Beth Schultz
Beth Schultz is editor of No Jitter and program co-chair for Enterprise Connect. Beth has more than two decades of...
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Beth Schultz | September 28, 2015 |


7 Skype for Business Deployment Gotchas to Avoid

7 Skype for Business Deployment Gotchas to Avoid Panelists at the recent Enterprise Connect Tour on implementing Skype for Business shared the mistakes they commonly see among enterprises.

Panelists at the recent Enterprise Connect Tour on implementing Skype for Business shared the mistakes they commonly see among enterprises.

Many enterprise IT organizations are looking at Microsoft Skype for Business to provide the pathway from basic IM/presence to full-fledged unified communications. That brings a wholesale commitment to voice and video conferencing, and beyond. But, too often, they're forgetting critical steps that'll ensure widespread success.

Last week in Chicago was the final stop of the four-city Enterprise Connect Tour, "Implementing Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business in Your Enterprise." If you missed the tour, no worries. You still have time to get expert insight on implementing Skype for Business during an Enterprise Connect Virtual Event taking place this Wednesday, Sept. 30, from noon to 5:00 p.m. ET. Register now, and join us for our virtual conference and exhibition.

To prime your appetite for the valuable Skype for Business content you are sure to find at the virtual event, I've pulled together seven common mistakes some of our panelists said they see when working with enterprises on UC deployments:

  1. Maintenance Minder -- When a PBX goes end of life or otherwise out of service, enterprise IT managers often see this as a time to move to a UC platform. That's smart thinking... "as long as some careful thought has gone into the decision and its impact," said Eric Sineath, principal architect with AT&T Consulting. You can't keep the status quo when migrating from a voice-only PBX to a full-featured UC platform -- that's a big misalignment. "It's like replacing a Yugo with a Ferrari and expecting the maintenance costs to be the same," added Sineath, who also will be presenting a session on key questions to ask your Skype for Business partner during the Enterprise Connect Virtual Event this Wednesday.

  2. Operational Outlook -- When enterprise IT managers plan for Skype for Business, they often plan through infrastructure deployment... then stop. But to achieve business outcomes, they need to drive usage, and that means taking the time to understand how employees will handle calls via UC and training them appropriately, said Alan Shen, vice president of services at Unify Square. It means making sure the right analytical capabilities are in place, too, and knowing whether you want to work with a managed service provider or go it alone on maintenance and management. "Operational things such as these tend not to get planned," he said.

  3. Network Readiness -- As enterprises bring on more and more UC functionality, they often fail to account for the incremental traffic that will be flowing over their IP networks. First will come voice, then video -- and if the pipe into an office is too small, those video conferences are going to eat up all the bandwidth and wreak havoc on other IP services, said Walter Kenrich, director of SBC product management at Sonus Networks. "So be sure to do a network assessment before you get into video conferencing capabilities."

  4. Border Basics -- As you're plugging your SIP trunks into the Skype for Business Mediation Server, you may be tempted to forego use of a session border controller (SBC). That would be a mistake, Kenrich said. "The SBC is paramount to the success of any UC platform rollout" -- with its ability to do things such as prevent attacks at the network's edge; handle encryption for mobile users; support migration of SIP trunks over time, seamlessly; integrate with legacy PBXs; and provide dial-plan management. "SIP is SIP is SIP, but everybody knows vendors do different things with their headers, and you need an SBC to handle a migration away from Cisco or Avaya or whatever and to Lync/Skype for Business," he added. Working for an SBC vendor, Kenrich's bias is clear. But the SBC is indeed a great tool to have for these reasons, agreed Kevin Kieller, a partner with enableUC and keynote speaker at the Enterprise Connect Tour and upcoming Virtual Event.

  5. Staffing for Success -- Too often, IT departments fail to streamline themselves around UC, said Christopher Martini, vice president of Skype Business at ConnectSolutions, a professional and managed services provider. "They still have disparate voice and data teams that don't really work together," he said. "They really need to be looking at their organizational structures to make sure they can support UC with a unified organization."

  6. Pilot Prowess -- A pilot test is a well-understood must-have in most any technology deployment. However, enterprises too often pick the wrong users to participate in the pilot tests. "We've seen lots of pilots of all executives or all IT staff, and those aren't good samples," noted Jeff Schertz, lead Microsoft solutions architect at Polycom.

  7. Know Your Users -- This circles back to the points above on operational awareness, but the idea that IT do its best to understand the user experience bares repeating. As Schertz pointed out, enterprise IT organizations too often approach UC deployments whole hog -- and then get lots of pushback. Whether they're using hard phones, softphones, or the UC client for voice calls, for example, "if the experience is poor, confusing, or anything but great, then they'll blame the platform," he said. What users really need is a choice of devices so their experiences match their expectations, Schertz said. ConnectSolutions' Martini agreed. "End-user device selection is critical," he added. "You can't just take a handset away and replace it with a headset, or take a wired headset and replace it with a wireless one." Universal decisions aren't going to result in across the board success.

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