According to Frost and Sullivan, Microsoft is a dominant force in the enterprise communications space, and is estimated to have around 140 million licensed users on Skype for Business. When it comes to business communications, Skype for Business has been a success, partly due to its adoption in the consumer space before Microsoft purchased Skype and transformed it into an enterprise-ready unified communications (UC) tool. Microsoft continues to have a large installed user base: both of its on-premise software, and now, increasingly, in the cloud, as Office 365 commercial licence sales have reached a monthly active-user count of around 100 million users. In fact, Frost & Sullivan estimates that as of 2016, Microsoft held a 50% share of all UC licences.
But there is a large difference between a licence and an active user. Not all users get as much out of the Skype platform as they could. As with most software and services, the benefits are only fully realised when end-users both understand the product and use its features to the maximum. If a workforce hasn’t had sufficient training or time to familiarise themselves with the platform or find the software too complex for day-to-day tasks, the enterprise will not be getting the best return on investment (ROI). When an organisation does not fully implement and deploy software, IT projections that initially looked so promising can quickly look far off the mark.
The threat of non-adoption of UC software is even more frightening. When collaboration software and services aren’t used optimally, productivity grinds to a halt. Companies of all sizes that are deploying UC tools typically struggle with various issues including: quality, deployment, provisioning, poor adoption and lack of support.
In today’s market, we are seeing several companies stepping in to provide this support and guide users to a better experience. By working with a trusted partner to improve the functionality of Skype for Business with minimal effort and financial investment, the original ROI calculus once again begins to look more accurate. Specialist partners can provide value-add capabilities, including audio conferencing services that exceed Microsoft’s ability to deliver a consistent, quality experience. Microsoft is improving its own platforms by teaming up with its partners to improve the overall user experience.
Skype for Business already provides VoIP audio, but there can be limitations in scale, audio quality and consistency, as well as global availability and accessibility. By adding audio conferencing integration, companies will have better audio quality and consistency with best-in-class, 24/7 customer support, as well as the ability for external participants such as clients, vendors and partners to join meetings and to have an optimal experience.
Microsoft partners are willing to step in to ensure that the Skype deployment does not block user engagement and employee productivity. Instead, organisations are available to not only solve problems around audio quality, but also work to drive company-wide implementation and support. Integrations can be challenging, but if done right, will drive exponential productivity. Key integrations include the ability to customise meeting invitations and to simplify the complicated meeting access from mobile devices to drive the right user behaviour that IT teams need to make software deployment a success.
With the right partner, enterprises can add the following capabilities to Skype deployments:
• Implementation services that include enhanced Skype for Business implementation and adoption processes, to drive better activation rates, so companies can show a better return on the Skype for Business investment.
• Global help and support that is available in-product and around the clock so IT teams don’t have to take on a troubleshooting role or need to support end-user questions around Skype for Business.
• Consulting services and strategic planning that can help companies navigate the complexities of a Skype for Business transition or Microsoft Office 365 deployment.
• Training is often needed as the technology is there, but the implementation, training and real-time support isn’t, so a company may not see as strong a return on their investment due to poor adoption rates.
Choosing an audio conferencing provider to help maximise the Skype for Business experience can be challenging, but there are certain factors to consider including:
• Strength of infrastructure: Consider an audio provider with a network and infrastructure that is enterprise-grade to ensure quality so that your service is never interrupted at a critical moment.
• 24/7 Customer Support: Sometimes understanding how to use technology can be tough, and companies need a support system that can provide live global support in real time – as there are few things worse than being in an important meeting where the audio doesn’t work and no quick fix is available.
• Global presence: We live in an increasingly global world, so a global presence and commitment to delivering quality audio to participants regardless of location is essential.
• Integration: Your communications set up should easily integrate into popular UC services, so that all employees can experience the same consistent audio experience no matter where they are.
Many companies are firmly committed to Microsoft for their communications and collaboration requirements. However, sometimes the technology is not used as widely or as fully as it could be across the enterprise, because of technical or business challenges, including those to do with call quality and global support. By using experienced Microsoft partner companies to overcome these issues, Skype for Business customers can provide the promised return on investment, aligned to a hassle-free and optimised Skype experience.
Lyndsay Cook is senior vice president of Marketing and Demand Generation at PGi