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This article excerpt, by Kevin Kieller, originally appeared here: http://ubm.io/1AZQH5S
Microsoft Lync has had a good year in 2014, with a reported 5 million Lync voice seats now deployed and an ecosystem expanding around the tool. This isn’t to say there aren’t challenges ahead, though, especially as Microsoft moves ahead on its Skype for Business rebranding initiative. Let’s take a closer look at this year’s highlights and next year’s intentions.
As noted, Microsoft has reported deployment of some 5 million Lync voice seats in 2014. Other voice-related Lync highlights include:
- Lync ranks third among IP PBX vendors in North America in organizations with more than 100 extensions, as noted by Peter Hale, an enterprise consultant with UK-based telecom and IT analyst firm MZA, at Enterprise Connect 2014 in March.
- In October, for the first time ever, Gartner placed Microsoft in the Leaders section of the Magic Quadrant for Corporate Telephony.
- As part of its report, Gartner rated Microsoft as the seventh-largest global corporate telephony vendor with significant annual growth––of 106%––in 2013.
Along with these rating and deployment successes, the Lync software, hardware and services ecosystem continued to grow:
- An increasing number of IP phone set device vendors, including Polycom, Aastra, HP, snom, AudioCodes, Logitech and Spectralink, now support Lync.
- A growing variety of USB audio and video devices support Lync: 34 wired headsets, 34 wireless headsets, 14 webcams and 11 USB speakerphones.
- 55 SIP trunking service providers are qualified to connect with Lync 2013 (and 57 qualified with Lync 2010).
- The number of Lync-compatible choices for gateways, survivable branch appliances and session border controllers is growing.
- Lync Room Systems are now available from Crestron, Polycom and Smart.
- Microsoft now has 81 certified Lync support partners, including 16 global support partners.
- Lync functionality is expanding via a growing catalog of add-in applications for contact center, reporting, attendant console, recording, knowledge reinforcement and more (see the Office TechCenter for the most up-to-date list of qualified Lync infrastructure components).
And yet with all of the success in 2014, many enterprise communications managers still aren’t convinced that Lync alone can act as a PBX replacement. Consider these results from an attendee quick poll taken during my keynote for the recent Enterprise Connect/No Jitter virtual event, “Microsoft Lync: What Is the Impact for Your Enterprise?” (available on demand). When asked, “What do you think about Lync as a PBX replacement?,” respondents said:
- Lync can be a PBX replacement: 38%
- I would combine Lync and a traditional PBX: 40%
- I would never trust Lync as my PBX: 7%
- I am using Lync as my PBX: 15%
In 2014 the challenges associated with implementing Lync successfully remain much the same as over the past several years. These are:
- Convincing naysayers that Lync absolutely can serve as a PBX replacement.
- Realizing that implementing quality of service/class of service to prioritize real-time traffic on the network is a must.
- Assembling a team with network, telecom, application and change management skills.
- Recognizing that after you build your Lync environment you need the tools and skills to manage it (ongoing support often requires very different skills than design and implementation).
- Committing to monitoring and driving quality, usage and adoption.
On Nov. 11, Microsoft announced that the next version of Lync will be called Skype for Business and is expected for release during the first half of 2015.
While much of the focus has been on the new name for Lync, the transition to Skype for Business is much more than a simple rebranding.
The next version of Lync brings together the development teams and technologies associated with Lync and Skype and in doing so provides unique business-to-consumer opportunities as Lync plugs into the massive scale that Skype has achieved: more than 60 million concurrent users, more than 550 million registered users, and 2 billion minutes of communications per day.
Specifically, Skype for Business will let corporate users directly connect to external parties using their Skype ID … no more complex and confusing process whereby Skype users need to sign in with a Microsoft ID in order to connect. Already we are seeing improved video interoperability between Lync for Windows desktop and Skype.
Skype for Business will provide an improved and streamlined user interface. Blind and consultative transfers will take fewer clicks, a small item but one that has been a top user requested feature. Interestingly, the new Skype for Business client will include both the classic Lync interface and the new Skype UI. IT shops will be able to flip the UI for specific user groups through a central policy. This is one of the ways that Microsoft is trying to help smooth the transition to Skype for Business. The promised in-place server upgrades is a second feature designed to accelerate adoption.
Looking to another poll from the Dec. 10 Lync virtual event, we see that organizations are at many different points in their UC journeys:
- We are piloting/deploying UC from our incumbent PBX vendor: 22%
- We are trying to decide which vendor’s UC platform to select: 15%
- We have not begun piloting/deploying, and don’t expect to in 2015: 10%
- We have not begun piloting/deploying, but plan to in 2015: 16%
- We are piloting/deploying UC from a vendor other than our incumbent PBX vendor: 37%
I suspect that most of the 37% who responded that they are piloting a solution not from their incumbent PBX vendor may be piloting Lync. If you are in the process of piloting or upgrading to Lync 2013, then I would recommend that you move ahead. Being on the Lync 2013 platform will make transitioning to Skype for Business easier when you decide to do this.
Lync continued its upward trajectory in 2014 and so far 2015 is looking good for the Skype for Business nee Lync team.