Skype Operations Framework – Introduction

Hello again old friends,

It turns out that neglecting a blog for over 12 months is surprisingly easy, right from that first time I didn’t click ‘publish’, then month by month – life and hobbies got in the way.

Let’s get back into the swing of things with a mini-series on Skype Operations Framework.

I’ve no idea how many will be in this series. But I expect 5 in total (I don’t aim to go too deep). So as a SOFt start to this series, I’ll be easing myself back in SOFtly with an ‘Introduction’. Along with as many puns as I can fit in.

Introduction

“Skype Operations Framework” (SOF) – firstly let’s break that down word by word, starting with Framework.

Framework
What is a Framework? – Well, generally speaking a Framework defines a structure for something, a logical way to classify, segment, and categorise. Because we’re in the IT Industry, you’ve probably heard of the following acronyms…

ITSM (Information Technology Service Management) – guides, activities, policies, and procedures for companies providing IT-based services (be that an internal IT service to staff, or a service provider with customers) covering areas such as ‘plan, design, deliver, operate, and control’ (these will sound familiar later).

ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) – a set of documents / books that describe a particular approach to ITSM that aims to align closer to business requirements. Originally created by the UK Government, this library is broken down into the following broad areas – Strategy, Design, Transition, Operation, and Continual Improvement – often depicted as a ‘circle’ with Improvement feeding back into Strategy (this will also sound familiar later).

PRICE2 (PRojects IN Controled Environments version 2) – a Project Management methodology (posh word for a more practical sense of a Framework) based on breaking down any project into manageable stages and controlling the transition between those stages. Also originally created by the UK Government, divided into 7 principals, covers 7 themes, and includes 7 processes. (Somebody thought 7 was a lucky number, and three 7’s even more-so).

… and so on.

In a way, they all are based on the same premise, they are each a set of standard approaches, best practices, with commonly accepted outputs, having defined structure and a notion of success criteria. These are all essentially a written form of common sense (mostly), but also based on a huge wealth of experience. Following a Framework should be seen as following a well-known and accepted set of guidelines on how to conduct yourself through the project, or during the delivery of a service.

Operations
In this case, the meaning of Operations is fairly literal, but where project would be too short-sighted, and service would be too vague. Operations cover all the activities from the beginning, during, and around the involvement of… the next word…

Skype (for Business)
Phew, back to familiar ground.

So, right, ok… pleasantly vague so far, it only gets better from here.

Reality

In my opinion, calling Skype Operations Framework (I’ll call it SOF from now on)… so, calling SOF a Framework… isn’t strictly true in the same sense as the above examples. Due to the focus of SOF being purely one specific service, e.g. Skype for Business Online. The guidance given is therefore able to be much more specific than the general notions, outlines, and the ideals threaded through ITSM and PRINCE2 allowing them to be used in any project or service delivery.

To that end SOF reads more like a run-book, or a play-by-play action-plan for conducting an engagement. Aimed directly at companies to follow, as well as Microsoft Partners to lead with, this is a double edged sword – as in some cases it helps the less experienced or hesitant companies gain reassurance, it also restricts others that have developed their own frameworks and engagement processes around Skype for Business meaning they have to adapt, rename, or cross-reference relevant sections with their own to make MicroSOF happy (see what I did there?).

SOF is presented as a downloadable and searchable library of assets, i.e. Word Documents, PowerPoint Presentations, Spreadsheets, and Scripts. Take a peek at https://www.skypeoperationsframework.com/Downloads tick the ‘Download All’ checkbox and click ‘Download’, soon an archive, approximately 820MB compressed – weirdly only 809MB once extracted, will whizz it’s way onto your computer. Ready for you when you fancy some light reading.

Fluffy Words

Get ready to be turned off by business speak as you go through the assets (i.e. the downloaded files), there is a lot of duplication in the assets too, as each document includes ‘what is SOF’ and ‘introduction’ sections that you’ll soon know off-by-heart.

But remain calm, each industry has its’ jargon and IT is no different (probably the worst offender), remember they are just words made up to explain things that would otherwise take longer to explain, once you get past that the anger and frustration will subside.

Offerings

First up… a SOF Offering (or SOFfering as I like to call them – any opportunity for a pun). Offerings exist because Skype for Business can be delivered in several ways, the most significant of those being pure Skype for Business Online, Hybrid, or CCE, (Microsoft totally ignore the rotten apple of only ‘on-premises’, non-cloud is a 4 letter word these days) – each architecture choice may or may not include certain activities, and knowing which of these activities are relevant or not to you is made easy by grouping the assets and activities into a bundle.. called an Offering. see.. easy.

There are currently two Offerings, ‘Get Deployed’, and ‘Cloud Migration’ each with a detailed Workflow taking you through the ‘journey’.

Why, why, why…

So, here we have a Framework that’s very prescriptive, and the additional overlay of Offerings to simplify and join-together different routes through the Framework, why? Well, it’s likely due to one main reason…

Microsoft have seen a large amount of Lync and Skype for Business deployments fail due to ill-devised projects with narrow scope, technically-focused deployments that don’t address business use cases, nor correctly address user adoption challenges or other non-technical changes that come from such a transformative technology.

How do we ensure success?… well Microsoft went with the old adage of ‘Measure Twice, Cut Once’… or ‘do it right the first time’ and as a reward Microsoft will give you some money towards the project via the Skype Accelerate Programme (time limited) – providing you use a SOF Accredited Partner (like Modality Systems – Skype Operations Framework Proposition).

Coming Next…

Skype Operations Framework – Overview” (or SOFverview perhaps?)

Stay tuned…

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About Graham Cropley

Working as a Senior Consultant for Skype for Business, Exchange, and Office 365.

3 Comments

  1. I feel the entire industry, (starting with those “well-informed” experts) are just the peasants on a chessboard, serving the interest of the bullsht bingo team who invented this whole Sof nonsense, and thanks to those selfimportant people, this idiotic collection of useless doc package spreads like the next plague. (no need to agree with me though)

    • But a lot of people DO agree with you. I’m still mildly optimistic that some good will come of it, even if that only means a few more Network Assessments are done, or some more clients hear about User Adoption activities they’d not previously thought about. It’s just a shame it’s an unnecessary struggle for anybody to get through only to learn there’s perhaps very very little difference to how they already work – but suddenly their way is not good enough, where in reality – common sense and experience goes along way.

      Thanks for your comment John.

  2. @Graham: exactly what I think! The MSFT people in their ivory tower in the far-far Redmond seem to be some kind of aliens, if they really believe, nobody else on the planet thinks you have to “‘PLAN” (omg, really?) or “DELIVER” (really buddy, do I have to deliver? who would have thought that??) or “OPERATE” (no kidding??). And all these blind UC evangelists flood twitter with that SOF crap. I wonder if any of them actually read that whole pile of obvious-BS… then would shamefully revoke all his/her praising tweets in a second.

    Captain Obvious would be spinning in his grave about these smart@sses. The people in Redmond who produce this crap would really need to regularly and mandatory leave their campus for a couple of days, and MEET with people in the real world. Amazing, what living in a fenced campus do to your perception of what outside the fences customers expect from you as a vendor.

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