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Unify Square Powers Up Skype4B Management Platform

Unify Square has integrated its Skype for Business management and monitoring tools into a consolidated platform, along with new features and attractive pricing. In so doing, it is heading in the right direction to resolve the issues I consistently see IT managers experience as they deploy Skype for Business.

In working with enterprise organizations, I find many struggling with performance and integration issues, particularly when they add voice to their Skype for Business deployments. What's more, Nemertes has found Skype for Business (formerly Lync) to be the most expensive telephony platform, measured by first-year capital, implementation, and operational costs ($942 per end unit/license vs. $717 overall median). It also has high operational costs ($266 per end unit/license annually vs. $108 overall median). For the record, Microsoft is one of the least expensive to operate when factoring UC suites without telecom, including IM, presence, and conferencing ($177 per end unit/license annually vs. $224 overall median).

In fact, the most expensive component of managing Microsoft voice is staffing, according to Nemertes research benchmarks. That's where the right management tool can make all the difference. Reducing time spent provisioning, troubleshooting, and solving problems and automating as much as possible reduces the size of the staff required to manage Skype for Business.

Selling the tool as a suite with multiple management and monitoring issues addressed eases that buying decision. Unify Square is consolidating its previously separate products for provisioning, monitoring, user satisfaction, analytics, and reporting into one platform, called PowerSuite. Strategically, the company wants to add more functionality down to the user level, in real time, to help IT managers troubleshoot and resolve problems quickly, says Scott Gode, VP of marketing.

PowerSuite will have four levels of service, including the following:

One of the more impressive improvements is in the area of user experience. In addition to a help desk and user surveys (already available), Unify Square plans to add a user feedback loop and learning center, as mentioned above. Our research shows leading IT organizations are increasing their focus on internal marketing, education, and training of employees to increase user adoption and bolster the relevance of the technology. Ultimately, this improves productivity -- and provides job security for those running said technology. By developing a customized portal that integrates a feedback loop and education into the tool itself, Unify Square has recognized and addressed a key need for its customers.

Though Unify Square's announcement is headed in the right direction for UC management, it's not without challenges. One hurdle is that IT managers typically buy UC management tools two to three years after deployment, according to Nemertes research benchmarks. That's not going to work moving forward, particularly with provisioning challenges, performance demands, and integration requirements. So getting to customers early will be key. Microsoft and its channel must continue to educate new customers about including management tools in their budgets right up front, while the management vendors must focus on broadly educating the market.

Another issue is many companies will continue to have multiple platforms, though the trend is toward consolidation because integration has been a challenge. About one third of companies are consolidating, another one third has no plans to consolidate, and the rest are evaluating or evaluating. In mixed environments, we most commonly see Cisco and Microsoft. Tools from companies such as Integrated Research, Empirix, Oracle, and Riverbed can manage multi-vendor platforms. Unify Square, for now, is focused solely on Microsoft. So multi-platform organizations must buy additional tools if they select Unify Square, while those who select one of the aforementioned tools can get multi-vendor management in a single tool.

Unify Square's pricing model is per user, per year and varies based on the service level, number of users, and discount offered. For example, an Enterprise solution for 5,000 users starts at $14 per user per year and scales down to $5 per user per year for larger companies.

Unify Square also plans to discount the Premium Plus package from 50% to 90% for the first year to get more customers onto the platform. Doing so definitely will help companies that do not budget for management tools in their initial deployments -- and most do not, according to our research.

Join me at Enterprise Connect 2016, March 7 to 10 in Orlando, Fla., where I'll be sharing more insight on UC monitoring and management tools in the session, "Third-party Management for Lync/Skype for Business." Register now using the code NJPOST and receive $200 off the current conference price.

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