Avoiding Lync 2013 deployment pitfalls

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On face value, you could say the installation of the Microsoft Lync product could be a press ‘next, next, next, finish’ set-up. But if you were to take this approach you would become unstuck very quickly. So what are the most common pitfalls I’ve seen along the way around Lync deployments?

1. Not asking the right questions to your clients – albeit internal or external clients.

If you don’t ask the right questions at the start, your Lync system and deployment will be fraught with challenges. In your armoury you should begin with a raft of questions that need answering before commencing with a technical design session. When I start any client engagements I run through a raft of questions starting with a minimum set of 26 questions, which based on the answers then expands to a further 40+ questions.
2. Overlooking network considerations including WAN and bandwidth usage across all client websites.

This is massively overlooked by most. It’s OK to say the customer has a 50mb WAN link to other sites, but without proper network connectivity analysis you could fall into the trap of having an over saturated network of bandwidth usage. In turn, this means that your Lync system will suffer from poor audio and Video. If this happens, you then might be faced with the further challenge of raising the question around QOS and CAC capabilities with your customer.
3. Insufficient planning

I can’t stress this common pitfall enough. It is essential to plan your deployment from start to finish, get dates in the diary for all the team due to work on the deployment. Raise change controls requests ahead of time and be sure to plan for network assessments, capacity planning and QOS provisioning. Failing to properly plan PSTN vs WAN capacity and insufficient network modelling can severely impact audio quality. You only have one chance to make the right impact with Lync and your client so plan plan plan!
4. Not fully understanding your Internal Wi-Fi limits

In the modern day more laptops are now being built without a physical Ethernet adaptor/ports. Therefore users are utilising their organisations internal Wi-Fi to communicate with the Lync Servers. Out of the many client engagements I’ve been involved with, I can count on one single hand the amount of customers who have actually configured, or even had the capability to configure, their enterprise Wi-Fi routers for correct bandwidth provisioning for Lync.

This means that the majority of organisations allow their Lync traffic to mix with the plethora of other non-critical end user traffic traversing the internal Wi-Fi. If this is the case, the quality and results for Lync’s audio and video could result in a poor end user experience.

5. Not knowing the Lync limitations and discussing these with your customer.

There is nothing worst than surprises midway through the deployment phase. For example, Lync standard edition is no longer the suitable option for multisite high availability. It is imperative to discuss the limitations of the Lync modals with your customer beforehand as this makes an easier transition in the long run.

6. Lack of Training and User adoption

I have seen many IT-specific Lync projects underappreciate the importance and value of communications, change management and training. This is especially true when Lync is being deployed as a PBX replacement voice system. Of course, training is especially important for some specific roles, such as the people operating the switchboard or administrative assistants who answer and place calls on behalf of others, such as personal assistants. However, it is extremely valuable also for “standard” users.

Your training and user adoption planning should at a minimum address four items:

i. Why the Change? Why is my organisation switching to Lync or adding Lync as an application? What are the expected benefits to me and also to my company?

ii. What is in it for me, or the company? How will Lync make the customers users life better?

Typical successes to a customer include tag for status change alerts; voice mail ability and missed call notifications in the users email inbox; improved ability to work effectively from home and another location using a ‘follow me’ telephone number or when traveling; and simultaneously ringing a mobile phone.

iii. When will it happen? How will the transition be managed? How will specific functions operate in the “new mode of operations”?

iv. Buy-in from Above – Getting buy-in from the top of the company can drive the success of user adoption. If the company’s management don’t embrace Lync neither will the administrative staff.

A classic mistake is to deploy the full set of Lync capabilities throughout the organisation, but then the employees only use a small part of the solution’s full potential. This implies that you’re not getting the full return on your investment. The last thing you need is to invest time and effort of deploying Lync, only to find that employees use it in the way they’ve always used their old PBX system. Lync really has the potential to change the way they work if the embrace the technology change. That’s one of the key reasons why many organisations deploy it in the first place: it’s not simply a technology upgrade – it’s a new way of collaborating.

7. The last three feet

In my opinion, the last three feet is one the most critical area of Lync and one where I see common issues arising. Typically customers will spend many thousands of pounds on deploying a Lync system and will then scrimp on devices either due to device unawareness or of a lack of device budget. The bottom line is all headsets being £5 to £300 will work with Lync, but the sound quality can be massively different and poor. The rule of thumb would be to always check the Microsoft peripherals website for Lync devices and always purchase ones which are Lync optimised.

Thanks

Iain Smith