I wrote months ago about the confusion among some users stemming from Microsoft’s morphing Lync into Skype for Business, and it doesn’t seem to have died down a whole lot.
Some of the confusion stems from the fact that Microsoft now has two versions of the same product, the traditional Skype and, now, Skype for Business. As I wrote back in late December:
Other (users) were clearly not happy with the idea of using the Skype name, which has been solidly associated with a consumer-oriented service, for a business product. A commenter named Simon Jones had this to say on The Register (emphasis his):
Users get easily confused with two DIFFERENT products called such similar names.
It is the same with “OneDrive” and “OneDrive for Business.” They are completely different but users can’t see the distinction, causing loads of headaches for the users and especially support personnel.
Selling an Enterprise Product with a Consumer Name
Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Nemertes Research, cites that very issue in his piece at TechTarget.com. Nemertes, it should be noted, does lots of primary research with IT executives at end user companies. Lazar writes:
In our conversations with enterprise IT leaders who are using or evaluating Lync, especially those in regulated industries, many people are telling us they will have difficulty delivering Skype for Business to their employees. Users may think they are using the consumer Skype service and not a company-owned and managed on-premises platform that meets enterprise requirements for security and compliance.
IT leaders say they will need to educate their risk-management and security teams and end-user communities that Skype for Business is not consumer Skype and that they can continue to maintain separation between their consumer and business Skype accounts. (One early adopter said the first call to his help desk regarding Microsoft Skype for Business was from a user who wanted to know why he didn't see his personal Skype contacts when he loaded Skype for Business.)
Lazar also hit on a point that was in my piece in December, about the idea of integrating the consumer version of Skype with Skype for Business:
Those businesses planning to deploy Skype for Business -- especially companies that are limited or prohibited from using the consumer Skype service -- will want to educate their security and governance teams upfront about Skype for Business. Additionally, those companies will want to tread carefully into Skype for Business and consumer Skype integration, ensuring that any connectors they establish meet information-protection requirements.
Confusion Over Hybrid Skype for Business Deployments
Another point of confusion among customers has to do with hybrid deployments of Skype for Business, says Justin Stevens, Director of North American Channels for Sonus Networks. Sonus makes session border controllers, which are commonly used to secure and enhance communications implementations.
He says there’s confusion over exactly which features, functions and architectures are supported in the premises-based version of Skype for Business vs. the online offering. “We are seeing IT departments struggle to build long term plans with co-existence or hybrid topologies when determining their cloud strategy. With the three primary offerings, cloud, hybrid and premise-based, many companies are unsure how to build in the flexibility necessary to pivot as their needs change over time. As a result, many are holding off deployment,” he says. With the new Office 365 E5 license due out before the end of the year, things get even more interesting as an increasing number of features will be available in the cloud-based offering.
Here’s what John Case, corporate vice president for Microsoft Office, had to say in a blog post when E5 was first announced in July (emphasis his):
E5 will encompass the core value of the modern productivity and collaboration capabilities Office 365 provides today, as well as significant new capabilities including Skype for Business services for real-time communication such as Cloud PBX and PSTN Conferencing, new analytics features like Power BI Pro and Delve Organizational Analytics, and new advanced security features such as eDiscovery, Customer Lockbox, Data Loss Protection (DLP) and Advanced Threat Protection (ATP).
That’s a lot of tech.
Cloud PBX and PSTN Conferencing: A First for Microsoft
The Cloud PBX offering is another point of interest and confusion among customers, Stevens says. “This is Microsoft’s first dabble in providing carrier grade dial-tone, thereby completing their suite of Unified Collaboration in a multi-tenant manner. As with all technology, what many early adopters are facing is the fear of the unknown. While we’re in preview we’re getting a glimpse of what the final offering will be, however customers are not yet clear on the pricing and final list of features and functions,” he says.
To help clear up confusion and quell some fears, Sonus will be conducting an educational roadshow dubbed Think UC, with stops in some 13 cities, starting this week. In each city, Sonus will be joined by local partners who are experts in Lync/Skype for Business to present their take on the offerings and answer any questions.
“We want to have meaningful discussions around the sticking points or problem points folks are facing, and how to get through them,” Stevens says.
Sounds like a worthy endeavor.