That IP Communication Vendors Should Take to Increase Sales Through SMB Channel Partners."
Vendors must do a better job of promoting the cost benefits of VoIP to SMBs, as opposed to the technically laden features and functionality sets most go to market with, according to Stone. "Many of the vendors in this market lead with the technology and only certain segments respond to that," Stone says. "SMBs don't care about features and technology, they care about saving money and having streamlined operations. They want the ROI."
For those SMBs that have implemented IP technology, Stone says the benefits of VoIP are both quantitative and qualitative. SMBs can utilize VoIP to make long-distance phone calls via the Internet without incurring long distance charges, can make conference calls without utilizing the services or costs of a third-party bridging service, and can eliminate the need to pay a phone service provider each time they want to add, change, or remove a phone line. As for productivity, people can call just one number and the employee can have calls forwarded to either their office, cell phone, home, or any combination, during certain times of the day and for certain numbers. This, Stone says, "makes workers more accessible to their clients, customers, and fellow workers."
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