The IT Desk Formula for Microsoft Lync

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People prefer making calls on cell phones. You may also be surprised to learn that water is wet and the Pope is Catholic.

When I ditched my house phone about eight years ago, it was because it rarely rang and when it did it was either an international call from my mother-in-law or a robocaller. Needless to say, I couldn't ditch it fast enough.

My desk phone at work took a little longer to transition, but now it's also on the way to becoming a relic of the past. Thankfully, my employer, Aruba Networks, just recently liberated me, removing my desk phone and offering me Microsoft Lync 2013 across all my devices.

They estimate it will save about $2Million, or $900 per employee in the first year when you take into account infrastructure savings and minimizing conferencing and long distance services.

This means I have zero network cables at my desk. Zero! More importantly, I have a new service that's so good; I don't know how I lived without it.

So I'm a happy camper, but, as an end-user, it's easy to ignore the shift that happened for IT. I've been infinitely impressed with how our IT folks executed on Lync.

In my role, I spend a fair amount of time talking to people about the products and features needed for a reliable UCC deployment, but I've spent very little time talking about the "Day 2" IT challenges. How do you ensure a successful Lync service once everything is up and running?

Gartner just published a study on softphone adoption. In the study they found that "quality and user acceptance will be the primary drivers for softphone acceptance"

How do you give users a softphone experience that's equivalent or better than their old desk phone, while also driving adoption across UCC applications like video conferencing and presence?

And if someone has a bad experience, like a few people did at Aruba, how do determine if it's due to individual habits or to gaps in the IT process and design?

There's a ton to be learned from Aruba's Lync rollout, both from what went well and from the one or two things that went sideways. I figured it would be useful to summarize some of our best practices:

1)   Train Early, Train Often - While most of Aruba was eager to get their hands on the shinny new object that was Microsoft Lync, enthusiasm doesn't always translate into action.  Training is the most critical first step for getting the Lync train moving.

Do what Aruba did - train your employees on Lync like you would HR conduct training.  Hold sessions often, make them convenient and make them mandatory.  Build the content into new-hire orientation and employee training materials. Continue to educate your users even after formal trainings are finished.

Yes, this is a great opportunity to teach your employees how to use the new service and adapt business processes, but more importantly, it's also a way to build Lync advocates internally and a way to notify them upfront of any gotchas that could impact their experience.

Don't let anyone slip through the cracks! At Aruba, even the few people that missed the trainings overwhelmed helpdesk and aired their grievances publicly… on social media.  If these folks had been aware of the scope of deployment and device-specific recommendations, negative publicity could have been avoided.

2)   Build a Team of Change Champions – Just like we had that one guy in high school that wore a tux every Friday for a month before prom to promote the local tux shop, Aruba identified a Lync Change Champion in every department to model Lync behavior. This is a non-IT person that becomes your departmental Lync advocate and your ears on the ground. These Change Champions not only speed adoption, but also relieve pressure from IT and helped gather information on persistent issues and people that are resisting change.

3)   Arm Helpdesk with End-to-End Monitoring Tools – While Lync is a major transition for your users; it's even more significant for the operations of your helpdesk.

The trick is to stay one step ahead of your users, by focusing on maintaining wellness and not firefighting.  This means proactively maintaining five 9s by monitoring the system end-to-end and having your IT staff act before issues arise. It also means implementing infrastructure that can automatically orchestrate configuration changes to optimize for Lync.

Leveraging Microsoft's new SDN API and Aruba infrastructure, you can now pull together performance metrics for both the network and the Lync application into a single view. For instance, you can plot Wi-Fi client health against application performance, letting IT quickly identify outliers before they call the helpdesk.


And using AirWave's new Unified Communications Dashboard, IT can look at a building floor plan that shows these two metrics color-coded on each active Lync user. This allows IT to identify risk areas on a floor plan and proactively make changes.

Yes, helpdesk calls are inevitable no matter how well you plan; especially early on when you first roll out the service.  Make sure you're ready for the calls by fully training helpdesk on Lync and the tools available to diagnose and resolve Lync related issues.

Finally, just as you should designate Lync Change Champions across the organization, you also need Lync experts internal to IT for problem escalation and to address issues more quickly and efficiently.

4)   Prime Your Users – You can't expect mass adoption of Lync to happen overnight. People are creatures of habit and resist change no matter how promising the innovation is.

Conventional wisdom says it takes 21-days or more to form a new behavior. This means you need to work extra hard to make Lync a part of peoples daily work lives and to operationalize Lync with existing tasks.

The low hanging fruit is events. Work with HR, training, executive staff, and your department Lync Champions, to host every major training and event over Lync.

5)   Optimize the Network – Flipping the switch on Lync and expecting it to work flawlessly is a recipe for disaster. Properly designing and configuring the network plays a huge role in ensuring that Lync will work reliably for all users across different devices.

Design is the first consideration. While Wi-Fi capacity and coverage may have been "good enough" in the past, it now needs to accommodate real-time voice and video traffic. This typically requires denser AP placement to boost wireless capacity. It also requires increased coverage so that users stay connected as they walk down hallways and between buildings.

Product capabilities can be just as important as design. One technology that makes a big difference is a Next-Generation Mobility Firewall with deep packet inspection that's integrated with Aruba Wi-Fi.  This takes applications that aren't sensitive to latency, like file transfers and buffered video, and de-prioritizes them to free up airtime and bandwidth for Lync.  It will also prioritize Lync according to how it's used in real-time; for screen-sharing, text messaging, voice calls, etc.

Aruba Wi-Fi also has the unique benefit of integrating with Microsoft's Lync SDN API. In addition to the monitoring and forensic benefits mentioned earlier, the Lync SDN API can also boost Lync performance over Wi-Fi. The API delivers detailed call setup and application performance information to Aruba Wi-Fi, enabling it to make better roaming decisions for the device, adjust priority of the Lync session and load-balance calls across Access Point.

Latest Progress on Aruba's Lync Rollout 

There's no doubt in my mind that UCC is the end of the desk phone as we know it.  It gives users a better communication and collaboration experience and has the added benefit of massive economic and productivity benefits.  But the road to mobile UCC requires what any cultural change does – a well executed plan and very deliberate actions to improve adoption and service delivery.

For Aruba, the results have been excellent. Since going live, Lync adoption has grown at a healthy clip.


Better yet, as adoption has increased, helpdesk calls have tapered off.


Aruba is also starting to measure user satisfaction and results so far have been excellent.

I should mention here that I am not a member of Aruba IT, just a fan of their work. Hopefully these tips were helpful. Please let me know if these suit your organization or if there are other important tips I missed

Finally, if you're like me, and you're better with visuals, I've put this in Slideshare for your viewing pleasure or to use in your own organization for planning the transition to Lync.