There is a goldmine of interesting information in Nemertes Research's recently released study, "Voice Over IP: State of Deployment, Architecture, Vendor Ratings."
The study, which is based on interviews with more than 100 IT executives, suggests that vendors are lagging on engineering interfaces (such as management, installation, troubleshooting and customer service) while excelling in purely technical areas (such as features, performance and technology). The study says that overall vendor ratings are down, and that Shoretel leads the pack.
On one level, the message of the study is to be expected: corporate VoIP use, it says in the study and elsewhere, is growing. The platform offers a rich array of features and a great deal of options on how to provision them. It's not a plug-and-play world, to be sure, and this complexity is reflected in Nemertes' results. Short version: Complexity comes with the territory.
It's also likely that such ratings will trend downward as less technology-savvy early adopters enter the picture. Finally, the perception of increased complexity could be due to more ambitious initiatives and the move of a greater percentage of projects from pilot to general rollout status.
As understandable as this is, it a challenge that could morph into a problem. Clearly, vendors must continually simplify every aspect of the technology. If this is not addressed, a year or two from now the situation will be far worse simply because the customer base will grow progressively less technically adept. Small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) are becoming a core target and these companies, by and large, don't have the expertise on staff to deal with complexity.
The good news is that the Nemertes study found that the percentage of companies using managed service providers (MSPs) -- firms that come in to handle their VoIP endeavors -- has more than doubled (from 6 percent to 14 percent) during the past year. Earlier this year, In-Stat released a report that said that hosted scenarios -- in which the VoIP functions are housed by an offsite provider -- are growing.
This and the Nemertes results, taken as a whole, could be two bits of evidence that a long-term trend toward the outsourcing of VoIP deployment and management is gaining steam. The good news is that that may just be the answer.