Is the market really adopting Lync 2013 as a voice platform?
Most of the industry is aware of Microsoft Lync Server 2013 and the collaboration benefits it can provide, but are companies really buying in to Lync Server as a voice platform?
Well the simple and short answer is yes, and with increasing pace, but of course it is a little more complex than that. Positioning Lync as a voice platform relies on understanding a little more about Enterprise Voice.
Understand what Enterprise Voice is
All too often the first communication with an end user organisation reveals a distinct lack of clarity of what Enterprise Voice is. Lync can provide voice functionality ‘out of the box’ between Lync end points… ‘Fantastic’ come the cries…. Well, yes, but that is not Enterprise Voice! Enterprise Voice is the integration of Lync with the PSTN by means of an existing PBX or SIP trunk. Take time to make sure your client fully understands this difference right at the very beginning of the discussions or you will only succeed in disappointing them. (Wow, I think I have just stated the blindingly obvious!) Demo it, showcase it, and indulge them in the full voice offering across internal, external and mobile functionality. Make your demo sing. Lync is an easy sell when people see what it can do.
Be ready for the ‘Is it mature enough as a product?’ question
You will regularly be faced with this challenge, especially when some who are decision makers now, started in the industry when Microsoft products had to be regularly rebooted. Those days have long since gone and Lync is a very stable and robust platform. We practise what we preach and have been using Lync as our telephony platform for over a year with no issues. Over and above that, the elevation of Office 365 up to Lync 2013 can provide an alternative way of delivering a very solid platform on which to base your voice solution. Re-align the client’s expectations on the stability of Microsoft platforms/ applications of today. Build in a health check of the client’s infrastructure before you deploy anything. Be honest with your client too, OCS 2007 R2 wasn’t good enough as a voice platform but Lync is, and has been, since it was released.
Build faith in the voice solution
Don’t try and push your client too hard down the voice route if they are reluctant. There are more effective ways to win them round. Typically clients we have met fall in to several loose categories.
The jump right in client – They know about Lync and they want to cut and run from their existing, and often ageing, PBX and replace voice functionality with Lync. They are great, but not the lion’s share of the market.
The unsure client – They like the idea of it and what they have seen in the demos, but they trust their existing PBX implicitly, it has sat there for years on end just doing its job, this is a move away from that trusty box. Introduce the hybrid model for them, bring in gateways and the concept of running the two side by side. Sow the seed that before their existing PBX comes up for replacement, you should have another chat about whether they even need a PBX. By the time you go back in, there will be a level of faith in Lync as a product. They will be used to how it works and will be comfortable around the product. You will find the argument much diminished.
Those that show no interested at all – you can’t make them instantly change their approach, so don’t try. You will know who these clients are and often they will follow a pattern where telephony management and ownership is controlled by another department such as Facilities or Buildings Management. Explain to the decision makers and IT Management that Enterprise Voice looks and feels the same as the peer to peer voice available in Lync. Encourage a small POC using a SIP trunk for a few months; it costs only a few pounds. Get them to at least test the functionality. If the IT Management buys in, great, let them have those discussions with the decision makers and telephony owners.
Don’t forget about replacing Conferencing products and Audio Bridges
Decision makers are still going to be looking at the numbers, always explore if they have audio/ video conferencing or bridge facilities. The more functions they currently have, the more money they can save. It becomes a very different discussion when you talk of the potential reductions in PBX costs, maintenance charges and potentially the staffing costs for administering the PBX as well as conferencing/ bridge costs.
Yes, the market is adopting Lync Enterprise Voice, but not quite as confidently as it could be. A large part of that is down us, the Microsoft partners. Some partners can deliver fantastic Lync solutions, but they fall short at the Enterprise Voice component. Yes, Lync Enterprise Voice in its full form can be complex but don’t be scared to ask for help and definitely don’t try and guess your way through it. Positioned properly, Lync can be a real business changer.