Every growing enterprise faces choices about the best telephony solution to meet its needs. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking or a hosted private branch exchange (PBX) are both viable solutions, but a business must determine which is more suited to its particular requirements.
Exploring the Similarities and Differences Between SIP Trunking and Hosted PBX
At first glance, SIP trunking and hosted PBX seem very similar. Both are IP-based systems and offer the same basic services such as:
• streaming audio and video;
• VoIP telephone connections to include local, long distance, and toll-free lines;
• support of both mobile and fixed phone systems; and
• support of data transmission for email, fax, text messages, and Internet access.
However, one of the primary differences between the two is that a SIP trunking system requires fixed assets and support, whereas hosted PBX does not.
Hosted PBX is generally a service provided by a vendor that requires neither an investment in equipment nor staff to oversee the system. This is a lower cost solution, but it is completely dependent on a third party for the operation of a vital business asset.
A SIP trunking solution requires an initial investment in expensive equipment and infrastructure as well as the ongoing cost of maintenance and service professionals. But despite these costs, this investment can lead to long-term flexibility and room for growth.
Smaller businesses will often benefit more from hosted PBX. Essentially an all-in-one telecommunications provider, the hosted PBX vendor delivers a hands-free telephone system that meets a small business’s needs without the cost of equipment and dedicated staff. Additionally, because hosted PBX is cloud-based, a small business has the option to switch providers without any significant interruption of service.
But as a business grows, it often needs much greater use of bandwidth and therefore requires more resources. A hosted PBX service can be expanded to compensate for the greater needs of a larger business, but this is usually accomplished at a higher cost. Eventually, there comes a point in a business’s growth when it becomes more efficient to opt for a SIP trunking solution.
A larger business with a SIP Trunking solution is able to manage its critical telecommunications system in-house and does not have to rely on an external supplier. This affords the business a level of self-reliance and allows for more overall bandwidth as well as room for growth.
Ultimately, it seems that both SIP trunking and hosted PBX systems have a future in enterprise telephony. Both systems are well suited to a particular clientele and have enough overlap in customer base to allow for healthy competition. Choosing between SIP trunking or hosted PBX is a matter of analyzing a business’s current and long-term needs.
IT personnel are an integral part of businesses and are instrumental in making sure processes run smoothly by monitoring and ensuring the health of the company’s networks and applications. Until recently, IT professionals primarily performed an internal role, providing services to employees but having little to do with external, customer-facing assignments.
However, that dynamic is changing. As network functions become more integrated with customer-service functions, companies must ensure their IT teams are ready and able to provide customer-facing IT functions. Attracting and retaining IT personnel who can deliver both the critical internal IT service and the customer-facing services necessary in today’s environment can offer a competitive advantage.
Break Away From the Typical IT Mold
When looking for IT personnel who will work well in customer-facing processes, consider candidates who deviate from the typical IT stereotype. IT personnel tend to be introverted and more comfortable working with code than with people.
When identifying internal or external candidates for customer-focused IT roles, seek a different personality type than the typical IT employee. Consider candidates with different skills and personalities that can expand the IT team’s capabilities. Outgoing, passionate, socially focused people will typically function better in customer-centric roles than quiet, shy individuals.
To identify and attract such candidates, examine hiring processes and develop a strategy for meeting the company’s core customer-service requirements. It’s important to show candidates how their contributions will be valued and offer flexibility and opportunities to grow and advance.
Offer Customer-Focused Opportunities
Many IT departments have adopted systems that streamline interactions with the IT department but also tend to eliminate interpersonal interactions that are critical in customer-focused processes.
In order to regain customer-facing skills, companies can offer opportunities for internal IT employees to interact with customers. This might mean visiting customer operations or shadowing customer-facing employees. In addition to sharpening customer-service skills, such opportunities can help IT staff better understand customer needs, requirements, and the relation to the company’s IT systems.
Address Company Culture
While attracting and training customer-focused employees is important, making sure the company’s culture and reputation reflects strong customer-centric values is also critical. Potential candidates are likely to be attracted to companies that are stable, innovative, and willing to take risks. Clearly demonstrating how employee contributions affect customers can motivate candidates to become a part of the team.
Customer-service values should not just be presented to outside candidates but be embraced by internal IT teams, contractors, and business partners. Emphasize the value of both the internal and external customer as well as the critical role the IT team plays in both areas.
Finding, hiring, training, and retaining IT personnel capable of providing traditional internal IT services and customer-facing interactions is a likely key to success. For a successful and long-term fit, companies must not only find the right candidate for the job, but also demonstrate why they should want to be part of the company.
Adults who grew up in the northern areas of the United States and experienced harsh winters may fondly remember the unfettered joy of “snow days,” those unscheduled days off from school due to inclement weather conditions. However, snow days may soon go the way of mimeograph paper and typewriting classes. In fact, some school administrators have instituted the concept of remote work. This means students learn remotely from home when dangerous weather conditions close schools.
These progressive school districts equip students with the necessary devices, like iPads and laptops, to access the day’s lesson plans online from home. Public funding allows these “loaner” devices to be given to the students who need them over the course of the school year. It eliminates the need for sharing electronic devices in school-based computer labs.
Future Workplace Trends
One possible outgrowth of this trend is that a generation of students will be accustomed to flexibility, unsupervised productivity, and self-sufficiency in the workplace. It has the potential to permanently alter the employment culture for businesses in the years to come.
Web-based applications allow employees to access and enter data from virtually anywhere in the world. While brick-and-mortar offices will never be completely eliminated, requiring workers to remain physically present in their workplaces every day can be curtailed. Supervisors will still be able to monitor employee productivity from their remote work locations, enabling them to target any “cyberloafers” and respond appropriately.
Flexible Employment Benefits
The business community has been flirting with the concept of remote work for decades, with flex-time schedules offered as part of some benefit packages. But the concept has never fully taken flight. Below are benefits for companies that implement flexible employment options for their workers.
- Recruitment value. Remote work on either a full-time, part-time, or as-needed basis can be a part of an appealing benefit package offered to talented prospective employees. Under the right circumstances, it can be the deciding factor for a job candidate weighing several employment offers from competitors.
- Decreasing operational costs. Heating and cooling an office building is a considerable expense. Some calculations indicate that American companies could see profit increases up to $665 billion annually, or anywhere from $10,400 – $13,200 per worker each year by implementing telecommuting for only half of the time.
- Increasing employee morale. Smart business owners realize that content employees who have flexible work options are more likely to remain with their companies, reducing worker turnover and training costs.
Remote Work Options
Companies can pave the way for this employment sea change now. Some options include:
- Putting it on the cloud. Embracing cloud-based unified communications (UC) in the workplace enables remote work and telecommuting for employees.
- Formulating a disaster plan. Some disruptions to workflows can be anticipated, but others are unexpected and can wreak havoc on businesses. Businesses with proactive and well-understood plans for remote work is key to keeping operations up and running smoothly.
- Having the right technologies in place. Remote networking tools, like virtual private networks (VPNs), assure accessibility and security.
Change for companies with a 9-to-5 culture isn’t going to happen overnight. However, considering the future workforce is growing up with remote learning in place at school, a transformation is on the horizon. The movers and shakers of tomorrow are sure to influence the employment landscape that was established centuries ago.