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Four Tips for Increasing Skype for Business ROI

Microsoft's Lync/Skype for Business has earned its stripes as a workhorse conferencing and messaging tool and is now increasingly gaining traction as a credible and valuable solution for enterprise voice as well. Not only does "Skype" have brand recognition across millions of end users, it's also familiar to IT teams that have been managing instances of Lync over the years. Because of this, Skype for Business is a strong candidate for delivering unified communications across large, global enterprises. The key to success, once the decision is made to implement Skype for Business, is being able to show early results in usage and cost savings.

Since every environment is different, a "one size fits all" solution does not exist. What do exist are best practices that have been proven to save companies money on their investments and accelerate time to deployment. Microsoft's IT Pro Tool product approach establishes the necessary steps to assess and plan deployments, while defining steady end-state deployments, including processes and management.

Articulated as "big A" tips, here are four best practices for boosting a Skype for Business implementation.

Accelerate Skype for Business Site Transformations
Large deployments often come with challenges, but IT Pro Tool products equip organizations for the duration of the deployment by addressing significant dependencies during the planning stages and defining workflows early in the process. This approach has proven successful for multiple company sizes, including large, global enterprises with dated systems.

Take, for example, an enterprise of 43,500 employees with 225 sites moving from legacy PBXes to Skype for Business. Without a defined workflow, manually transforming these sites would mean completing approximately five sites a month at a cost of $40,000 per site. At this rate, completing the Skype for Business transformation would take nearly four years while costing somewhere around $9 million.

Add a planned, well-defined workflow to the process, and the Skype for Business transition could quickly scale to 25+ sites a month and bring the cost down to approximately $6 million. The complete rollout would take less than half the time (just 1.5 years) and the company would save $3 million. The workflow approach allows for prompt detection of setbacks and enables IT teams to tackle them early in the deployment with the added benefit being recognizable ROI in the early stages of the UC rollout.

Avoid System Outage Impact
Monitoring, another aspect of IT Pro Tool products, should take place before, during, and after deployment as it also equates to time and money savings. Knowing your network's weak points helps plan network integrity for the long term, and also provides benefit through early detection during and after Skype for Business deployments.

A major network failure would tax many systems, but the impact to conferencing abilities alone could jump to costly numbers. A four-hour outage of external conference join problems, impacting 30,000 users with a 5% conference concurrency per hour and at a cost of $250/hour per user, quickly would escalate to a $375,000 impact. Being able to detect and address network issues before they happen is where monitoring brings the exponential payoff. Even one outage incident per quarter, leveraging the above data, could mean $1.5 million a year in lost productivity. Companies can avoid these types of high-ticket items by investing in Skype for Business monitoring systems that are known for high-detection capabilities.

Automate User Provisioning
As many IT admins are painfully aware, Skype for Business, like any UC solution, requires managing the breadth of the DID ecosystem. This process includes not only purchasing and allocating numbers, but also implementing end user moves, adds, changes, and deletes. Scaling these requests for thousands of users in addition to tracking and implementing compliance rules for various countries can come at a significant cost, especially when compliance violations are the result of a simple misconfiguration or a lost data line on a shared spreadsheet.

Provisioning products, another core IT Pro tool for UC systems, typically automate changes and track the global execution of user requests and compliancy requirements. In many instances, today's "best practice" is to track these requests in an Excel spreadsheet shared across multiple IT teams, thus lending to the likelihood of inconsistencies and errors. Without a way to apply a simple compliance change to thousands of users in one country, a company is at risk for violation fees that could add up to thousands, if not millions, of dollars over time in addition to the costs of tracking and troubleshooting other ongoing user requests.

For a company with 175,000 users and 52,200 user change requests a year at a rate of $22 per help desk ticket, the resulting overhead costs of $1.2 million would quickly add up even before the addition of compliance violation fees. This is where using a provisioning product delivers significant cost savings. By automating 95% or more of manual requests, a company could lower the number of help desk tickets submitted and, as with the example above, realize significant savings. In this case that would equate to just over $1 million annually.

Address Help Desk Ticket Closure
Users who escalate Skype for Business issues are usually experiencing audio quality problems. Resolving these issues can be as simple as a headset tweak or as complex as a fix to a multi-week systemic problem that impacts thousands of users. Over time, these types of problems add up, costing valuable IT time and resulting in lost productivity for end users. And, of course, the price tag for fixes gets bigger over time, too.

Take a look at a company of 87,000 users and assume 3,132 tickets scaling across Tier 1, 2, and 3 escalation levels. Per tier level, the company cost per ticket type and the percentage of ticket types would look something like this:

In this example, three audio quality issues per month would escalate for every 1,000 users, so the total cost of resolving audio quality would be around $446,310. This is a problem because users are escalating the large issues that IT should be detecting long before user impact.

Now, what if you were able to decrease the number of escalations by using IT Pro Tools strategies? This approach would allow for not only monitoring and provisioning, but would also provide end user education and feedback mechanisms that lead to user adoption and self-problem solving. The new proportion of tickets would then look something like this: Tier 1 - 80%, Tier 2 - 15%, and Tier 3 - 5%. The IT team would be dealing with quick, easy-to-resolve issues and more headroom would be provided to resolve the larger issues before they impact productivity and cost the company more money. In this new scenario, the company of 87,000 would save $309,285 annually in UC escalations and resolutions alone.

Take Control of Your UC System
With your four new IT Pro Tool tips in hand, your first action should be to make sure you know how much your current UC solution is costing the company. Using this data you can then better compare other enterprise voice solutions and their associated tool sets. You will find it easier not only to justify the investment, but to also prepare you for what comes after the UC deployment. Whether you select Skype for Business or another solution, the IT Pro Tools approach will guide you through the process and ensure you have all the right tools to support your organization through all things UC and beyond.