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Lunch with Lync

As they have done for the last couple of years, Microsoft invited industry analysts to a lunch roundtable on Tuesday where Lync customers briefly tell their deployment stories and the floor is opened for questions. Having co-authored a report on Lync deployment sponsored by Zeacom that was released this week, I was interested to see how customer perceptions dovetailed with those of the partners like Zeacom who are selling the solutions.

Microsoft's panel of four users were in all phases of Lync adoption, from a company in the midst of a 3,400 user trial (AstraZeneca) to one that was a very early and vocal adopter of the earliest versions of Lync (Sprint). AstraZeneca’s CTO, Angela Yochem, used the term "contemporary collaboration" to describe the experience she believes she can deliver to her users with Microsoft Lync. When I asked her to what she was contrasting this "contemporary" experience, she commented that the company was looking at the commercially available solution from companies in the leader quadrant (or equivalent thereof in waves or decision matrices) for collaboration. Federation was a key Lync differentiator that Yochem mentioned, noting that the pharmaceutical space is increasingly involved in inter-company research and development.

Sandy Abrahams, CIO of clothing manufacturer Helly Hansen of Norway, is managing a company-wide deployment of Office 365 (Lync collaboration in the cloud) and Lync Voice on-premises (the only way voice is currently available). Sandy forthrightly disclosed that her CEO initially rejected the idea of replacing the current Cisco deployment with Lync but she prevailed. What was one of the key drivers of the deployment? The 300-400 person firm was operating 11 different Exchange servers in locations all over the globe. In the midst of solving that problem with Office 365, Sandy addressed broader communications and collaboration issues. Sandy's team is deploying Lync country by country, team by team, but added that anytime a laptop is sent in for repair or upgrade, they take the opportunity to add the Lync application proactively--saving an extra trip back to IT.

VP of Corporate IT Oyvind Kaldestad described how Lionbridge, a global engineering services company with around 3,000 employees in 50 locations, began using Microsoft's Lync as a software VoIP client companywide with Live Communications Server 2005. (Clearly this is a company with an appetite for bleeding edge innovation.). Asked about the use of video, Kalestad said it was used from time to time but is "more of a novelty." Three of the four panelists agreed with this view, with lone dissenter Sandy Abrahams of Helly Hansen describing video as "one of our biggest successes."

The fourth panelist was Joe Hamblin, Chief UC Architect for Sprint, and his company's story of replacing 489 PBXs with Lync is well known. New tidbits yesterday emerged around Sprint’s contact centers. Sprint continues to run the majority of its customer-facing centers using Cisco technology installed before the Lync migration began. For internal contact centers, the company is now using Altigen--one of the several companies that have designed contact center applications for Lync.

Thanks to Microsoft and its very forthcoming customers for an enlightening and enjoyable discussion.