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August 6, 2015
In my previous column, I shared my company’s experience with Skype for Business as well as the differences between it and BroadSoft Hosted UC. Now, let’s examine keys to success for customers.
As with any technology, determining what is right for the customer’s business is what really matters. Sometimes, one system or the other is better for meeting a specific key objective. Both can deliver enhanced productivity (though that’s an often-overused justification for technology), and I think you will find that there are legitimate reasons why either platform may make sense for a customer. We have benefited greatly from both of these platforms and are proud to represent both. Still, they’re very different products and demand their own approaches.
Keys to success with BroadSoft include:
Use BroadSoft-approved phones. In the past we have been partial to Polycom, but more manufactures are now working with BroadSoft. The VoIP provider typically dictates what works and what doesn’t when it comes to equipment. Moreover, it is best to find out what makes and models they will support. Just because it can connect BroadSoft does not mean the provider is prepared to support it.
Remember, BroadSoft can be deployed in both a public Internet connectivity and a private connectivity (MPLS, private line) model.
Multi-location companies will typically favor routing voice over private connection with Class of Service (CoS) and Quality of Service (QoS).
We lead with a design for automatic failover in the event of a circuit outage. Typically, this is a failover from a private connection to a lower-cost public connection. This also gives physical redundancy because they are typically two different types of connections from two different providers, which may even have two different entrances into the building.
Large organizations may consider hot sparing (local storage of replacement equipment) of critical equipment.
Most companies start out with similar features and functionality as their old phone systems, but a scheduled review of design and available features to address business needs is crucial to maximizing the value. We redesigned our voice communications from the ground up three times in eight years without having to change our provider and without additional cost.
Keys to success with Skype for Business include:
There truly are some great and powerful features with Skype for Business. My strong caution at this time is that if you (or your customer) are unwilling to innovate and transform how you communicate, you will probably struggle with Skype for Business. You need to (and eventually will) get used to the presence status showing up in other applications.
There should be a quality technical team inside the company, or it should have a strong provider on call. As with any solid computing environment, we can’t stress enough the need for standards. You don’t want to be chasing ghosts caused by uniqueness with individual users. Standardize everything you reasonably can.
The growth both in deployment and features is making it hard for Microsoft to focus on PSTN connectivity for Skype for Business. There are Microsoft Partners that have stepped up, and are consulting on, VoIP readiness assessments, managing the PSTN voice connectivity and supporting both Office 365 and on-premises customers.
Schedule time with any prospective provider to review features and configurations prior to making a decision. Ask questions. Think out of the box.
Come up with a game plan and then schedule a review for a week or two AFTER implementation. Gauge employees’ responses. Schedule more training if needed. Find out what is working well and what may not be meeting expectations. Reconfigure items if needed.
Remember that mobile employees may well decide they no longer need desk phones, so be prepared with a standard headset, preferably one that can be used either over the ear or over the head.
For both products, training is the key to success. Most VoIP providers offer ongoing free training. This is a valuable (and an underutilized) tool. Take advantage of training options!
For customers that want to try before they commit, there are hybrid models that incorporate both BroadSoft and Microsoft Skype for Business. A hybrid model is typically deployed as a temporary solution for situations such as waiting for service contract to expire or resolving some technical challenge that is not yet replicated in the new environment. Before you adopt or propose a hybrid model, make very sure you clearly understand the responsibilities of all parties so that you can avoid a finger-pointing session when something doesn’t work right.
Clark Atwood is president of Concierge Core Services, a communications and technology master broker, offering independent brokers access to proven and disruptive technologies through the representation of dozens of providers to meet business technology needs. Concierge Core Services supports the CoreTech Broker community.
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