Some of my time is spent away from the comfort of my laptop, in front of people, real people. This part of my job involves talking, evangelising, and identifying the business value from this funny piece of software called Lync. I often find that the word “Lync” is something new to businesses, perhaps they’d recently heard someone talk about it whilst renewing their Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, or a partner or supplier has asked if they have ‘open federation’. Luckily there is always an awareness when I get involved, even if it’s a vague one. And their interest has always sky-rocketed once they start to see it in action. Lync provices such a variety of ways to communicate, it’s not just Instant Messaging, it’s not just Video Calls, it’s not just Whiteboards, or Content Sharing, it’s not just a telephone system either. Lync is more than that, in-fact it’s more than the sum of it’s parts. There generally isn’t anything that Lync doesn’t have an answer for, now, I’m not saying that Lync does everything, it doesn’t, it’s not aimed to replicate the experience and features of a traditional phone system. Lync is an enabler, it brings with it the ability to change the way people communicate, interact, and collaborate with each other.
I came across a quote the other day… The most dangerous phrase used in business is “we’ve always done it that way”… And it struck a chord, I hadn’t realised just how often I’d actually heard this given as a valid reason for rejecting change.
I’m always interested to hear case-studies, and other examples where companies (and indeed people) have overcome the stigma and tradition of the dial-tone.
On the 25th March I attended a “Lync Sales Day” at Microsoft’s Thames Valley Park offices in Reading. Here is my summary, and thoughts…
The event was hosted by;
Kerri Hollis – Lync Workload Lead
Robert-Jan Gerrits – Lync Technology Strategist
Sophie Allen – UK Product Marketing Manager (replacing Steve Tassell)
Emily Byle – Events
Olivia Roche – Marketing
Microsoft Communications Strategy
Starting with a refresher on Gurdeep Singh Pall’s keynote speech from Lync Conference 2014, we heard an explanation behind the vision for ‘universal communications’. For example, how Microsoft see Skype and Lync progressing, side by side, remaining separate. Skype was, and always will be, for personal use, and Lync is focussed on business. Microsoft is working towards totally seamless interaction between the two on a couple of levels, firstly technical, Lync vs Skype interop to cover IM, Voice, and Video, and secondly on a “work-life” level. Microsoft believe that blurring the lines between work and life, allows people to focus more when they are working, wherever and whenever that may be. Changing it from a struggle to choose between work or personal life, into a balance of work AND personal life. To me, this Sounds a bit idealistic, but consider this, when was the last time you had a job where you turned up to your assigned desk at 9am, and left at 5pm.
Taking ‘universal’ further, Microsoft’s effort is towards making Lync pervasive, by focussing on the following areas “Familiar”, “Context App Intelligence”, “Devices”, “Video”, and “Global”
Familiar – So people coming from school, college, university pick up and use the same familiar User Interfaces through their education, personal life, and career.
Context App Intelligence – To try and predict your actions for the immediate future. Imagine receiving an email from John Smith, you then schedule a meeting in Outlook, close your laptop, and start to walk out the office, a thought occurs to you and you pick up your phone to call him, with Context App Intelligence, John Smith should appear at the top of your contact list, or at the very least show up first, amongst all the other John’s in your organisation. Just little things like that which could have a big improvement for the user’s experience.
Devices – Following on from “Familiar”, making the experience the same no matter what device you use, either your own personal smart phone, tablet, laptop etc, or company mobile phone, work provided laptop or workstation. And whether that be Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, or Windows Phone. (Blackberry still refuse to join the party, and still no mention of a Linux client).
Video – Microsoft see video increasing as an acceptable method of communication, the majority of people are still using audio only. Focussing on video allows for a more ‘personal’ experience, seeing somebody’s face and reaction is important when dealing with complicated or sensitive subjects.
Global – well, that’s the Cloud, just saying that the Familiar, Intelligent, Device-agnostic, video capable thing that is Lync… should be available anywhere, and everywhere.
Lync Business Value
This started with a story about Margaret Thatcher… during an interview with the BBC in 1973, she admitted that she didn’t believe there would ever be a female prime minister in her lifetime. Yet in 1979, only three years later, she achieved exactly that herself. The idea is to pose the question to potential clients to get them thinking what they want to achieve, rather than what they think they’ll be able to do with the technology they currently have. This backs up the quote I mentioned above, just because it’s always done a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way.
The industry is seeing a change, no longer do IT Departments make the decisions on the technology or devices that the company use, the drive often comes from the ‘consumers’, i.e. staff are demanding familiar software that works on a device they choose and prefer.
“In a recent survey 84% of people were dissatisfied with the technology provided by their workplace”. Who prefers their work issued mobile more than their own? Who has their work emails setup on their personal laptop, or phone because it’s easier? Who enjoys travelling into an office to take part in a video call. It all adds up.
“Yesterday, and today, is not what tomorrow brings.”
Good news is that there will soon be an external Yammer network for partners to get hold of marketing material and to provide feedback. Such as, to see more UK based case studies, for example, the existing case studies that include travel cost savings are based on American companies where staff often think nothing of jumping on a plane to get to branch offices, which portrays unrealistic savings compared to similar companies in the UK, where most places are only a few hours train or car drive away.
Sprint – highlighting the soft benefits that come from removing 489 PBXs such as the amount saved on power and cooling costs. Combined with dramatically decreased conference bridge costs, and reduced travel across USA brings savings of $9-10m per year in enterprise costs.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia – highlighting ease of deployment and user adoption. 60% of people were using Lync within 24 hours of it being deployed to workstations, and out to 32,000 people in a matter of weeks.
Herrenknecht AG – highlighting increased output and efficiency savings, from reducing the unnecessary time spent travelling by 30%.
Stoneridge – highlighting cost reduction from long distance calls, over $230,000 per year saved.
Microsoft – With Lync Voice rolled out to 80k users: Audio Conferencing costs have been reduced by 95% ($8m). Reduced travel costs by 10% ($92m). 28 minutes of time saver per day, per employee ($86m). And 100 million air miles avoided.
Forrester have also undertaken and published a report on the Total Economic Impact of Lync, and give a “composite” fictional company comprised from data across various industries, which is expected to realise $18.6 million in benefits over 3 years, with a risk adjusted ROI of 337% over 3 years.
Lots of fantastic large numbers being quoted there, and they shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s not just cheaper calls from using SIP that make a difference, consider these ‘unseen’ savings, rather than just the ‘cost of deploying Lync’. The examples are numerous, no longer having to provide staff with company mobile phones has a saving. Stopping the regular cycle of replacing and upgrading expensive desk-phones, and instead swapping them for cheaper and more practical headsets has a saving. The reduction in hardware maintenance and 3rd party support for old phone systems, where proprietary parts and an engineer may take days to arrive also has a saving.
From Unified to Universal.. Gurdeep Sing Pall’s vision was 5-10 years, whereas this section covers the next 12-18 months.
Microsoft are showing commitment to maintaining the continuous rhythm of updates for Lync Online, and Lync Client quarterly; providing rapid development of new capabilities, by using customer feedback to bring feature enhancements and performance improvements.
Roadmap Published -> Field, Partner, Customer Insights -> Investment Identified -> Update Released -> back to Roadmap.
It was confirmed that there will be a new Lync for Mac client which will be aligned to the next version of office. Really pushing the ‘universal’ term, for Lync across more and more devices.
There is a new Lync Server version planned for release in FY15.
Briefly touched on their commitment to Video Interop with legacy Video-conferencing and Teleconferencing units, which will let those seamlessly join multi-party conferences as an attendant.
There will be a new ‘auditorium mode’ for meetings, to facilitate a One-to-Many approach, i.e. Town-Hall meetings, or broadcast training and live streaming. This will also include better management for running structured meetings, and breakout sessions.
Further development on the LRS platform to provide more ‘touch-enabled collaboration’, better whiteboarding, and to release ‘remote control’ apps for mobile phones and tablets.
Retirement of RCC (once and for all, yay!), instead Lync will only provide Direct SIP, and bridge calls between PBX extension and destination number, rather like how Call-Via-Work operates, compared to using old, outdated, and unreliable CTI protocols.
Other Enterprise Voice enhancements include Busy-on-Busy.
The next Love Lync conference is being planned for somewhere around the last week of May.
Projects permitting… I look forward to seeing you there.