Lync and Hosted Voice

Chris Barron, Telappliant, says it’s  reasonable to say that replacing the office phone system is probably the least important technology worry affecting most small businesses in the UK. But, UC and convergence of current and future telephony mean other IT decisions can no longer be made in isolation from the telephony estate. Here, Chris explains why Lync and hosted voice is the future.

By the coincidences that BBC schedulers seem to delight in, last week I watched two films set in regional radio stations. Alan Partridge’s Alpha Papa and from 1984, Bill Forsyth’s ‘Comfort and Joy’. That film’s 1980’s radio station had just one lonely PC, a Commodore PET and a bunch of typewriters. This led me to thinking about how the IT industry had served small & medium enterprise since that time and how the advent of cloud computing will change things. As late as 2003, I had to explain to a customer that their ‘dumb’ IT supplier had converted a request for PC file sharing into the supply of a keyboard and screen AB switch! In the same period I saw a good friend’s business fail as, rather than keep his eye ‘on the ball, he became obsessed with managing and debugging the NT4 office server setup he’d paid thru the nose for.

Development of cloud based CRM, Accounting Packages, HR systems, Email, Stock Control is so rapid that anyone trying to make a decision based on feature pros and cons will find it impossible to know where to start. Decisions like these should be supported by long term relationships between customer and IT supplier. In the telephony world, Centrex as hosted, pre-Voip telephony, was sold in that way and Telappliant believe in that same relationship building as a means of guiding clients should extend to all aspects of cloud services. – As a supplier you must anticipate your customer’s needs even where its outside your core competency and make sure your services are in line with the best. UC and the UC client have to embrace capabilities  previously delivered as bespoke ‘CTI’ by putting telephony control into desktop applications.

Email first hit the commercial streets in 1982 and by 2005, had probably replaced the phone as the primary business communication channel. But now in the cloud, there’s more than just email to consider as competitive advantage is borne of accessing and reacting to data and interacting (collaborating) with suppliers and customers. All these things are business benefits our customers will be seeking. If we don’t put up a sign and get them knocking at our door, price and functionality comparison is a Google search away and up to the minute as News24. Long term relationships local referral and maintaining customer-supplier confidence is not something you can get from Google but you can get it from a social network where your customers and  competitors and suppliers ‘meet’.

Telappliant has a Lync proposition in its Microsoft Approved Lync SIP trunks and we would support any Customer / Reseller who wished to explore adoption of a Lync on premises deployment. Telappliant also has its own UC Client, “Communicator” and we believe that customers and potential customers are best served by being able to obtain clear advice from the industry on the basis of strategic choice. Open Source VoIP, SIP and reliable broadband has provided that over the last 10 years and Telappliant reasonably claim ‘VoIPOffice’, a Telephony branded product has phone and UC (Communicator) capabilities that match any of the global PBX Brands. Avaya, Mitel, Siemens,Shoretel, MS,  etc. Telappliant’s Lync SIP trunks and the investment behind them support those customers for whom Lync on premises is the right choice.

However, let’s not make Lync and Unified Comms synonymous and let’s not confuse the client base that UC is Lync. We must devote as much effort to selling UC in whatever technology otherwise we are ill serving our customers. Something they won’t thank us for.

A Unified Comms client is a fantastic concept because, properly deployed, it “changes our whole way of working”. Yes, that is a quote from a real end user customer, made 3 months after adopting an out of the box UC solution that included IM, Presence, Federation with suppliers and customers, Telephony integration, Audio conferencing, Video conferencing, internal and external web sharing and web ACD. Note the plural in that quote. ‘Our’ meaning a coherent team and their business contacts or ‘buddies’. That’s the power of UC when successfully deployed. I have 3 ‘fully’ working UC clients on my desktop. Google hangouts could be considered a fourth. The point about Lync is not whether it’s a good or bad UC client but where does it take you in a year?

A customer committing to Lync as a free giveaway in Office 365 effectively gives up all choice of as far as future cloud business applications and telephony solutions.

Whether direct, or via a Reseller, Telappliant believes that the best way of meeting a customer’s needs is to maintain that regime of relationship, choice and a journey that takes in new business solutions as the benefits become clear.

That company has been pushed into a microsoft cul de sac. Here’s an analogy of sorts. The drugs trade: Senior policemen will say the only way of beating organised drug crime is legalisation and selling the stuff in supermarkets. Lync disrupts the supply model in exactly the same way. Telephony resellers, not hitherto Microsoft Partners have to buy in to (invest) become capable of delivering an ‘On Prem’ Lync solution.

Some commentators argue that UC is only a viable ‘sell’ to Corporates. This attitude misunderstands the very nature and opportunity that UC offers. UC is as the jargon says, is a tool you use for communicating and collaborating amongst a group. In a corporate those groups are only SME sized. A good UC solution offering presence, chat and calling will eventually lead to that customer recognising the benefits ROI on higher value services such as Videoconferencing, Web ACD, open CRM integration etc. And of course new BYOD and mobile services the industry has yet to devise.

 

 

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine