Success with Skype: Knowing What You Need
Asking the right questions will set you down the path toward a successful UC deployment.
The past year has been filled with many changes, improvements, and new options related to Microsoft Skype for Business, nee Microsoft Lync. Accordingly, as I prepare to host my fifth-annual Microsoft UC and voice session at Enterprise Connect, I have an abundance of content to synthesize into my 45-minute session: "Succeeding with Skype for Business: Decoding the Cloud, Licensing, and Hybrid Options." Fear not, I, along with my special guest Jerry Thomas, a UC architect with Deloitte, will recap the new options and share the key steps organizations need to take for success with Skype for Business (or any other UC solution).
Over the next several weeks leading up to Enterprise Connect, which will take place March 7 to 10 in Orlando, Fla., I will share secrets of organizations that have achieved success in their UC journeys. If you are planning to attend Enterprise Connect (and you should!) this series of articles will help you get the most from my session. If you are unable to attend Enterprise Connect, the tips I share here on No Jitter should help improve your chance of success.
Knowing What You Need
If your organization is considering Skype for Business as part of your communications and collaboration solution, statistics indicate you are in good company. A June 2015 T3i Group InfoTrack report shows that 77% of U.S enterprises are either conducting or have completed trials of Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business. Only 3% of the enterprises had no plans to trial Microsoft UC, T3i found.
While interest in Skype for Business is high, no UC solution is the best for all organizations. The key then is determining if Skype for Business is a good fit for your specific requirements. In order to do this, you need to start at the beginning and define, document, and prioritize your requirements.
When I work with an organization, I like to focus the IT team on measurable business outcomes rather than on product features. I first work to identify evidence of a problem or opportunity for measurable positive business impact in the future. I would argue that what you need in order to be successful with UC (or any technology project) is a clear understanding of either a significant pain to address or a material and measurable gain to achieve.
Here are six tips to help discover what your organization needs from UC:
- Avoid talking about specific technologies. Specific solutions have no inherent value unless they solve a problem or deliver measurable business improvement.
- Look for evidence of a problem -- a pain point. Explore the impact of doing nothing. Ask: "What happens if we don't upgrade/implement?" Dig deeper by asking "And?... then what?"
- Search for evidence that the solution will improve business. Ask: "If we implement UC, what will this allow you to do that you can't do today?" Dig deeper by asking "How, what, who?"
- If you are equating project success with improving something such as efficiency or productivity, make sure you uncover the details. Ask: "How do you measure it? What is it now? What would you like it to be? Over what time period? What value would this improvement have?" (Ideally the answers should be in dollars but they also could be expressed in importance, 1 to 10.)
- If the person you are talking to doesn't have the answer, ask if someone else does: "Does someone else track current efficiency? When can we talk with that person?" If no one has the answer, ask if it is truly important to know.
- Identify possible constraints. Ask: "What has stopped the organization from previously addressing these issues?" and "What might stop you from moving forward?"
- Reduce the time required to launch a new product from the current 120 days to 90 days (by Q2 2017)
- Achieve an average satisfaction score of 80%+ on annual IT survey in 2017
- Reduce conferencing costs by 20% for fiscal year 2017
Of course, your specific objectives will and should be unique.
Understanding and documenting what success looks like, how you will measure it, and the value of achieving it helps drive UC projects forward. Organizations that are clear on expected business outcomes more often succeed with UC. Further, a clear definition of success allows you to correctly make any required technical trade-offs. Ultimately, being able to prove your UC implementation was successful makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Conspicuously absent from this article is a mention of hot new UC features. I didn't suggest you consider if you need persistent conversations (workstream communication and collaboration), multi-party video, mobile UC clients, WebRTC-enabled clients, click to call, speech recognition, multi-factor authentication, etc. This is by design. While use cases (personas) and required feature lists have a place, focusing first on business outcomes is what I believe you truly need for success.
In the next installment, I will outline an approach to evaluate and rate multiple viable options; you always have options! This could help you determine the best fit between UC platforms from different vendors or increasingly it could help you decide which flavor of Skype for Business -- on-premises, cloud, or hybrid -- best serves your needs.