Lync has become Skype for Business and Skype for Business is making its mark in the UC market - by putting your entire office in your pocket. We are taking a look how Microsoft makes it fit.
It is fair to say that there has been some buzz around the introduction of Skype for Business, which, in the words of Microsoft veteran, Giovanni Mezgec, now combines the best of Microsoft’s Lync platform with the best features of its well-loved Skype application. However, if you attended our 12th Convergence Summit back in November you will have picked up on the fact that Microsoft’s corporate communications services translate into more than Lync with a new user interface. Fit to replace traditional PBX systems as a fully fledged enterprise voice solution, Skype for Business finally extends Microsoft’s Office 365 platform into a complete Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) offering.
Together, Skype for Business and the Office 365 cloud collaboration suite bundle email, VoIP telephony, voice mail, instant messaging, presence, document sharing, audio/video conferencing as well as online meeting functionality that can replace currently fragmented services in organisations that have embraced some applications without underpinning them with a coherent UC strategy. Hosted in the cloud, these services can be accessed from any device and any location, at any time, effectively creating a comprehensive digital office for employees to put into their pockets and connect/collaborate with colleagues, customers and suppliers everywhere and across the entire Skype network.
The wealth of features available from a single, cost-effective and easy to use interface on desktop or smartphone (or both) really encourages collaboration in a workplace that is more people-centric and collaborative than ever before and not only expedites communication but fundamentally transforms the ways in which businesses work. Video, for example, is rejuvenating time-consuming hiring practices for HR departments; it brings together geographically dispersed teams for meetings and project work; and it is even finding its way into customer service for agents to deliver personalised service experiences to consumers. Knowledge sharing inside and outside an organisation is achieved more efficiently. A quick check on a colleague’s virtual availability and an instant message are oftentimes more productive for both parties than adding another email to a peer’s overflowing inbox. The opportunities to create operational efficiencies are vast and Microsoft invites existing Office 365 users, Lync lovers and anyone in search of a one-stop UC solution, for that matter, to exploit this potential using its productivity suite.
It had been in the making for a while but for me, it is the application’s ability to deliver strong enterprise voice telephony that has at last earned Skype for Business a legitimate UC platform status. Interestingly, recent research from No Jitter that surveyed 540 enterprise IT professionals (52% of whom had already adopted Skype for Business) found that 90% of the early adopters felt that Skype for Business was a better solution than their traditional PBX systems and praised its voice quality performance. That is not to say that adoption and implementation rates are soaring just yet but it goes to show that Skype for Business offers a credible alternative to other telephony solutions. And in combination with Office 365 it shimmies into the limelight as a comprehensive UC package.
This all-round solution is hitting the market at a time when, according to research firm, Nemertes many enterprises are toying with the idea to consolidate the separate platforms they are already using for various UC applications, with the aim to build a seamless user experience, minimise support challenges and reduce licensing cost. This will play into the hands of some organisations. However, UC standardisation vs. the integration of Skype for Business into existing best-of-breed UC environments should be evaluated on its own merits as different approaches will suit different organisations. As so often your company’s individual user requirements will be a good guide in selecting an approach that fits your bill.
As a Microsoft Skype for Business hosting partner and long-standing systems integrator, Britannic Technologies invites anyone looking to start using Skype for Business in their own business to join its Inside Unified Communications Seminar in London on 30th June 2016. Our team will explore how to build an entire UC ecosystem using Skype for Business and complementary products including optimised headsets and compliant call/ screen recording; present different deployment options; and explain infrastructure requirements.