Can cloud finally kill the desk phone? Dialpad thinks so

Twenty years ago the hot predictions suggested the end of physical telephones. Is that prediction finally coming true?

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Some product and momentum news today from Dialpad, the company (formerly known as Switch.co) that is attempting to change the way businesses think about business communications.

Dialpad was founded by Craig Walker. If that name rings a bell for the communication industry watchers out there, it should: Walker was the first entrepreneur in residence at Google Ventures. More importantly, before co-founding Switch.co, Walker was the group product manager for real-time communications at Google, where he oversaw all of Google's voice communications products, including Google Voice, Google Talk and Google Talk Video. That's some serious communications experience and credibility right there.

And that credibility has been noticed by investors. Despite being at a relatively early stage, Dialpad has picked up funding from all the big names -- Amasia, Andreessen Horowitz, Felicis Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Softbank and Work-Bench. And that investment seems to be delivering results: Dialpad is claiming over 170% year-on-year growth, and is today announcing that it is in use by over 25,000 paying customers. New customers, including Uber, Postmates, Vivint Solar, U.S. Securities and Betterment, join early Dialpad adopters such as The Weather Channel (an IBM business), Fairchild Semiconductors, Second City and charity: water.

Dialpad is jumping into the space it sees characterized by the failure of the first-generation cloud communications vendors to really leverage the market opportunity. Dialpad is looking to meet the needs of organizations without a rigid need for physical desk phones and covers the breadth of the market need -- voice, video, instant messaging, text and online meeting. All this completely from the cloud and without the need for on-premises servers, storage or hardwired phones.

It is an interesting space to be in. Many organizations still have a somewhat unnatural traction to their old-world hardwired phones, but as Dialpad sees it, the rise of the millennial generation and the need for far greater flexibility will remove that fixation once and for all.

"We have a laser focus on making the desk phone completely unnecessary for companies of any size," said founder and CEO Walker. "Across our 25,000 customers, only 15% are currently using their desk phones, and we are seeing that number decline every month. The rapid growth of Dialpad reflects the demand for the platform as well as its market acceptance."

Report backs up the claim of the 'death of the desk phone'

Dialpad is also releasing a survey of 1,014 professionals, about cloud communications adoption rates and expectations in the era of the anywhere worker. The survey explores cloud communications trends by business size, vertical, role and department, and found that both corporate and remote workers are increasingly away from their desks, with 65% saying they have a "desk phone optional" work environment and one-third of workers believing the desk phone will disappear in two to three years.

The results of the report would seem to be in line with other research findings. A survey of Fortune 1000 companies, for example, found that employees were at their desks only 50% to 60% of the time, forcing a reconsideration of telephony and space strategies. Despite many workers assuming that desk phones are no longer a core requirement, 66% of companies still provide employees with desk phones -- an average cost of $8.1 million for every enterprise, according to an IDG survey.

And Dialpad customers would seem to have a use case which backs up the poor prognosis for desk phones. "With 60 operating sites across the U.S. and 60% of our workforce working remotely, we've always committed significant resources to ensuring an effective communications infrastructure," said Mike Hincks, director of IT infrastructure at Vivint Solar. "Thanks to Dialpad, our teams are better connected than ever before, even though we've gone from five IT employees managing our voice solution full time to just one person spending only about 5% of his time managing Dialpad."

Other survey results would seem to accentuate the value that communications brings, but the fact that this value is no longer really tied to a fixed, desk-based phone:

  • 84% of responding companies already have remote workers.
  • 42% have a workforce that is 50% to 100% remote: 51% for SMBs, 32% for enterprises and 31% for midmarket.
  • 67% indicate that employees are allowed to work from home.
  • 83% say their organization will increase their reliance on a remote workforce in the next three to five years.
  • 61% of respondents bring their own cellphones to work.
  • 89% think their phone should integrate with Salesforce, Google Apps for Work, Microsoft Office 365 and other cloud software.

New Dialpad product release

Dialpad already offers voice, video, messaging (SMS, MMS) for in and out of network communications, and UberConference by Dialpad, an enterprise-grade HD audio conferencing system with no PINs, no downloads, seamless screen sharing and powerful call controls. Today, the company is bolstering that mix with some new product enhancements:

  • Analytics for Dialpad and UberConference by Dialpad offers a visual way for end users to understand communication patterns (callers, time of calls, and internal and external messages) to help them manage the workday. Advanced analytics for administrators offers companywide communications visibility with insights on voice, messaging, and meetings usage by person, leaderboards, department, office and location.
  • Dialpad for iPad allows employees to make and receive calls, and offers SMS/MMS/group messaging, caller insights and call controls.
  • Group messaging (chat and text anyone) allows users to message groups, sets of individuals, customers or teams on the fly, add and remove recipients, and send any file, image or video.
  • Salesforce integration gives users the ability to log on-call interactions while in Dialpad and automatically log all inbound and outbound calls directly into Salesforce.
  • Call blocking and spam filtering give employees control over their communications by letting them block unwanted callers.
  • Voicemail Transcription lets users preview a text version of voice messages on any device.

MyPOV

It would be wrong to think that the desk phone is going to disappear anytime soon. That said, the increasing mobility of the workforce, the increasing use of cloud-based software tools, and the increasing demand for high levels of functionality from an integrated communication platform will mean that desk phones increasingly fail to meet functional needs. Expect an increasing slow (or not so slow) decline of desk phones.

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