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Why Can’t Microsoft Get Lync to Work In Its Own Backyard?

Well, this is embarrassing: Apparently, Microsoft can’t get the phones to work in their own county.

The company recently sold King County, Washington—home of their Redmond headquarters—an $18.6 million, Lync-based phone system that has been plagued with problems since being installed in 2011.

Chief among those glitches? County employees need to boot up their computers to make phone calls.

Lync Headaches in King County, Washington

In a February survey of the King County Legislative department, nearly 4 out of 10 county employees said they were having issues with their Lync phones—notably problems transferring calls, experiencing poor call clarity/quality and calls getting dropped altogether.

Seattle’s KIRO-TV reports that the only reliable phones in the county belong to the 911 dispatch center, which we happen to know runs an Avaya CS1000 system.

Despite the problems in their own county, Microsoft likes to tout its Lync-based solutions as the top dog in enterprise telephony.

Do the numbers add up, or does a little more digging tell a different story?

In a rebuttal posted shortly after Microsoft’s claim in October, Enzo Signore, Avaya’s Vice President of Marketing, laid out statistics from No Jitter’s Eric Krapf and the Dell’Oro Group showing Avaya holding the undisputed lead in the global enterprise telephony market, as measured by both deployed phone lines AND revenue.

Just months after No Jitter questioned Microsoft’s claims of leadership in enterprise telephony, the blog ran an article portraying the Unified Communications market as a two-horse race between Lync and Cisco’s Jabber.

Let’s take a look at the missing third horse in UC.

In his post, Enzo said:

“We see many customers that use the Microsoft Lync solution for IM and presence turning to Avaya for voice.

Rather than deploying Lync software all the way or integrating with Cisco, hundreds of enterprises comprising tens of millions of employees are trusting the Avaya Client Applications (ACA) plug-in, which offers best-of-breed Unified communications by combining Microsoft Lync for IM and presence, and Avaya for everything else.

This gives enterprises scalability, ‘Five 9s’ of high-availability, technical features such as open call control, protection for your other communication investments, and tight integration with our contact center voice solution, which happens to be number one in the market according to Dell’Oro.

Global Enterprise Telephony Market Statistics

King County might have avoided its Lync-related headaches if it had gone with Avaya instead.

As Signore points out:

“Voice is supposed to be Lync 2013′s biggest area of improvement. But there are many enterprise-class features it lacks that Avaya Aura has. To get Lync 2013 voice running well, you’ll need to buy additional 3rd-party gateways, Session Border Controllers for security as well as new desk and conference phones. If you already have a contact center or telephony solution in place, you’ll need to rip it out completely if you choose Lync.

There’s no contact center or call recording features. Such limitations may inhibit using Lync in your business. For instance, Lync’s weaknesses with the feature ‘call park’ may prevent many retailers from adopting it. These are all things that we, with decades of experience in communications and the most innovative solutions, already do better.”

So what if the decision is made to pair Avaya with Lync? We integrate well with Lync via our Avaya Client Applications (ACA) plug-in.

Avaya Client Applications Plug-In

Microsoft administrators can provide Unified Communication services to clients using Avaya Aura® Communication Manager.

This gives employees using the Microsoft Lync Client two telephony modes, Phone and Computer mode. Phone mode allows the user to control the desktop phone, with media going over existing PBX telephony equipment. Computer mode allows the user to use the computer as a soft client phone.

In short, we provide the solutions that help companies and government organizations avoid the kinds of problems that King County is facing. Galesburg, Illinois did a similar overhaul, using Avaya solutions. They needed to cover applications across a wide range of services and realize cost-savings.

And it worked.

Orlee Lucero, Information System Supervisor for the City of Galesburg, said:

“We wanted better conferencing capabilities, improved voicemail, and mobility. And above all, we wanted the ability to administer our system in-house, without incurring the delays and costs involved in calling for service to handle every change or minor troubleshooting situation.”

The change was dramatic. Dane Bragg, the City Manager, put it this way:

“Being able to build such a robust business continuity system has made this phone system for all intents and purposes more reliable than the Centrex service we had previously. We now have a comprehensive communications solution that will enable all our sites to maintain their telephone service during virtually any emergency. We no longer need to worry that we will be unable to communicate with a service site such as the Streets Division, which is critical to managing weather-related emergencies, or that citizens will not be able to reach us during a disaster.”

The installation in Galesburg resulted in a cost savings of $84,000 a year.

No doubt, King County administrators wish they could say the same.

Matt Young is the former Web Editor for Avaya, with experience in B2B, news, music, consumer tech and gaming. Follow Matt on Twitter @verylateadopter. more

3 comments
Marcel Charrois
Marcel Charrois

$18 million for 11,000 phones is a travesty from the perspective of any tax payer. No matter what your 'Vendor" preference may be, this is a poor use of public funds.

KennyLamb
KennyLamb

ACA may provide Lync integration with Avaya Aura CM, but what about integration with a CS1K - I bet the 911 dispatch centre don't integrate telephony function with Lync.....!!

How many CS1K customers are disappointed with the lack of Lync integration..??

Allan Mendelsohn
Allan Mendelsohn

@KennyLamb  The Avaya Client Applications integration for Microsoft Lync does in fact work with CS1000. 


Having said that, a contact center--especially a 911 center--requires a well-integrated approach to communications to address unique multi-channel communication flows, agent/supervisor interactions, analytics, and reporting.


Microsoft tends to rely on partners for contact center solutions. Avaya Contact Center solutions embed IM and presence into the contact center, vs trying to embed contact center capabilities into Lync.


In turn, users of the Avaya Contact Center solution can still connect with Lync users, perhaps being used by knowledge workers, when necessary via IM/presence federation.