Do your homework on vendors and phone brands. There are many SIP phone vendors, and if you view them as commodities, it will be difficult to tell them apart.
A key indication of market leadership is a company’s commitment to innovation. Tangible results are hard to gauge, but you need this in a vendor partner for long-term success. Unlike legacy telephony, VoIP companies are still in the early stages of development. Innovation will determine the winners.
Here are three markers to help you decide which SIP phone vendors fall into that circle:
- R&D spending: This is easy to gauge with public companies and you can also ask vendors how much they are spending as a percentage of sales. If it’s less than two percent, chances are they will not be innovators in this market.
- Patents and intellectual property: This is easily tracked, either from the vendors directly or by searching patent registries.
- Industry recognition: While citations and awards can be somewhat subjective, they are a good indicator overall as to which vendors are getting traction and bringing new value to the market. Key sources to monitor are telephony trade publishers, telecom and technology content portals, telecom channel communities, SMB portals and trade associations, and industry analyst firms.
Stepping back, you should consider the vendor’s overall viability. Their financial strength is the best indicator, especially for public companies. The VoIP space is still young, and some vendors have a short track record and weak financial results. With phones largely being commodity products, margins are thin, so financial viability is a concern for these types of vendors.
Due to VoIP’s short history, very few companies boast a strong brand presence. The strongest brand identities by far come from vendors with pre-VoIP roots, typically legacy telephony, IT, data networking, software and even consumer electronics. While pre-VoIP brand associations may not carry over into SIP phones, it is also true that VoIP-based vendors selling SIP phones have little or no brand recognition. Generally speaking, the former is a safer bet.