The world of work is changing. According to the Office of National Statistics, the amount of people regularly working from home has risen to 4.2 million in the last decade, and it’s expected that half of the UK’s workforce will be working remotely by 2020. With these fundamental changes taking place to our working practices, it’s no wonder that there has been a huge surge in businesses using collaboration technologies, such as Skype for Business.
Skype was the first company to become synonymous with online collaboration, but when it first hit the mainstream everyone knew that it wasn’t enterprise grade. Yes – it was great for a long-distance call with a Granny in Australia – but you couldn’t risk the call quality dropping when talking to a customer. This all changed when Microsoft announced that Skype for Business would replace Lync in 2015. Since then it has become famed for its excellent presence, screen sharing, and other features than natively integrate with Microsoft productivity apps, Outlook contacts and calendars as well as with more fundamental infrastructure services like Active Directory.
Skype for Business is now a popular and successful UC platform, but it’s not been without issues. As a standalone product, Skype for Business Enterprise is a fantastic collaboration tool, but it misses the enterprise grade PBX telephony functionality that people need. The fusion of telephony and Skype for Business has to start at the Cloud level. Without the integration of a telephone system, Skype for Business can’t deliver a truly unified communications experience.
However, there is a perception that it remains incredibly difficult to integrate with an enterprise grade telephony platform. I would like to bust these myths one by one:
Skype for Business is being canned: This is simply not true. There may be integration with Teams in the long-term, but that doesn’t mean the product will disappear. At the Ignite conference, Microsoft confirmed it would continue to support the Skype for Business server and that a brand-new server will be released in the second half of this year. Also, if you are using a hosted supplier, you can continue using Skype for Business indefinitely.
Clever SIP integration turns Skype for Business into a phone system: Again, this is totally inaccurate. No amount of clever SIP wizardry is going to cook up enterprise PBX features such as call transfer, conferencing, call waiting, group pick-up, IVRs and queues.
App-level integration of Skype for Business and third-party PBX licenses is ‘business grade’: Another misnomer. Hiring a software developer to handle the necessary integration sounds good in principle, yet it can be a costly nightmare in practice. Consider the development costs, plus the cost of third-party licenses, not to mention the risks of failure, rollout delays and a compromised user experience that sits outside the familiar Skype for Business interface.
You must buy Skype for Business licenses for every phone user, regardless of whether they need the full UC service: This is a common misconception. The fact is not all phone users are necessarily Skype for Business users; most organisations have hybrid requirements. Yet customers and partners find it close to impossible to avoid this highly expensive and wasteful procurement approach in order to integrate enterprise PBX capabilities with Skype for Business.
Myles Leach is the Managing Director of NFON UK.