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Classifying Users for a Lync Enterprise Voice Deployment

At this point, in my mind the debate is over and it is clear that Lync with Enterprise Voice can be a PBX replacement. The interface is very user friendly, the voice quality is exceptional, and the ability to integrate communications into business processes and applications becomes a reality with Lync Voice.

The question that still needs to be answered is whether Lync is a viable replacement for all users in an organization. An important planning exercise is to examine the users across an organization, discover how they use their phones, and classify those users into groups. For example, a typical large enterprise will likely have groups such as information workers, executives and their administrative assistants, contact center agents, and "ACD users". Each of these groups will be further defined here, and the considerations for deploying Lync with Enterprise Voice for each group will be discussed.

Information Workers
Information workers are users who have relatively simple telephony needs. For the most part, they place calls, they receive calls, and they dial into conferences. They may do this at their desk, or from remote locations.

Lync voice is a perfect solution for this group, especially if an organization already has Lync in production. If your users are already using Lync for other media types, adding voice is a natural progression and is very easy to use. Be warned though--if you pilot Lync voice with this group, be prepared to put it in production because they won't let you take it back!

Executives & Executive Assistants
This group is a very sensitive one, and can have surprisingly difficult requirements to meet. Executive assistants usually have a phone that they have used for years. In my experience, many of them do not embrace change well, and push back on change.

They often have line appearances of more than one executive on their phone, and the calls they take are extremely important, so they need to be very comfortable with the phone they are using. They may have some unique requirements that need to be captured. For example, they may transfer calls for the executives they support to the executive's voicemail boxes using certain digit codes they punch in on the keypad.

Spend some time with these people to understand all of their use cases, and look carefully at the options available with Lync for this user group. Will your executives and their admins be comfortable with a desktop client and headset only, or will they require a hardphone? If they require a hardphone, look at the third party phone options available to see if they will meet all of the requirements your organization has. Pay attention to the number of line appearances available, how calls are put on hold, how they are transferred, how to conference others into a call, how to drop a call, etc. Be sure to include executives and executive admins in your Lync Voice pilot and get feedback from them.

I'll share two true stories that can demonstrate how sensitive this user group can be, and why you need to be very careful with this group.

An executive admin at a Fortune 500 company was converted from a digital phone to an IP phone as part of a system upgrade. The phones were from the same vendor and were essentially the same, but the new phone had some relatively minor changes in the way the user interfaced with it. This admin supported a C-level executive and was so unhappy with the phone that she demanded her digital phone back. Given the seniority of the executive she supported, the IT staff had no choice but to comply with that request. Now there remains one digital phone in a large organization that is otherwise on IP!

The second story involves a company was going through a transformation from one major PBX vendor to another. An executive and his admin were converted to the new platform, and they were very unhappy with it. On paper all of the features they needed were there, however they weren't satisfied with the user interface. The corporate rollout was suspended as a result of their dissatisfaction, and the company ended up finishing the project by upgrading the legacy system rather than changing vendors. To this day, that company has half of their phones with one vendor, and the other half with another as a result of this one executive and his admin.

The moral of these stories is clear: be very careful with this user group! Converting the wrong executive or admin could sabotage an entire project. You can avoid this by understanding the needs of this group and providing the appropriate solution, even if it means a providing a unique solution for them.

Contact Center Agents
Microsoft does not provide a contact center platform for Lync, and relies on other vendors to provide this functionality. As Lync Voice becomes more mature, more contact center vendors are certifying their products with Lync. This means that there are numerous options to choose from, and it is likely that your existing platform already interfaces with Lync, or will soon.

As you perform your interoperability research on this topic, be sure to include all contact center components in your research such as the call routing platform, IVR, agent desktop, reporting, call recording and workforce management. Make sure you take product versions into account, along with your overall architecture and configuration (for example, call recording with T1s may behave very differently than with SIP trunks; the IVR in front of the PBX will behave differently than if it is behind the PBX, etc.). It is also essential to test your entire configuration end to end in a lab before moving it to production, since this is another very sensitive user group where outages and degradation of service are simply not tolerated.

"ACD Users"
This group is somewhat difficult to define, since they are not quite full contact center agents, nor are they information workers. I use the term ACD (Automatic Call Distributor) users, since that term resonates with most telecom professionals. Functionality this group requires could include time of day and day of week routing, holiday routing, agent skills, prompting, queuing, announcements and both historical and real time reporting. Lync does include hunt group functionality (referred to as Response Groups), but it may not meet all of your requirements. If it doesn't, it is likely that your contact center platform does, however it is important to understand what the cost of that option is.

The examples provided here are somewhat generic, and can apply to many industries. However, there will likely be other categories specific to other industries that also need to be considered. Take the time to get to understand the user groups in your organization, and perform research to determine how to meet the telephony needs of these users. This will ensure that the needs of your organization are met as you migrate to Lync Voice, and will help to ensure that your rollout is a success.