Hosted Lync: Digging Deeper
Is Lync really a "PBX Killer?" Lync could be the PBX's best friend.
The virtual Microsoft desktop running on my Mac is getting a proverbial workout. Maybe I should make a disclaimer that I'm not trying to sell you Lync. I'm not, however if you do want hosted Lync, I'd love to someday be the guy getting the deal. This is how I feel after being given the opportunity to evaluate hosted Lync on its merits for the SMB.
While I'm not yet ready to sell Lync to our customers, it is a viable alternative for call-ins that we get demanding a hosted solution. We've even entertained hosting our own wares, but it comes down to what I've already written about: There are plenty of others hosting what they call voice solutions that are banking on racking up subscribers to keep the cash flowing and the pipeline greased. These are not voice solutions, they are lures to snag customers to provide what anyone can provide. Not all voice hosted providers are like this, but it will be obvious by the ones that are that they will cause resistance to viable hosted solutions (customer attrition), disruption to business (lack of support tools in the right places), and no value add to their customers. This isn't the kind of service that I want to offer my customers.
Hosted Lync is a different story, not without weaknesses that I mentioned before in the way of onboard tools and local support, but in the way of delivering key differentiators. Lync provides value, integrates with applications and offers a safe (Proprietary-solution) and scalable (pay-as-you-go) buying decision.
So, is it possible that I've changed my tune and just can’t live without Microsoft, and am ready to dump my IP-PBX? Is Lync really a "PBX Killer?"
Did I write, "You’d have to pry my PBX from my cold dead hands?" Of course I love Mac and almost all things Apple. There are things about Microsoft that I really want too. I've said before that Apple, Microsoft and Open Source applications should reside in the cloud and be capable of running on any machine or device the user wants to utilize. It may never reach that perfect harmony, but it's closer than before.
Apple and Microsoft are seemingly headed in different directions, with Apple chasing the consumer and Microsoft holding to business. Side by side, the elements of software and services provided by each company are basically the same, and the differences remain in how users arrive at their destinations when completing their work.
Again, I have to give Microsoft credit for Lync, they have stuff in the cloud including voice. Apple is ignoring the boat ride, and sales of hardware and software licenses will not last forever, simply because they are not sustainable in the current model. Sure, I could argue "green" all day long but this is beyond green environmental concerns. The cost of maintaining PCs or Macs isn’t cheap. Rightsizing by the month is the normalcy that my IT buddy tried to tell me, but I just didn't connect it. Here’s basically what he said. "Matt, I want predictable costs, I don't want to screw around with guesswork each month (about phone costs) and this is why I want hosted voice." I've written about this too, only it didn't strike me over the head until I started testing Lync.
Predictability, rightsizing, buying each month what I need for a fixed price. These are key words and demands that help businesses smooth out those peaks and valleys that I wrote about in SMB Failures. Reducing those spreads are exactly what a professor drilled into my brain years ago when he said to dump those 30 or so PBXs you are supporting and go to a model of Good, Better, Best; meaning sell three lines and no more. Many VARs and Interconnects are still in that mode, only that mode is threatened with obsolescence.
With hosted Lync, I don't see PBXs getting replaced but I do see PBXs getting displaced or disrupted. Hosted voice in the SMB space provides an alternative for many companies seeking basic voice services, value, and limited "traditional" features. When these same companies consider email and UC and evaluate their internal and external communications processes, they will want hosted Lync over most hosted voice services that only provide voice across the Web. What customers will shun soon enough is the buying choice of small, medium or large when it comes to hardware. Their guesses are sometimes better than the vendors but in most cases, customers over-buy or under-buy a solution, and this is hosted Lync's key differentiator over a PBX. Sometimes the factory guys don’t understand that I don't want three or four hardware platforms from the same manufacturer, these are simply too costly to maintain. Then, when customers can move IT and voice into the cloud, significant infrastructure costs are removed from the premise and customers gain a true sense of scalability along with options for expansion or contraction of the business.
Hosted Lync hits on old-fashioned management. Maybe the newer-younger hustle/bustle crowd doesn’t get management or really understand Peter Drucker, but they do get accessibility. As companies' communications processes improve, so will metrics and profitability. I don’t want to keep anyone hanging, but when it's easier to communicate internally and externally and accomplish the core mission of the company, then shall you see improved metrics such as customer satisfaction, retention and profitability. The same is true with employee satisfaction, retention--and of course, they too will want more money because they will become empowered when enterprises of any size achieves this happy medium. The communications flow within and out of a company reflects this. Companies that don't get it, won't thrive and may even fail to survive.