Vendors and carriers trying to convince companies to buy IP telephony products or voice-over-IP services have some work to do. More than three dozen IT executives, who agreed to speak candidly about where their vendors lag in exchange for confidentiality, offered 17 suggestions and details on what companies should focus on in the new year.
Topping the priority list are these items:
- Better management tools: More than half of the study's participants ranked management tools as an area for improvement, particularly simulation and capacity-planning tools.
- Improved security: One-quarter suggested vendors add encryption and policy control to IP phone systems. And carriers must provide network-based implementations of voice security capabilities.
- Illustrate ROI or business benefits: Vendors - and particularly carriers - aren't clearly conveying the business benefits of IP telephony.
- Lower prices: For the most part in a greenfield application IP telephony costs slightly less than or the same as traditional PBXs - until adding the cost of the IP phones, at which point IP telephony might cost more. To boost the market, vendors must lower the price of phones, or as Cisco did, roll out new, lower-cost phone options. And carriers need to reduce pricing by about 10 percent to 20 percent if they want customers to become interested in their Multi-protocol Label Switching services.
- More features: Everyone is accustomed to PBXs' advanced features. Not everyone uses every feature, but some people use a lot of them. Customers want the same feature sets as their traditional PBXs.
- Wi-Fi convergence: Given the importance participants placed on mobility, it's not surprising that they're looking for IP telephony and Wi-Fi (802.11x wireless LANs) to meld.
- Better-trained local sales and engineering teams: When they're at trade shows or conferences and hear product managers discuss the value of their products, IT executives often are impressed. The problem is the local sales and engineering support, including value-added resellers, is far inferior.
- More reliable and redundant products: About 18 percent said reliability was a concern. IT executives are calling on vendors to make IP telephony equipment and software 99.999 percent reliable or better, like traditional PBXs.
- Improved voice quality: It's better than it was in 1995, but IP telephony quality continues to be inconsistent. Most people describe it as the quality of a good cellular phone call.
- Focus on integrity: Time and time again, IT executives feel they're not getting what they are promised. Many participants simply asked vendors and carriers to follow through on their promises.