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Enterprise Connect Road Show: Lync Choices for the Enterprise

We made the first stop on our Enterprise Connect Lync road show this week, in San Francisco, and picked up a few key insights on the status of Lync (at least within the group assembled); the importance of having a road map for your Lync rollout before you begin; the importance of metrics and quantifying the gains you hope to achieve with Lync; and the importance and pitfalls of end user training and support with a new system like Lync.

The obligatory show-of-hands informal survey at the start of the event found fewer and less intense Lync adoptions than I’d expected, frankly. When Kevin Kieller of enableUC opened the first session by asking how many of the 100 attendees currently were using Lync, about one-third indicated they’d started deployment. Fewer than a quarter of the audience had any Lync Voice deployed, and only one person kept their hand up when Kevin asked who in the audience considered Lync a PBX replacement.

But clearly they were there to learn, and Kevin Isacks, VP of SBC and WebRTC Development at Sonus, said he believed 2014 was going to be the year of PBX removal in favor of Lync, based on what he’s seeing from the session border controller perspective.

For those enterprises that are open to making the Lync Voice move, Kevin suggested that enterprise managers need to plan their PRI-to-SIP trunk migration hand in hand with their legacy-to-Lync Voice transition. In a mixed-voice platform environment, you may opt to route your DIDs to the legacy PBX while you’re ramping up Lync, but that will make the PBX harder to remove later on, Kevin said--you'll have to re--home all those DIDs. If you front-end the PBX with the SBC and route DIDs to the SBC, you can phase out the PBX with less disruption as you bring up Lync Voice.

The need for a longer-term vision is an important general rule for Lync installments, down to the provisioning and management aspects, according to Phil Moen, CEO of Unimax, which has entered the market for Lync management software. “Don’t just plan for the first month of your deployment; plan for the first year,” Phil said.

You also need to define success with a Lync project, noted Alan Shen of Unify Square, a services and software firm founded by ex-members of the Microsoft team that created Lync’s predecessor OCS system. Alan suggested that user satisfaction, not system metrics like uptime, are the ones to focus on. However, you have to get this in a quantifiable form, he added, since, “Everyone has an opinion on Lync,” so you need to back up your assertions about the system’s level of acceptance with end users.

And if you did make a business case on Lync adoption based on ROI calculations, driving adoption and successful use is critical, otherwise you won’t realize the business benefits you promised, noted Joe Seghatoleslami of SPS, an integrator that implements Lync systems.

All the panelists agreed that user training is the critical factor in getting the adoption and usage that will drive success with Lync. And to those who might believe training shouldn’t be necessary in the age of the iPhone, Kevin Kieller offered a strong rebuttal. He said that when his daughter only uses 10% of the features on her iPhone, it’s no big deal because as a consumer she’s still getting the value she wants out of it. But, “It’s not OK to me that [enterprise] end users are only using 10% of the tool I deployed,” because he probably made the business case based on the assumption that the tool would be used more effectively, with more of the features in use to drive business benefits. That's true of Lync as with any communications tool.

“This idea of ‘no manuals,’ I have a real problem with,” Kieller said.

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