According to Forester Research there will be 63 million telecommuters in the US by 2016 or 43% of the workforce. It seems everyone wants to be able to work anywhere, anytime and on any device.
Every organization debates the best way to connect its people, process and technology. There are certainly lots of options and it’s easy to end up with multiple systems to meet different users’ needs, with all the support and administrative headaches that entails.
At Softchoice, we’ve seen first hand the impact of this trend, and how these new user expectations affect businesses, including:
- Workforce Distribution – With greater flexibility in staffing strategies, more organizations have a mobile workforce with a greater need for efficient collaborative technologies.
- Technology Integration – Inefficiencies between platforms and systems drives a demand to simplify
- BYOD – Bring Your Own Device introduces choice to the end user, but challenges business to find ways to reduce costs while improving productivity and efficiencies.
One solution we’ve found that answers our business and operational needs is Microsoft Lync. It offers a unified productivity and communications suite that aligns all the tools users need on a daily basis, like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and SharePoint with great collaborative tools like IM, voicemail, presence and video-conferencing. It also provides a huge benefit to IT as administration becomes centralized, resulting in an easier support framework and a more consistent IT strategy for maintaining the business.
Define the problem, find the solution
Microsoft’s collaboration vision sounds great, but how do you actually transition your existing platform to the nirvana that tools like Lync promise? According to Softchoice Senior Consultant Peter Baxter ( firstname.lastname@example.org), the first step is to capture and identify your business requirements and priorities for the business. Introducing a new solution to an organization can be challenging, so Baxter stresses focusing on two key areas first:
Business: What goals does the business have? Each organization is different and will have different needs from enhancing productivity, to improving usability for internal users, to boosting customer satisfaction through improved communications.
Operations: Does the operations area have a good understanding of the existing infrastructure limitations? What are the gaps that exist between what the business wants and what the operation can support? How will a Lync implementation change how IT manages the infrastructure, what are the benefits and what are the costs?
Once you have a clear understanding of both business and operational expectations, Baxter recommends considering 4 key factors to ensure your Lync deployment success.
4 key factors for Lync deployment success
- Do you have Executive Sponsorship? If the group responsible for business strategy, objectives and goals is not participating, the project won’t proceed successfully.
- Business and IT alignment? Determine your critical daily workflows, so functions and features of Lync can be matched to workflow requirements.
- How will you handle adoption and change management? Ask key stakeholders to contribute their perspectives and include them in the decision making process. Demonstrating Lync functionality to staff allows them to see the link between the issues in their day-to-day business processes and how the technology will assist them in their jobs, ensuring faster, more compliant adoption later.
- How will you manage rollout? You can prioritize the rollout of features, addressing the most critical needs first and adding in other features later. He suggests a big bang may sound good in theory but rarely is as successful as an additive build.
One of the best ways to determine whether a Lync deployment is right for your organization is to see it in action. That’s why we created the Microsoft Lync Proof of Concept offering to evaluate the platform and capture business requirements. If you’d like to be part of this trial offer, please feel free to contact us at Microsoft@softchoice.com.
Now that you have your business and operational requirements, it’s time to consider the technical aspects, Dino Caputo, Softchoice’s Senior Microsoft Lync Consultant suggests that customers consider all the features of Lync before starting their deployment. It’s crucial to establish an integration plan first. “We often recommend customers work through our UC Roadmap Service when considering a Lync deployment, to clarify some of the complex integration issues they need to address. The roadmap helps define an existing environment, establish functional requirements, and provides solution options to help in the decision making process”, says Caputo.
Lync Topology Basics
Four key areas that Caputo emphasizes with customers considering Lync are:
- Which Topology should you choose? Standard Edition is great for deployments for less than 5000 users where HA/DR are not a requirement. Choose Enterprise Edition when you need greater scale and/or require HA/DR.
- Is this a Lync deployment for IM and presence only or will you add Voice? Lync Voice has many planning requirements to address.
- Are you considering Exchange Server to handle your voicemail requirements? If so, ensure you plan appropriately for Exchange to handle this.
- Do you want to extend Lync functionality outside your corporate network Ie. provide for remote workers, trusted partners and customers to collaborate using Lync? This will require further planning.
As with most technology, Microsoft Lync has been evolving rapidly and Cloud and hybrid Cloud options have been added to the mix. Recently announced Lync Server 2013, builds on the architecture of earlier versions, enhancing and adding to the feature set to address the needs of an increasingly demanding and mobile workforce.
While any new IT system presents challenges, the need to manage both business and users collaboration expectations isn’t going away any time soon. Finding the right solution and implementing it properly is key to driving improved productivity and communications within your organization. And the best way to do that is to put in place effective planning and procedures, and work with an experienced partner that has the expertise to understand the complexities of Microsoft Lync and the insight and knowledge to facilitate a smooth transition.