Each year at Enterprise Connect, a mock Request for Proposal (RFP) session is held. The mock RFP is a simulation of the requests that enterprises and government agencies put out when looking for a new unified communications solution.
The session, led by independent consultant David Stein, Principal at Stein Consulting Group, assesses telephony products developed by communications vendors. Each of the vendors that participate are required to answer questions related to their solutions’ architecture, features, and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over a 3-5 year period. The goal of the session is three-fold:
The UC RFP and Review: Enterprise Communications Platform--Premise vs. Cloud-Based IP Telephony session is the latest in the evolution of the “mock” RFP at Enterprise Connect. This session is a long running tradition and the ideal way to provide potential customers an objective way to learn about the top vendors in the industry.
The RFP was handed out in advance of the conference. Each participating vendor is required to answer questions related to their solutions’ architecture, features, and, new this year, Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) over a 5 year period. This year, seven vendors proposed ten solutions. The proposing vendors come from a variety of backgrounds ranging from over 100 years of telephony experience to very recent entrants into the market.
The RFP specifically includes stringent requirements for high availability, core voice functionality, voicemail, unified messaging, unified communications (e.g. presence, IM, voice, Web, video conferencing), and system administration.
This year’s vendor responses were submitted to Stein, who judged them based on a weighted scale. This year’s scale—same as years past—offered 50 percent of the score to functional/technical requirements, 25 percent to architecture requirements, and the final 25 percent to pricing.
This year also marked the first year that both on-premises and cloud solutions were combined for a sufficiently comprehensive UC solutions showcase. Also, included in this year's session was a panel discussion that covered topics such as integration issues, deployment issues, and how vendors decide which solution—cloud or premises—to propose.
Evident Trends from the Session
The RFP placed emphasis on mobility, virtualization, integration of existing product sets, and improving user interfaces. The continuing trends from last year include:
New or changing trends that became evident from 2013-2014 include:
Key Trends for Modern Communications Systems
This year’s session positioned as Premises vs. Cloud was a welcome addition to the conference. For the first time, conference attendees had access to a more complete representation of the unified communications market.
There are three trends noted in David Stein’s own observations, that communications experts agree are foundational for modern Unified Communications systems. Each system must be/include:
NEC did very well, winning the highest total score of all vendors compared in the 2,000 user UC RFP. NEC’s UNIVERGE solution won top score both because of its technological strengths, and because it provides customers with a significant economic advantage in terms of TCO.
NEC’s response to the RFP is listed as “on-premises.” However, it’s interesting to note that its software based solution resides on a virtualized server and could easily exist as part of an organization’s private cloud. Alternatively, this configuration could be hosted off-premises in a commercial data center.
5-year Total Cost of Ownership
Frequently, after organizations have made the decision to replace their existing phone system, a lot of time, energy, and effort go into evaluating and comparing the initial acquisition and installation costs of the vendors that make their short list. This focus on initial costs sometimes means that ongoing operation and maintenance costs are overlooked. This year Stein added an extensive evaluation to the study that helps determine the “true” cost of a Unified Communications solution.
The addition of the 5-year Total Cost of Ownership section of the RFP gives businesses the opportunity to look beyond the initial costs of implementation, to the costs of operating the solution for five years. This evaluation helps businesses plan a comprehensive budget that takes the long-term operational and maintenance costs into consideration.
There are a number of factors to consider in evaluating Unified Communications RFPs. High availability, voicemail, unified messaging, and unified communications are just some of the features of modern communications technology. If your organization is starting the process of looking for a new UC solution to replace your existing IP/PBX, then taking a look at the UC RFP results would be a great place for you to start.
For a comprehensive look at weighting, factors and TCO evaluations included in the Enterprise Connect UC RFP, download the whitepaper by David Stein.