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Preparing your organization to deploy Skype for Business

To ensure a successful Skype for Business deployment, organizations must consider their end-user needs, infrastructure demands and the proper deployment model.

Once an organization decides to deploy Skype for Business, preparations must be made to ensure deployment success and user adoption. Here's what you need to know before diving into a Skype for Business deployment.

"A thorough assessment and planning is essential," said Rob Arnold, UC and collaboration analyst at Frost & Sullivan. "The move to Skype for Business should focus on the user experience and improving business processes."

The first step to deploy Skype for Business is to fully vet an organization's structure and needs.

These needs are affected by an organization's geographic location, whether it's U.S.-only or multinational, and the communication needs of its users, said Skip Chilcott, global head of product marketing at performance management software provider IR. Evaluating these needs will help an organization determine where it should locate its data centers and the type of communication features that will best serve its users.

Organizations then need to determine what type of architecture best supports those needs and what they want the final Skype for Business deployment to look like -- something most organizations don't think about, Chilcott said.

Preparing an infrastructure to support Skype for Business

Assessing the infrastructure is the next phase to deploy Skype for Business. This is where organizations should evaluate the equipment they have now and what they need in the future to support Skype for Business.

Users will make a decision whether they like it or not in the first couple days.
Skip Chilcottglobal head of product marketing, IR

Organizations will have a multivendor infrastructure since Microsoft does not make equipment like routers and session border controllers. Some organizations could continue to use network equipment they invested in, while others may need to buy new equipment.

When planning infrastructure, the cloud is an important factor. Organizations need to consider what their cloud setup will look like four or five years down the road and if they ultimately want an on-premises, cloud-based or hybrid infrastructure, Chilcott said.

"It's hard," he said. "Things move quickly and you don't want to build in the wrong direction."

Taking a hybrid approach to deployment

The addition of cloud PBX and PSTN calling to Skype for Business will affect the direction that organizations take.

"It's going to simplify things quite a bit," said Irwin Lazar, a Nemertes Research analyst. Lazar said moving to the cloud was traditionally a "convoluted strategy" for organizations because Skype for Business had little cloud support.

But the additions of cloud PBX and PSTN calling will "speed the deployment of cloud telephony for those interested going down the road," Lazar said.

Most organizations will ultimately take a hybrid approach to infrastructure and take more steps toward the cloud as technology matures, Chilcott said.

Ready to deploy Skype for Business?

Follow this step-by-step guide to prepare your organization and your users:

  • Assess your organization's structure, such as geographic location and end-user communication needs.
  • Determine the network architecture that supports your organization's needs.
  • Envision what the deployment's end state would look like.
  • Evaluate your current and future infrastructure needs.
  • Consider a cloud-based deployment. Many businesses will opt for a hybrid approach.
  • Train end users, create an internal marketing campaign and track adoption.

Field workers present an opportunity for organizations to take a hybrid approach to deploy Skype for Business. Chilcott said an organization can move its field workers to the cloud and do cloud-based calling because they're not tied to a desk or to the organization's infrastructure.

"You can cut costs and start saving capacity on infrastructure internally," he said.

Focus on end-user training and adoption

While it's important for organizations to focus on infrastructure when deploying Skype for Business, end-user training should be a priority, too.

"Training requirements have gone down, but you shouldn't ignore them," Chilcott said.

Lazar agreed that training is a major issue for organizations. For example, if an organization is deploying Skype for Business and replacing desk phones with a softphone client and headsets, users should be trained on how to use the new headsets.

While the Skype interface is familiar to most users, Chilcott said organizations should set up a training portal or website with resources for employees. Training is essential for end-user adoption.

"Users will make a decision whether they like it or not in the first couple days," he said. "If they don't like a solution, they'll find their own and purchase another solution they like better."

This costs organizations money and they won't see their return on investment on the deployment.

"Identifying champion users in different sites and workgroups, as well as creating a customer success campaign that evaluates adoption and utilization on an ongoing basis, can help drive successful deployments," Frost & Sullivan's Arnold said.

Organizations can achieve Skype for Business deployment success by not "maintaining the status quo by viewing Skype for Business simply as a telephony or conferencing platform," he said.

Next Steps

How to manage Skype for Business call quality

Why Skype for Business shakes up the UC market

Microsoft brings Skype for Business telephony to the cloud

This was last published in February 2016

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How would your organization prepare for a Skype for Business deployment?
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Good point, extending beyond the initial deployment is definitely something that businesses should consider.
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Katherine - per your comment we hear that many deploying Skype for Business are not aware of what else they can do with the platform once it is deployed - internal helpdesks, contact centers (such as Clarity Connect), and more.
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