Mike Ballantine, Business Development Manager at PBX vendor Aastra says that despite the obvious challenges in the UK economy, the SME space continues to be a buoyant market for Aastra in the UK.
“Aastra’s IntelliGate range caters for the up to 600 extension market but by far the greatest growth in system sales has been in the up to 24 extensions segments with the Aastra IntelliGate 150 and the award-winning 300 chassis. Both are squarely aimed at the smaller and branch end of the market.
So, what is driving sales at this size? Well, the SME user today is more demanding then ever before, as a greater understanding and acceptance of modern technology mean that features which were once the preserve of only the larger company are now demanded by the smaller organisations. But the channel has to appreciate that, especially in lean times such as today, most SME buyers have one of two reasons for choosing technology – saving more money, or making more money. The successful channel will be the one which can understand the client’s pressures, then recommend the product that addresses these best.
Recent trends in the SME market represent a further acceleration towards convergence. Adoption of IP standards, particularly SIP based, are now widely implemented, and the benefits of integrating the company’s phone system to its IT systems and databases such as Microsoft Exchange, Outlook directories, CRM etc are well understood in most sectors. To operate efficiently in today’s competitive market, even SMBs now expect some form of ACD functionality for their sales teams, the ability to integrate remote and home workers to the office, presence management and often some form of fixed to mobile convergence. With its leading presence on the European SMB market, Aastra understood this need to offer such features to the SME market. IntelliGate 150 & 300 are designed to offer all this, and more, with no price penalty for the smaller business.
Fixed to Mobile convergence is one area where the SME is now able to gain significant business advantages. In the SME sector, many companies do not have the advantage of layers of call handling, so it is critical that any staff member is able to handle customer calls professionally – wherever they are. Forwarding phones to mobiles is only part of the story – what happens once the call is received and, for example, it needs to be passed on to another staff member to handle, or needs to be recorded for audit purposes? To meet this need, Aastra recently launched an FMC solution based on the Symbian operating system for Nokia and Samsung handsets. This small application, easily rolled out onto compatible mobile handsets, provides the features of the IntelliGate on the GSM. Businesses can then control their mobile costs much more efficiently – Outgoing calls are made via the IntelliGate and are logged, can be recorded and can be completed first time by using the features of the system directly from the mobile handset in an easy and efficient way. Incoming calls can be handled more efficiently and ensure that the caller is reached be it on a system phone or mobile as appropriate.
The widest choice of handsets is also crucial to the SME user to offer the right balance of cost and features. Aastra offers the handset of choice for every user. This could be a feature-rich IP handset, a simple analogue telephone, an integrated DECT handset, a digital handset, softphone or even a Fixed Mobile Convergence solution using Nokia or Samsung handsets.
The availability of a wide range of IP system handsets at an affordable price now makes IP extensions attractive to the SME, not only for remote users, but as the key infrastructure in green-field deployments. Aastra was among the first companies to offer SIP handsets and since the SIP standard has grown in popularity providing choice and lower prices to customers looking for new telephony solutions.
A priority for the SMB to check when selecting a telephony system; is whether it offers full, and professionally tested, SIP Trunk support. SIP trunks provide cost-effective and flexible IP links to an operator’s network in the place of traditional ISDN and are constantly growing in popularity as the technology evolves. As well as cost savings, SIP trunks permit users a “virtual” local presence allowing users to have an apparent presence anywhere in the country or even worldwide, and the easily moving and diverting of numbers between exchanges. SMEs can use this to assist in their growth plans, even if they have to relocate over time, to ensure that they are always reachable, and can be creative with apparent “local” presence, even if they only have one location. With the IntelliGate 150 and 300 systems, Aastra has some of the longest experience in this market.
Resellers play a vital part in educating users as to the benefits that the latest telephony technology can bring to their business. A clever reseller adds real value by cutting through the jargon and focusing on the solutions, whether cost-based or feature-led. Certainly Aastra accredited partners undergo extensive training in selling IntelliGate to vertical markets – helping to deliver a solution that is specifically suited to their customer’s requirements.