If you were looking for a topic to put before a debating club, something along the lines of ‘Has Skype for Business been a success?’ would be perfect. The ammunition for both sides of the argument is compelling.
In terms of growth, the rise of Skype for Business since Microsoft rolled it out in 2015 has been nothing short of meteoric. Just a year after its release, some surveys were revealing that half of enterprises were already using Skype for Business server edition, while a third had adopted the cloud-based Office 365 version.
While these figures could be explained by the considerable enterprise market share Microsoft already enjoyed with its phased-out Lync server, plus existing Office 365 subscriptions, these figures were widely predicted to increase rapidly. Last year, Niman’s was predicting a 250 per cent increase in Skype for Business seats in 2017. Others estimate that it will break the 100 million global users barrier sometime in 2018.
On the flipside, it has not all been plain sailing for Microsoft as it has attempted to establish Skype for Business as the world’s premier UC platform. Concerns over the delay in replacing all of the very well respected enterprise features in Lync were accompanied by complaints about the quality of connections and audio. More than half of IT teams said they were unable to rectify QX issues. 60 per cent said that quality had a negative impact on user adoption and ROI.
Microsoft has worked hard to resolve these issues over the past few years, first by completing the roll out of full enterprise-class PBX functionality and call management features in the server edition. This was followed by making the same features available in the Office 365 E5 Enterprise edition, ensuring concerns over quality and reliability in the cloud were put to bed once and for all.
Thanks to the huge user base enjoyed by Office server editions and Office 365, Skype for Business has certainly benefited from a ready-made market. For many businesses, adopting Skype for Business as part of a wider Microsoft software suite is the simple solution to their comms needs. However, simplicity should not be the only determining factor in choosing a UC platform. With so much choice out there nowadays, businesses of all sizes should be aiming for comms solutions that adds value.
Skype for Business can certainly achieve this. As with all tools, the key is understanding its strengths and matching them to your needs.
5 Steps to a Successful Skype for Business Migration
Videxio is a video conferencing service provider which offers as part of its portfolio a Gateway-as-a-service solution for running Skype for Business through external video platforms. CEO Tom-Erik Lia has worked on many Skype for Business migrations and here shares what he believes are the five key steps to success every business should observe.
1. Look at your existing UC stack
“Businesses must consider how Skype for Business fits into a broader Unified Communications technology stack,” said Tom-Erik. “To get the most from your Skype for Business investment, make sure it integrates with your existing communications technology stack and can grow with you over time.
“The last thing you want is for any technology to operate on an island or to get stuck with an outdated technology.”
2. Consider your use cases
Tom-Erik argues that one of the secrets of being successful with Skype for Business is understanding its limitations as well as its strengths. Pairing Skype for Business with third-party services can help extract better value from it in the long run.
“Skype is great for IM/presence, voice and content sharing, but it does have some limitations,” he said. “For companies implementing Skype for Business, consider how you will be using the tool and whether it makes sense to integrate it with another service for better call quality, the ability to host large meetings, or the ability to talk to users outside your organisation.
“You can extend the functionality and usability of Skype by connecting with other video networks or adding dedicated hardware to your Skype world. This adds to the value and lifetime of your system.”
3. Boost ROI with a video conferencing service
Although the Skype brand is synonymous with video calling, Tom-Erik argues that for business purposes, video is one area where you can definitely improve ROI by pairing with a third-party service.
“Skype requires a lot of bandwidth for video and does not always provide the same quality for larger meetings as more dedicated video conferencing solutions,” he said. “To succeed with Skype for Business, companies should combine it with a video conferencing service. This lets users call others on any device, including SIP/H.323 video conferencing units, from inside their Skype environment and join Skype meetings from those video conferencing units.
“While Skype is great for IM/telepresence and content sharing, you can get even higher ROI from it by integrating with a video conferencing service. This allows you to hold Skype meetings with more participants, live stream meetings to large audiences, record meetings, call users directly, and talk to people on any device, any browser, and any service.”
4. Look beyond the silo
Another key reason why Tom-Erik advocates pairing Skype for Business with other business-class UC platforms is so you can connect with non-Skype users through channels other than voice. While Skype for Business acts as a full telephone PBX system with PSTN support and is renowned for the enterprise quality of its voice communications, Tom-Erik believes more and more businesses are preparing for a future where video becomes equal to voice in external comms.
“Skype for Business works well for internal communications, but what if you need to talk to a non-Skype user inside or outside your organisation?” he asked. “Skype does not integrate with existing video conferencing endpoints or browser-based video, which is creating huge communication roadblocks between companies.”
Microsoft has recognised the increasing demand from business users for interoperability between UC platforms. A feature called federation allows for connections to be established with specified external partners who either use Skype for Business or another compatible collaboration platform.
While Tom-Erik acknowledges this is a positive step forward, he cautions that federation could open up security loopholes if companies are unaware.
“Businesses should also consider the security of Skype for Business when talking with people outside your organisation,” he said. “Complex firewall rules mean that when you federate to another organisation, it opens up access to user details like presence and contact details.”