As UC itself has matured, and the market place united in defining its core functionality, more and more businesses are looking to Microsoft Lync in order to deliver their UC strategy.
Well to some it might not seem like the logical route to take given that voice still plays a key role within most UC environments, and voice is not something you historically associate with Microsoft.
In fact, Microsoft’s competitors in this technology sector often used this to their advantage when delivering their sales pitch. ‘You’re not trusting Microsoft with your voice’ was clearly a tactic used to detract from the lack of functionality and integration within their own portfolios.
Furthermore, a number of systems integrators not recognising the speed by which Microsoft would head the UC marketplace (see Gartner UC Magic Quadrant 2008, 2009, 2010, & 2011), aligned themselves with other vendors product’s, and found they did not then have the internal skillset to embrace Office Communication Server 2007 R2 or Lync. With this in mind, it doesn’t take a genius to deduct which vendor products they would recommend to potential customers. One in which they had the skills to deliver, or one in which they did not?
So what changed?
Well, Microsoft proved the stability of its voice platform, firstly with OCS 2007 R2, and then with the remodelled architecture, and improved feature set of Lync Server 2010. Miercom’s independent lab test helped with this, as did the sheer number of organisations embracing Lync without any of the issues that Microsoft’s competitors had focused on, and with the added benefit of true voice resiliency and E911 compliance.
In addition Microsoft allowed both OCS R2 and Lync to be integrated with competitor IP-PBX’s, ensuring those not quite ready to move to a full Microsoft Enterprise Voice Solution, are still able to embrace other key elements of OCS R2 & Lync including IM, Presence, conferencing (audio/video and web), collaboration, agile working, and peer-to-peer voice. This was actually quite a shrewd move on Microsoft’s part, as it introduced the benefits of their platform to the masses, whilst giving customers the opportunity to migrate from existing IP-PBX infrastructure as and when the time is right.
Intuitive & Familiar Client
In addition, Microsoft’s focus on the user experience, a highly intuitive client, and ultimately the integration with other key Microsoft products such as Exchange, Dynamics CRM, and SharePoint, showed the way in which a truly integrated UC solution could benefit an organisation in terms of improved productivity, and simplified access to information & knowledge distributed across departments, offices, and regions, from wherever a user may be working. Microsoft has provided a client that looks and feels like other products from within the Microsoft portfolio, and one that users are ultimately familiar with.
This has two benefits. Firstly, up take and usage of Lync’s toolset is quick and widespread, enabling organisations to realise the benefits widely associated with UC much faster than expected. And secondly, training requirements are vastly reduced, thus lowering costs, and speeding up deployment.
Having already highlighted how Lync looks and feels like other products from the Microsoft Portfolio, and indeed, how it seamlessly integrates with them, thus removing the need to have multiple applications open at any one time, Microsoft has gone a step further by releasing the Lync SDK.
By opening up the Lync SDK, developers are now able to write bespoke Lync Clients that embed and integrate into legacy line of business applications, such as HR systems, Finance systems, and Manufacturing systems, providing users with the full Lync toolset, irrespective of the application they are currently using. Clearly Microsoft’s goal here is to provide the user with all the tools they require in which to communicate, but at the same time, provide them in a way that allows a user to access them in the easiest way possible. That means in a single client, which can be embedded in 90% of the systems an organisation may use, thus reducing the time it takes to reach out to, and collaborate with, colleagues and partners.
Power to the people
Finally, and one might say, most importantly, both OCS 2007R2 and Lync have been designed from the ground up, without any of the baggage associated with a legacy in the PBX world. Microsoft have started with a clean sheet, and designed a solution that empowers the user.
Each individual user has the power to dictate how and when they communicate, how calls are distributed to colleagues when they are unavailable, and ultimately, how best to start and then progress conversations. All this without the need to approach the IT Department, and available from anywhere with a connection to the internet.
This change in focus means that pressure and responsibility has been removed from central IT Departments who historically setup and supported features such as call pick up, hunt groups, and call forwarding, allowing them instead to now focus on other IT related activities, and empowering users to design there own communication environments.
Furthermore, by embracing USB technology in its certified endpoints, support of the general communications infrastructure has been simplified and improved. Time spent connecting phones in patching cabinets, or updating firmware has been removed. Gone are the days when it took a day to move a department’s phone infrastructure to a new location. Gone are the days when a user could be waiting an extended period of time for their phone to be fixed leaving them inconvenienced and frustrated. Gone are the days when a user’s DDI is stuck firmly to the office from which they work, preventing them from truly embracing the new enthusiasm for agile working.
All in all, you could say that Microsoft has designed Lync for the modern worker. For a user who expects to be able to communicate and collaborate from wherever they choose, on whatever device, and most importantly, on their terms.