Lync – Unified Communication Article Detail


Its always nice to read articles in the IT industry press on projects that you’ve helped to create and manage.  I’ve been sat on these stats and feedback for many months but never been able to share in the public sphere.  I thought I’d provide more detail behind some of the stats/quotes and challenges we have come across during the project.  Deploying unified communications remains complex.  The complexity is driven by vendors, service providers and finally by the business which wished to deploy, however if the technology can be deployed successfully there are significant benefits to be had.

Due to the proposed scale in this project we have developed around 15 different documents, comprising of over 15,000 words and 300 slides.  We had 50 slides alone that described the process on how we chose a headset, which included sending different headsets to 3 different continents and charting to see who preferred mono or duo wired devices.

If anyone would like further information on how to shape the project or how we are currently deploying then please feel free to contact me here

Eweek article here

Information Week article here

Below concentrates on the three elements that the articles covered; Demand, Use Cases and Savings.

Demand

In a survey of 1,000 of the participants, 93% said they would recommend Lync to colleagues, 78% thought their productivity was enhanced, and 75% were willing to give up their landline phone if they were provided with Lync. “I thought that last one was the punchline,” Yochem said.

The survey was sent to pilot users from all business units and geographies.  The response rate at the time was over 70% of pilot users. We also gathered around 100 quotes, around 90 of which were positive and 10 providing constructive feedback, such as; mobile client is required etc etc.  The survey also helped us build a picture of the user base which tailored our training approach.  We found for example circa 50% of users required little help with the new technology, a further 20% found the technology to be daunting but helpful after receiving mostly virtual/online training, the remaining 30% of users were more difficult to reach.   Some of that 30% just seemed to reject all forms of technology.  They were the people who had their emails printed out for them.  It was interesting to note the consistency of the numbers across geographies and business areas.

The biggest and most pleasant surprise was the latent demand that was already within the business for the technology we were deploying.  The twin factors of globalisation and consumerisation of IT are creating significant demand for improved communication capabilities.  The demand factors are just as relevant for large organisations as for small business.  Implementing a new and feature rich communication capability is like pushing at an open door.  The only real challenge is managing expectations of users.

Challenges:
  • Pilot demand – If you implement your pilot correctly then within a matter of days or weeks your pilot will be oversubscribed which will create an issue of having to constantly manage requests and often turn people away.  As soon as you give the technology to 10 people they will almost certainly ask for 2/3/4 people more.  Before you know it you have a 400% increase on your hands and it simply cascades.
  • Moving from Pilot to Production – Be ready to move quickly from pilot to production.  This is very easy to write and immensely difficult for large IT organisations to do.  Often IT business cases and procurement of solutions take 18 – 24 months by which time you’ve completely mis-managed your user base and you will end up buying something that is already superseded in both the consumer and business market.

Use Cases

– The time required for sales training on a new medicine was reduced by 75%. A likely interpretation is that it wasn’t so much the training that went faster as all the meeting logistics and travel that were eliminated, Yochem said.

– A supply chain team reported the time required to complete routine transactions with suppliers shrank from days to minutes once a federated Lync connection was in place.

– A global research and development team reported it was much easier for them to set up videoconferences. Even though AstraZeneca has high-end videoconference rooms available, making Lync available at the desktop eliminated a lot of the overhead of scheduling video collaboration sessions.

We went through a lengthily period of creating a business case for the pilot and move to production and as is normal we created a number of use cases on how the technology could be utilised by the business.  While we were in the right ball park with what we created, we were totally blown away by the number of user created use cases.  I’m know for sure that if I took some of the cases to the finance guys before the pilot they would laugh me out of the office for being either too fanciful or technology driven.

  • Using video conference to remove errors in the R+D process between the UK, US and China
  • Using video so managers can communicate from a remote location with sealed manufacturing units (boy were we popular with the manufacturing team when we installed the camera which they thought was there to ‘snoop’ on them)
  • Integration with 3D virtual worlds to aid training
  • Senior leaders joining video conference calls from home where before they would have had to travel into offices at 3 or 4 in the morning, sometimes in locations with challenging security situations
  • Line managers no longer feeling guilty that they don’t know what their direct reports look like and not being able to travel to see them
  • Building presence into machines that can communicate their current manufacturing status to a management dashboard
  • Using instant messaging as a helpdesk and skill finder
Challenges:
Users will constantly push the boundaries of capabilities.  Can it work on mobile, can it integrate into business apps, can it go on my mac, can it go on my home machine, can i give it to business partners, can i use it to communicate back home while on travel etc etc etc
I’d like to think we have had a good communication channel with Microsoft on some of these product specific challenges and I do think they are listening to what the end user requires and you will see that come through over a number of capabilities and developments over the next 12 months.  We took a conscious decision at the beginning to provide as much positive feedback to Microsoft as possible and I’d like to think this has helped create credibility with Redmond.

Savings Generated

In addition, although the focus of the pilot was on improving productivity rather than saving money, “we’re very interested in some of the savings we’ve seen,” Yochem said. One of the participants in the trial who goes on regular two-week trips to China saved $600 in communication costs alone, she said.

No doubt if the technology is implemented correctly the business case for unifying onto a single communication platform for your business is soon justified.  Savings are delivered through a combination of retiring existing platforms, substituting away from expensive products, aiding business with travel reduction cuts and real estate rationalisation.

Challenges:

To unlock these savings however the project team need to be intune with existing IT teams who manage budgets and are willing to retire and trust the new platform.  In addtion for the travel and real estate savings the project must be an enabler for projects managed and owned by travel and real estate teams.  IT just can’t drive these savings.

I’d be interested to know if anyone else has had similar experiences running such projects, if so please leave or comment or get in touch.

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