When Cloud PBX was launched nearly a year ago, the reaction was mixed. Some moved quickly to rubbish the development, some waited patiently to see how it would all pan out, some took no interest in the development at all and a few others embraced the changes. I like to think I fall into the last category.
Ever since the release/retraction of ‘Hybrid Voice’ in Lync 2013, there has been a gap in the service that was crying out to be filled. That gap was filled on the 1st December 2015 and now, nearly one year on, we are in a far better position to be able to understand the real impact of Cloud PBX. Before I go further, remember that Cloud PBX means having your users in Skype for Business Online and that those users consume PSTN services from Microsoft (PSTN Calling) and/or a local PSTN connection (Cloud PBX) using either CCE or an SfB implementation.
Initially, the service was released with a few ‘missing pieces’….
- the ability to have multi-region PSTN Calling
- Hunt Groups
- the way that CCE had to be deployed
All gave the competing vendors, uncertain partners and unsure clients an easy route out. Since then Microsoft has been hammering away to address any blockers and, 10 months after the initial release, everything is looking pretty nicely sorted.
Earlier in the year I asked if Cloud PBX was really a viable option and the answer was yes and no… now, it is a categorical YES.
Today, the only real reason not to deploy Skype for Business Online and Cloud PBX boils down to a specific integration requirement, such as compliance based call recording or contact centre. But even that is not black and white. Contact centre (dependant on the vendor) can be deployed whilst the user resides in Skype for Business online and uses Cloud PBX. We know that a Trusted App API is being worked on currently by Microsoft but we don’t know when this will be generally available.
Even if you can’t move all your users to a Skype for Business Online/Cloud PBX solution, you should really be considering moving as much as you can. Stop looking for what you can’t move! Move as much as you can and reduce the footprint and dependency on any on-premise infrastructure. The need for on-premise infrastructure will change rapidly over the next 9-12 months, so get ahead of the curve.
So what are we seeing in the way of major trends around Skype for Business?
- Diagnostics: make sure that a thorough assessment of your network takes place before rolling out Skype for Business Online and Cloud PBX services. If your network is not up to scratch, your users may wrongly see Skype for Business as inadequate and resist using the toolset. Don’t look at cutting corners, take the time to get a detailed analysis carried out so you have hard, black and white facts about how your network will cope.
- Discovery: Understanding the impact of Skype for Business as a cultural change within an organisation is becoming more and more important. Businesses are now seeing this as a critical component to a successful project. This can be a huge change in behaviour for some users whilst others will pick it up straight away without issue or concern, you need to make sure your corporate message and comms are right.
- Embedded CCE on Gateways: This is generating an incredible amount of interest for clients wanting to take up Cloud PBX using a local PSTN breakout, and is proving itself to be a very slick tool to assist in the migration to Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling. The lack of need for dedicated Hyper-V hosts for use with CCE is no longer necessary. The journey to Cloud PBX is now far simpler and tidier.
- PSTN Conferencing: We are seeing a rapid rise in the number of clients using Skype for Business Online, extending the service to include PSTN Conferencing, i.e. the ability to dial in to a Skype for Business conference/meeting. This, along with the associated End User Adoption programme, allows for a rapid move away from legacy Audio, Video and Web conferencing subscriptions and makes for an easy ROI.
- PSTN Calling Pilots: There has also been a noticeable increase in the number of PSTN Calling pilots. Enabling PSTN Calling in Skype for Business Online is fast and gives companies the chance to really evaluate the use of Skype for Business as a valid telephony platform without committing to any major project. Those trials, once in, are rarely removed. Once the licenses are assigned, it takes seconds to enable a user for PSTN access. Telephony for a new office, for example, can quite realistically be fully enabled within minutes.
This journey shows no signs of slowing down, make sure your partner is fully aligned and experienced with Skype for Business voice. It is an exciting time in communications.
Head of Pre-Sales