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Living with Lync: Managing Lync Voice for Success

At Enterprise Connect 2014, I talked about having a great relationship with Lync and the need to manage your Lync environment. As more organizations choose Lync for their voice and UC platforms, management becomes increasingly important.

The adoption of Lync as a voice solution is growing. Statistics presented at Enterprise Connect 2014 indicated that in 2013, 13 % of North American organizations with more than 100 extensions chose Lync as their voice solution. Lync has moved from zero to become the third most popular voice solution in less than three years. According to Microsoft, over 5 million Enterprise Voice seats of Lync have been deployed in total.

And with more organizations selecting Lync as their voice solution, many IT groups are finding out that implementing Lync represents 75% of the total effort and managing a Lync environment represents the other three-quarters of the effort. Yes, I know this adds to 150%, but this is how it feels.

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In fact, the more successful your Lync deployment is, the more important the ongoing management becomes.

Invoking the rule that "no good deed goes unpunished," if you do a really good job implementing Lync, then you will need to manage the environment for a really long time. Eventually the management effort (although less intense) will exceed the overall implementation effort.

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Given this, there are several things you should be considering before, or at least during, your Lync implementation:

1. How will you monitor your application, server, gateway and network health?
2. After the initial training as part of the migration to Lync, how will you ensure existing users continue to get the most from Lync and that new employees are properly introduced to Lync?
3. How will you continue to drive usage and adoption?
4. How will you manage user profiles (additions, changes, deletions) including phone number / extension management?

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Each of these areas deserves thought and planning before your migration starts.

Managing users profiles, which in the case of a Lync voice implementation includes managing phone numbers (DIDs) and extensions, is familiar to most telecom professionals, but is new to the majority of IT-focused Lync implementers. As such, this is an area that can impact service if not properly planned.

In a small organization, keeping track of available DIDs, assigned DIDs, and DIDs that are temporarily "on hold" (for instance when someone leaves the organization) can be handled using a spreadsheet or other manual mechanism.

For large enterprises or organizations that are managing multiple voice platforms, some form of DID management software is often required and justified.

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In addition to helping manage assigned numbers and extensions, most DID management applications also assist in other ways:

1. Allowing users to make profile changes themselves via a "self-serve" application or Web page.
2. Empowering help desk personnel to make changes on behalf of users safely without needing to grant excessive administrative rights to Lync or Exchange.
3. Providing traceability for all changes.

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Further, DID management applications can help speed along a migration to Lync voice by "pulling" existing data from multiple PBXs as well as Active Directory into a single repository where it can be reviewed, corrected and augmented.

Planning to manage your Lync voice environment is crucial, and the requirement to manage starts as soon as the first user is migrated.

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An especially challenging management point is when half of your users have been migrated to Lync and half of your users are still on the legacy PBX. And for some organizations that plan to migrate only certain users or locations to Lync, managing this mixed environment is not only an interim point but, rather, an ongoing requirement.

As more organizations choose Lync as their voice and UC solution, more organizations and more IT experts will need to spend additional time planning for effective on-going management of the Lync environment.

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If you choose to focus solely on "getting to" Lync and fail to consider what you need to do once you "arrive," then you will likely fail your end users.

Have questions or suggestions about managing a Lync voice and UC implementation? If so, add your voice to the comments below or interact with me in real-time on twitter @kkieller.

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