Charterhouse see Significant Uptake of CTI Applications by SMEs

Campbell Williams, Marketing Director, Charterhouse Voice and Data says customers with less than 24 users are still typically buying CPE platforms.

“Those of 10 users or less still normally buy key systems and those above 10 users either buy key systems or small IP-PBXs like Avaya IP Office Quick Edition, Cisco CallManager Express or small Mitel 3300 ICPs.

Their applications requirements at this line size are typically limited. However, Charterhouse sees a significant uptake of desktop CTI products that integrate with Microsoft Outlook. Companies of this size typically run their business from Outlook, so desktop integration products like Avaya Phone Manager or Mitel Your Assistant prove particularly popular, especially if they are free of charge. Interestingly, the penetration rate of these types of products is higher for small companies than their larger brethren. We do see some penetration of teleworker solutions at this line size, but typically only 1 or 2 users – perhaps the Managing Director or solitary remote workers.

We’re seeing little or no Microsoft penetration in customers of this size. Companies of less than 10 employees, and especially less than 5 employees, have limited functionality requirement. Those who do not need key line appearances and calling groups are the logical target for Microsoft Office Communicator 2007, as they could be up and running with vanilla telephony via SIP trunks and USB headsets/handsets. The challenge here is simple: can they be self-sufficient from an IT/telephony deployment perspective? Products such as Microsoft Response Point would help here greatly, but we understand that it will only be sold in the US, not in the UK.

Microsoft activity may represent an opportunity to the channel as much as a threat. Microsoft Gold Partners like Charterhouse are more than capable of delivering the solution described above, if the customer requested one. However, the customer typically does not have this knowledge, so they still buy what the channel sells them, and they are almost always risk-averse.

It’s important to remember that there are many myths surrounding Microsoft’s activity in low-end telephony. First of all, it is not free. There are always software costs and often upgrade costs, meaning that a Microsoft solution is as margin-lucrative as, say, an IP Office Quick Edition. So Microsoft accredited partners such as ourselves have little or nothing to fear.

Microsoft’s position is similar to many hosted propositions. They fit best with sub-10 or sub-5 user systems. They need SIP trunks, so a solution like Gamma FeaturePlus may be a better fit. But as always, resellers and customers default to the path of least resistance: sell CPE unless the customer or competitive situation demands a different solution. Charterhouse was an early mover in convergence, and by being accredited for Avaya, Cisco and Mitel, by being a Microsoft Gold Partner, and by partnering with Gamma Telecom, we have the solution breadth to meet any customer opportunity.”

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