*as long as you have Office 365...
Alright Already! Skype for Business gives me all the tools I need to be productive at work while allowing me the flexibility to remain connected on the road; it truly is a great communication solution. There, I said it. I’m finally ready to admit it…
For the past 5 years it has been my position, and that of my colleagues, that Unified Communications (UC) platforms and their superior desktop and mobile clients were the end all be all of office communiqué. I believed, and promoted, that only weak organizations who couldn’t afford the “real thing” used Skype. You know the type; they still use the free version of Survey Monkey, max out complimentary online 30 day trials, and only allow 1 scoop of coffee for the communal coffeemaker. I am here to tell you, I was wrong, so, so wrong.
Skype for Business has changed my life. Bold statement I know, but hear me out. Do you remember the times before UC, a time when your desk phone was just a phone, and there was no such thing as integrations with your PC? There were no fancy desktop or mobile applications that allowed you to maximize your communication experience with features like dial by name directory, single click conferencing, or instant messaging. We can all agree that the era of “UC” enhanced the office communication experience, right?
Here are the 3 Ways Skype for Business has Changed My Life:
- Skype for Business gives me a mobile client I actually want to use. In the five years I have worked in technology I have used my mobile UC client fewer times than the fax machine and that weird scale in the back bathroom, combined. Before Skype for Business, when out on the road I'd typically use email, SMS, or direct dial to communicate with colleagues. This is not ideal for several reasons, the foremost being ease of use. You know how frustrating it is when you need to talk to Barb but you can’t remember her extension, and you don’t want to call the front desk so you look through your emails for her number in a signature, but your Outlook can’t find anything from Barb even though you know you were just emailing her about that one thing yesterday, aaahhhhh! I no longer have these feelings of angst. If I am on the road and need to get ahold of Barb, I simply tap that little Skype for Business icon on my cell phone home screen, see that Barb is available by her green presence bubble next to that smiling face of hers, and I IM directly to her desktop. Skype allows you to do this with anyone in your organization, as long as they are logged in. Meaning even if Barb had already left for lunch, she would get a pop up similar to an SMS from me on her mobile device. I would be able to ask the ever important question I needed answered so badly. Thanks Barb!
- Skype for Business is an amazing training tool. Gone are the days of sitting next to someone and walking them through the client as a new user. No more user tutorials from YouTube that don’t speak directly to your organization's use needs. With Skype for Business, I can begin recording my screen in a few clicks (and do so without contacting a network administrator), using my Bluetooth headset I get perfectly synced audio for a quick and easy way to make my own tutorial videos. But wait, there’s more! Rather than searching aimlessly for where the file was stored, like I have done countless times using other tools, Skype for Business simply places the finished product in a local file folder. Now in an average UC environment, after fumbling with how to actually record your screen with audio, identifying where your finished file ended up, and saving it to the correct format – now what? You have to figure out the best way to share it! The file is usually too big for email. Zipping it seems daunting to some, and is it MP4, MOV, MWV, AVI, or FLV? FML… Not in Skype for Business. Oh no, in the harmonious world of Skype for Business with Office365 E3 licensing you simply drag your finished file into your Office 365 Video Section, and 5 minutes later you have a neat little URL to share with whomever in your organization you see fit. Abracadabra!
- Lastly, Skype for Business has changed my life because of its integration capabilities. Alright, so not necessarily my life, but it might very well change yours. Skype for Business integrates with literally hundreds of applications. For organizations looking to enhance their communication ecosystem through advanced add-ons such as Contact Center, Attendant Console, Call Recording, and Compliance Application, Skype for Business makes the process intuitive and easy to administrator (for a full list see here: http://apps.skypeforbusiness.com/). Skype for Business also integrates with your existing phone system. Take ShoreTel for example. With ShoreTel Telephony for Microsoft, users can dial contacts directly from the Skype for Business client, execute conference calls, transfer calls, access their voicemail box, view and set presence information, and control all of their ShoreTel preferences such as call routing. In this example, once installed, the Skype for Business Client doesn’t change at all; it simply has another window pop out from the base which becomes your ShoreTel dialer. This metamorphosis is similar across the majority of UC applications. Before I move on from Skype for Business's ability to integrate, the wonderful people of Skype have now opened up Skype Developers Platform so even if there isn’t currently an application that fits your business need, you know have the ability to create it!
See All Matrix Educational Content
Ok, Still not convinced about this whole "Skype for Business is great thing for my business" thing? Ok, I'll give you one more case study on positive impact I have seen as a manager. Just the other day I was helping an employee, who is new to our integrated marketing platform, post a blog article. She was having trouble with one particular step. Now in the traditional work place the following would happen:
- Call from employee asking for help.
- I stop what I’m doing, walk across the office and sit at her side.
- Fumble through a series of pointing and “not there, click the blue icon, to the left – your other left…”
- Okay, perfect, she got it – now back to what I was doing. Wait, what was I doing?
- Meanwhile she is trying to remember what I said probably will need help again the next time.
Now let’s take a look at the same scenario with Skype for Business in place.
- Unobtrusive notification pops up on my screen; I come to a comfortable stopping point in my work and look at the notification. It is an IM from the same person asking for help.
- I click on the phone icon and initiate a call. Once she is on the line I click share screen.
- Here’s where the magic kicks in: I press record (one click, no admin needed).
- I walk her through the process and end the call.
- A few minutes later a video file is on my desktop, I save the file in our Office 365 Group entitled, Marketing How 2s – Now she has access to the material indefinitely and so do others to come.
What happened above is a story I see played time and time again in our office. Skype for Business is an incredibly powerful tool, at least for those who choose to embrace the technology. And that, perhaps, might be the greatest battle administrators and business owners face - getting their employees to actually use the tools they have invested in. I have spoken with countless people who have Skype for Business and the Office 365 Suite but have no idea how to use it. If you are an organization using these tools, I have literally just taught you how to train your organization by leveraging screen sharing, recording, and the Video section of your Office 365 Suite – start building training assets that match your organizations individual needs. Stop assuming everyone is as proficient as you and build resources for your team to leverage the investment you have made.
The only downside is that Skype for Business can only communicate with other Skype for Business users. This means that your voice, video, and IM can only talk to each other and not the outside world. If you want your Skype for Business to work as your phone system, you'll need to "connect it to the outside world." This can be done in 3 ways:
- Install a Premise-based Skype for Business service connected to the PSTN via SIP trunks.
- Leverage a Cloud Phone System like RingCentral, 8x8, or ShoreTel that can provide the external call control, and then hand off the session to Skype for Business.
- Self-contained, voice-enabled Skype for Business in the Cloud.
(no matter what the option – Matrix Networks can assist)
At Matrix Networks our goal is to see businesses thrive by providing innovative technology solutions such as Skype for Business and the Office 365 Suite. If you would like assistance in launching the next generation of office communication for your organization please contact us – or better yet, let's do a Skype for Biz Video Call – it will actually work!
Why Your Cloud Phone Deployment Sucked!
Author: Ryan Graven