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Living with Lync: Relationship Advice

Relationships are tricky things. We have all heard both touching and tragic stories, stories of love and of loss, stories of commitment and betrayal. Likewise, I have heard both wonderful and painful stories of organizations that have deployed Microsoft Lync. And so, this year at my "Living with Lync" Enterprise Connect Orlando 2014 session, I decided to talk about relationships and specifically how you can have a great experience with Lync.

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Life is a beach. Or rather, a well-planned and well-executed implementation of Lync should both allow you to take calls and video and conferences while on the beach, and also make you feel like you are in a tropical oasis every day.

Obtaining this feeling is possible, but it takes hard work. Good relationships take hard work.

We all bring "baggage" to our relationships and any writer or speaker brings biases to their presentations. I think it is important to understand my biases so you can better interpret my recommendations.

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Like I recently wrote in my article "The Proof is in the Pudding," because of my background as a software developer, I understand the complexity of most UC implementations, and I am skeptical about vendor claims unless I have had a chance to experience the solution myself.

And as it turns out, in the past 18 months I have had the opportunity to lead a team that migrated over 60 offices to complete Lync voice and UC. We removed thousands of legacy phones and left people with only Lync for all voice features.

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Given my biases and my experience, I know for a fact that you can have a great relationship with Lync. However, even relationships that are doomed to fail often start off great.

Many organizations choose Lync, and during the "honeymoon stage" of IM and presence, everything is cute and cuddly.

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Clearly, more people are falling in love, or in lust, with Lync all the time. I suspect competitors would say, more organizations are being "seduced" by Lync. Adoption of Lync for IM and presence is very strong, and adoption of Lync as a voice platform is rapidly growing.

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The adoption of Lync is definitely growing as a voice solution, moving beyond the initial strong inroads Lync made as an IM and presence solution. At an Enterprise Connect 2014 session led by Jerry Caron of Current Analysis and Peter Hale of MZA, these two analysts presented statistics indicating that in 2013, 13% of North American organizations with more than 100 extensions chose Lync as their voice solution. This is noteworthy, as Lync has moved from zero to become the third most popular voice solution in less than three years. Lync is now only behind Cisco (the leader with 44%) and Avaya (with 20%).

More organizations are choosing Lync for voice; often this is being driven from strength in the IT department as opposed to from the tradition telecom group, which in many organizations has been merged into IT and as a result has a diminished say in the selected UC and voice infrastructure.

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Not surprisingly, many organizations choosing Lync for voice are those who are already familiar and comfortable with other Microsoft tools such as Windows Server, Active Directory, Exchange (which is the email platform of choice for a majority of business customers) and SharePoint.

But as Dr. Seuss says so well "One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish"--there are plenty of fish in the sea, and multiple UC choices for an organization. And with respect to relationships, technology and otherwise, you have many choices. (While my focus is technology, for non-technical relationship choices see Plenty of Fish.)

How do you figure out if Lync is right for you, or more simply, whether you should even go on a first date with Lync?

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Lync may be the right choice for many organizations; however, the most important question is whether Lync is right for your organization. To figure out the correct answer, you will need to do some work. I outlined a series of steps in my article, "The Goldilocks Approach: 7 Steps to 'Just Right,'" and then talked about how to communicate your results in the article "Goldilocks Rocks".

Next Page: More Choices, Building to Lync Voice, What Users Love About Lync and Maintaining the Relationship...

OK, you have met, dated and now decided to get married. Congratulations. You have decided Lync is a good fit for your organization, but now you have many other important choices.

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Success in a relationship requires the alignment of core values. Success with Lync requires making several decisions correctly:

• Do you need headsets or hard phones?
• Should you use Lync Attendant, a third-party product or a Lync IP set at switchboard/reception?
• Do PRIs make the most sense for your organization or does SIP trunking?
• What Lync elements require redundancy?
• How should I handle any contact center requirements? Should I use Lync response groups, or a third-party Lync add-on or keep my contact center on an alternate platform?
• How will I collect and monitor usage and adoption as well as call quality metrics?
• What do I need to do in order to meet business and legislative health and safety requirements?

Acknowledging the importance of these decision points, finding the time to discuss them and documenting your conclusions are important if you want to have a healthy relationship with Lync.

Like success in personal relationships, success with your Lync relationship is both easy and difficult at the same time. We often know what to do even if we don't "find" the time to do all the necessary things. For success with Lync you need to:

1. Define, document and prioritize (in writing) the requirements that are specific to your organization.
2. Make sure your network (wired and potentially wireless) fully supports the bandwidth and end-to-end QoS that is required for a great Lync experience.
3. Assemble a team that has both the energy, interest and experience in delivering a great Lync solution.
4. Appoint a team leader who has the authority and responsibility to make the tough decisions.
5. Understand that overall project success will be driven in equal parts by technology and communication skills. Communications, change management and training may potentially be more important than pure technical excellence.

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If you plan and execute a transition to Lync, then most (but never all) users will fall in love with Lync.

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Based on survey results, some of the things users enjoy most about Lync are actually features of Exchange Unified Messaging (Exchange UM), which provides the missed call notification and voice mail services for Lync users.

Simultaneous ring, which means that calls to your phone number will ring on Lync endpoints and a mobile phone at the same time, is another "fan favorite."--although additional survey results suggest at least one-third of users require additional training to set this up properly.

Being in a committed relationship with a partner or with Lync can be fantastic. Married people are less likely to have heart problems, and according to studies cited by Men's Health, married people also make more money, are arrested less often, have more sex, and live longer. Similar studies related to Lync are eagerly awaited.

And yet, despite the benefits, some of us (many of us?) screw up our relationships. There are many ways that organizations can have a bad experience with Lync, primarily by not following best practices: ignoring the network, lacking experience with voice, providing inadequate communications and training, to name a few.

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But if you have avoided the pitfalls and have a good relationship with Lync, how do you keep the relationship alive and growing?

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Once you select and successfully implement Lync as your voice and UC solution, the adventure is only beginning. Lync is a platform! This means that unlike a traditional "voice only" solution, with Lync you can do many new amazing things to better meet the needs and improve the lives of your end-users, such as:

• Add "click-to-communicate" features into your line-of-business applications
• Improve your existing support model by offering remote desktop sharing
• Better connect remote workers by using persistent video and video kiosks
• Use Lync itself to provide fun training and knowledge reinforcement (e.g. Trivia Engine or TrainMe)

Relationships are tricky things. No Jitter, Enterprise Connect and I are fully committed to helping you get the most from your UC and Collaboration choices.

If you are thinking about Lync as your "soul mate" or have already "tied the knot" with Lync, please consider joining me during the Enterprise Connect Tour, Microsoft's Lync: Making the Choice, Making it Work.

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If your significant other is no longer interested, I'm sorry, but I can't help you. If, however, you've lost that loving feeling for Lync, then I'm quite sure I can rekindle your passion and improve your usage and adoption.

Share your stories of Lync love or Lync loss in the comments section below. Make a UC love connection via LinkedIn or interact with me in real-time on twitter @kkieller.

Share your stories of Lync love or Lync loss in the comments section below. Make a UC love connection via LinkedIn or interact with me in real-time on twitter @kkieller.

Follow Kevin Kieller on Twitter and Google+!
@kkieller
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