Enterprise Connect: To Do UC Right, Plan for Constant Change

cartoon need for change

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of participating on the panel for Marty Parker’s session at Enterprise Connect “UC Options: the Many Ways to Do UC?”   After each of the vendors had an opportunity to discuss the value they deliver and the choices they provide, Marty asked the panelists to take 30 seconds to provide advice to the audience at hand.

My advice … plan for change.

I’ve always believed that UC is about bringing the right people together at the right time to drive better and faster decisions, to accelerate workflow, and to remove latency from business processes. All vendors will be able to show sexy capabilities that support these efforts. Clearly, there is a need to find a solution that addresses the business requirement, but how do you know that you’ve identified what that is?

Related article: Three Obstacles to Using Skype or Google Hangouts for Business Meetings

As an enterprise applies UC solutions more deeply and more broadly to their business, they will discover new or iterative use case needs driven by both functional and technical requirements. The enterprise will always be in pursuit of better customer experience:  what is considered customer excellence today will become the base line tomorrow. Customers and employees are constantly becoming smarter, more mobile, more social, and more empowered.

When considering technology, the enterprise needs to evolve from their current asset inventory of infrastructure and applications to whatever will address the current business requirement.  Then, they will have to evolve to the future for whatever that entails.  In recent years we’ve been dealing with the commercialization of IT, BYOD, and who could have imagined the impact that the iPad would have on our business?  What does WebRTC hold for the future of UC?

Given that we are in a state of constant change, no one can afford to go through a rip and replace scenario at each stage of change.  Likewise, maintaining a siloed approach to bringing new capability to the enterprise, it’s users, and its customers is untenable.

When considering a UC solution, look for an enterprise grade platform that is architected to have the agility and extensibility to evolve as the business does, and look for services to help you plan, implement, and manage your solution over the short and long term.

Plan for change.

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UC Integrator: Why Enterprises are Embracing Microsoft Lync and Avaya

As Microsoft prepares to talk up its Lync collaboration app later this week at its annual conference, we’d be remiss if we didn’t share how many enterprises are choosing what we think is the real best-of-breed Unified Communications solution – Lync (for IM and presence) + Avaya (for voice, conferencing, and video).

Hundreds of enterprises representing tens of millions of employees are using or considering Avaya Client Applications (ACA), our platform that enables organizations to use our market-leading telephony solution in conjunction with Lync, including our most recent international win at a French cosmetics giant (though there are many other recognizable names that alas I can’t name here).

Related article: 7 Things to Know About Microsoft Lync
(And One Thing You Should Do About It)

But don’t just take our word for it – listen to what the folks who are really in the trenches think. I reached out to Dustin Donaldson, a Unified Communications consultant for Strategic Products and Services (SPS), a leading communications integrator and Avaya partner. In his role at SPS, Donaldson helps many enterprises choose and deploy UC, with many of the choosing to combine Lync with Avaya. Donaldson has 20+ years in the communications industry, including, full disclosure, a number of years at Avaya and Lucent.

Dustin Donaldson SPS UC consultant

Dustin Donaldson, SPS

Many analysts agree that the actual usage of Lync voice remains low. As recently as last week, analyst Dave Michels wrote, “The vast majority of Lync users are not implementing voice. Multiple reasons are cited for this, including complexity, feature gaps, application gaps, and TCO.” Is this what you’re seeing first-hand? If so, why do you think that is?

Donaldson: Because of Microsoft’s dominance on the desktop and strengths in collaboration (especially across Office applications), there are massive numbers of Lync users deployed. Voice however, is very different than a desktop application. Deploying voice is not as simple as bundling another application into an Office package or pushing another application to a desktop. Voice deployments must consider all aspects of UC, even the less glamorous ones, such as trunking, least cost routing (sometimes by time of day), toll avoidance (to and from countries where this is legal), short dialing and comprehensive dial plans, reporting and of course security and user permissions. I often jokingly refer to this as “not forgetting the pig behind the lipstick”.

In all seriousness: A well thought out, roles-based UC solution requires careful planning from day one and yes, the solution needs a comprehensive feature set. This helps to avoid finding out down the road that we didn’t account for a small, but very important detail.

The bottom line is: It is awesome that your new car now comes with a rocket strapped to the roof. Let’s have a look at the braking system, shall we?

How much interest is there among customers looking for Lync IM+presence and Avaya voice, video and messaging?

Donaldson: More and more customers want to take advantage of all that Lync offers in the area of collaboration, and more are realizing they already have a solid VoIP infrastructure (and they do not need another one). In these cases, we help our customers integrate Lync and Avaya, to “link” their rich telephony infrastructure with their rich Lync collaboration environment. We help our customers develop a holistic strategy based on user needs and business needs, then map out a well thought out UC solution.

One of your best-known Lync+Avaya customers is Jack in the Box, who we are featuring in the Innovations magazine as well as in our Avaya Evolutions roadshows. Tell me about the challenges, deployment and outcomes of working with them.

Donaldson: Jack is a very leading edge customer in terms of technology. They have a mixture of physical and virtual desktops, physical and virtual servers, a myriad of mobile devices and tablets, multiple locations and various user types/needs. In spite of the complex environment, Jack tries to extend the appropriate UC solutions to their users that need them. I applaud Jack for this: Given the complex environment, it would have been easy to “stick to basics”. Instead, we have rolled UC solutions that have literally delighted their users.

Has it been easy? Certainly not. We have had challenges because of the environment, matching the right solutions from Avaya and Microsoft, virtualizing everything when possible, and adjusting along the way as technology has improved. It has been a great journey that is still unfolding.

What is your impression of the latest version of Avaya Client Applications, ACA 6.3?

Donaldson: I am really excited about ACA 6.3 for the “always on” remote worker feature. More and more cloud applications are always connected, now the Avaya teleworking solutions can be as well. I really believe ACA 6.3 will help me deliver UC solutions that solve user needs in new and creative ways. Stay tuned!

Have you heard any rumors about what Microsoft plans to announce at Lync later this week? What would you want to see?

Donaldson: What I would like to see is a more open, inter-operative approach from Microsoft. SPS builds wonderful multi-vendor UC solutions. We have to, because, let’s face it, a UC solution is inherently multivendor. My dream is that Microsoft competes by developing features that people want and need and are naturally attracted to. Not by locking solutions down. When solutions aren’t inter-operative with others in the marketplace, it makes my job much more difficult as a systems integrator.

Alas, the latest announcement from Microsoft about locking down/removing the APIs from Skype mean I apparently need to keep dreaming…

Also read: Who’s the Real Number One in Business Telephony?