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You & Your Lync Journey

Every journey takes its own unique form. Some are random and full of surprises, like those backpacking trips across Europe during which the traveler can basically plan one day at a time. Others, like those during which the "traveler" aims to summit Everest. He strategizes for years, making sure every camp up the mountain is planned and provisioned with the right gear and supplies. So, when you think of the different kinds of journeys, how would you describe the one you are on or about to take with Lync (now Skype for Business)?

Over the past several years, I've had the honor of working with some of the largest, most involved Lync initiatives with global enterprises like Unilever and Microsoft itself. Many start with what seems like a simple instant messaging/presence rollout, and then get into high altitude as they start adding in conferencing or voice. Almost all successful "summit attempts" I have seen seem to include some common elements:

  1. A good plan
  2. Sharp focus on user adoption
  3. Commitment to operations
  4. Use of a set of success metrics
  • A good plan
  • Sharp focus on user adoption
  • Commitment to operations
  • Use of a set of success metrics
  • Lync is definitely a journey and one with rich rewards, but it is best experienced when treated like a summit climb rather than a "follow the moment" journey.

    portableScaling the Lync Mountain
    A successful summit climb absolutely requires a good plan. I'm an outdoor adventurist (recently, I've been backpacking the Grand Canyon annually) and even though I haven't climbed Everest yet, I know having a plan for where to set up each camp up the mountain is essential to survival. As many IT executives have shared, surviving their Lync journey is top of mind. Articulating the business case for the Lync journey is a critical first step: We see many deployments start out "because it is there" (just like in mountaineering), but having crisply articulated business goals in mind during design, implementation, deployment, operations, and adoption is critical for success.

    Last year, for example, trend analysis showed that 80% of companies fell short with their UC initiative budgets. While many companies planned well for Lync infrastructure expenses, they underestimated the investment required for critical programs related to user adoption, cross-team process initiatives, and ongoing operations. Lync journeys often run from 2 to 4 years, so a good plan can properly inform the budget while keeping the team, the vendors, and the organization in alignment with that target.

    Cracking the code around user adoption, a critical plan component, is both an art and a science. Many of my clients tend to underestimate the level of focus needed here. People are people and they have ingrained behavioral patterns that unified communications challenges in a major way.

    On the flip side, Millennials are more than ready, almost demand, this new way of communicating and collaborating. Some of them don't even know what a phone with a dial is, let alone a dial tone. Accounting for the key influencers and detractors in the ranks is critical in IT's overall success. Poor or non-existent adoption planning can lead to users preferring to skip Lync/Skype for Business en masse and just use their cellphones -- risking a 3000-ft. fall partway up the Lync mountain.

    Taking Measured Steps
    Knowing what to measure is important. After all, how do you know where you are if you don't have the guideposts? Too often, however, IT departments think about operations AFTER deployment.

    Clients who adopt key performance indicators (KPIs) such as service availability, voice quality, and user satisfaction combined find that they feel more in control of their initiatives. We've found the companies that achieve the most success with Lync start their KPI tracking and operational programs at the beginning of deployment -- putting them in the position to refine their processes, metrics, and tools during the rollout. This enables proactive management of the quality of the user experience as each site goes live -- which, in turn, creates a better IT experience and accelerated user adoption. Operational rigor is like reliability and quality of mountaineering gear -- oversight can result in frostbite, resulting not only in nipped toes but also careers!

    Lync (Skype for Business) is growing. I estimate that 70% of businesses I talk to are making their bet on Lync this year compared to about 20% last year. Some are thinking that Lync-in-the-cloud is going to lessen the complexities compared to running Lync on-premises. However, take caution -- UC transformation is an intricate weave of people, process, and technology; at best, the move to the cloud addresses perhaps 15% of this mix.

    Next week at Enterprise Connect 2015 in Orlando, I'm hosting an interactive session on lessons learned around the Lync journey. The session, called "Where Are You on the Lync Journey?," is on Wednesday, March 18, at 1:30 p.m. If you're going to be there, please join me! Come and share your experiences/adventures with Lync, or benefit from other customer and partner experiences to help set you up for a successful summit climb!