This article excerpt, by Jason Cochran, originally appeared here:

At GameStop, we’re all about giving players the video games and devices that they need to have fun. Walk into any GameStop store, and you’ll see equally enthusiastic customers and employees comparing scores, evaluating devices and discussing new virtual worlds. Despite that focus on fun, it’s important to remember that we run a serious business. We’re a rapidly growing Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company with more than 6,000 stores, and we need all our stores to reflect our brand and uphold our high level of service.
As VP of Store Operations, I face the challenge of maintaining consistency across all our locations, from the products on the shelves to the look of the stores. That includes customer service—I need to make sure that all our store associates not only know everything that they should about our products and promotions but also that they feel like part of the larger GameStop team.
That used to be tough. We had to send store managers lengthy emails that were chock-full of information and ask them to disseminate it among store associates, who don’t sit at desks with computers like so many other workers do. Because our sales associates had no direct access to company email, they had no way of knowing if they’d heard the latest and greatest information, which affected their confidence in the accuracy of the knowledge that they shared with customers.
But now that we’ve implemented a new retail portal that runs on Microsoft Office 365, we’re radically changing the way that we communicate with our store managers and associates. We post images and videos about new products, store promotions, and other information to the retail portal and every store employee—managers and associates alike—accesses the portal through the stores’ point-of-sale terminals to get up-to-the-minute information. It’s now easy for all these “Web-only users” to quickly glean valuable information and feel assured that they have what they need to know every day.
We’re also transforming the way that we handle employee training. Most of our store associates are gamers themselves, so we built “game-ified” training modules into our portal and give associates incentives to tackle each module. The system, which is called “Level Up,” motivates our associates to stay current with corporate policies, operations procedures, and game-related information so that we can continue to have the best-informed employees in the industry.
Although the portal was the initial catalyst for adopting Microsoft cloud-based technologies, bringing our store associates into the company’s online environment presents all sorts of other opportunities, such as sharing best practices and game reviews among stores via Yammer social networking. We now have tools at our fingertips that make it easy to come up with and deploy innovative ways to make our customers’ store experiences faster, more informative, and more fun.
Technical Summary:
GameStop adopted a retail portal that runs using Microsoft SharePoint Online in Microsoft Office 365. The company’s corporate employees use the portal to share daily updates with more than 6,000 retail stores, and its deskless store associates receive at-a-glance information through graphics and videos rather than waiting for their managers to wade through email to find the latest product information and share it with them. The company plans to adopt Microsoft Lync Online for conferencing, and it anticipates using Microsoft Exchange Online for messaging, Microsoft OneDrive for Business for accessible document storage, and Yammer for social networking and sharing best practices in the future.
See the GameStop case study for more detail.

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This article excerpt, by Kevin Kieller, originally appeared here:
Monitoring usage and adoption and then using the information to refine your Lync deployment, and understanding and using information from the standard Lync Monitoring Server reports, will improve the success of your Lync deployment.
Usage, Adoption and the Lync Monitoring Server
Do you know who is using what Lync features and how often and how much of a particular feature they are using? To be successful, you want broad-based adoption (lots of people) with lots of usage (for example, many IMs, conferences, desktop sharing sessions, etc.).
Adoption = who is using your service (by department, geography, role, etc.)
Usage = quantity of messages, calls, minutes being made/used, etc.
Fortunately, Microsoft Lync includes a free Monitoring Server (application) that can provide you with great usage and adoption information. With Lync 2010, the Monitoring Server role needed to be installed on its own physical server, and as such, some administrators, wrongly, chose not to install the Monitoring Server at all. With Lync 2013, the Monitoring Server role does not require a separate server but is instead installed on an existing Lync Front-end Server (collocated). Every Lync deployment should install the Lync Monitoring Server role, including pilot deployments!
It is important to understand that the Monitoring Server role tracks “metadata” related to communication sessions and does not track or record actual communication content. The Monitoring reports show that you and I had an IM conversation on a particular date at a specific time or that we had a phone call on July 1, 2014 at 11:04 AM that lasted 3 minutes; however, the Monitoring Server is not able to disclose any information related to the content of those communication sessions.
If you are coming from a telecom background and are familiar with the CDRs (call detail records) that most PBX systems could produce, consider the Lync Monitoring reports as a “super-CDR.” Unlike a simple CDR, Lync Monitoring reports track instant message sessions, peer-to-peer audio calls and video calls along with remote desktop sessions, file transfers and audio, video and Web conferences.
The Monitoring Server reports take great advantage of SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS). This means all of the reports inherit the capabilities of SSRS, including the ability to export to Excel, PDF and other formats; the ability to schedule and automatically email reports to specified recipients on a regular basis; and the ability to modify standard reports and easily add your own custom reports.
Monitoring Server Reports
By my count, there are 19 standard monitoring server reports, along with a monitoring dashboard that provides a quick overview of system health and usage.
The Monitoring Server reports have not changed much from Lync 2010 to Lync 2013. As such, a complete guide to understanding the reports can be downloaded here and is applicable to both versions of Lync.
Lync 2013 adds two new reports: Conference Join Time Report, Media Quality Comparison Report.
In combination, the standard Lync reports provide invaluable and detailed insights into your Lync environment and will help you drive both usage and adoption to ensure a successful deployment.
For those using or considering the Office 365 version of Lync, note that the above information is applicable to on-premises deployments of Lync 2010 and 2013. While the Office 365 Lync Reports are expanding, they do not currently match the detail provided by the on-premises monitoring server reports.

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The top 10 secrets of a successful Lync project from someone who has deployed 200,000 users

As the leading integrator of Microsoft Lync in Asia Pac, Generation-e has learnt an enormous amount and we’d like to share that with you.  We are running a short and focused event around some of the key areas for Lync deployment success. 

Nathan Chapman, our CTO will be leading the day’s discussions and will focus on business outcomes.  As a Microsoft Certified and a member of Microsoft’s Lync Product Advisory Council, Nathan is uniquely placed to run this session.  No one in Australia is better qualified to run this event!

You will leave the event having learnt the keys to making your project a success, how to engage your business for change, where the technology’s future is heading and how leading companies are leveraging the Lync ecosystem to achieve significant business productivity increases, staff engagement and empowerment.
Make your Lync project a success and avoid the pitfalls Generation-e is a multi award winning Microsoft Gold Partner.  You will learn the secrets from 200,000 Microsoft Lync seats deployed.  Nathan will show you how to make your Lync project a success, get users to embrace the change and get management buy in.

Expanding the boundaries of contact centres with Lync Call centres are a thing of the past.  Today we want to queue interactions not calls so the combination of voice, fax, email, social and video, inbound and outbound – define a contact centre.  How can this fit into your business and into Lync?  Enghouse is the largest provider of Lync enabled contact centres, they will drive this session showing us how simple and powerful it can be and why you need to investigate this for your business.

Integrate video conferencing into Lync to get video everywhere You have Polycom, Cisco or Lifesize.  How do you add them into your unified communications world, extend their lives & make them more valuable?  Pexip is the leader in integrating legacy video into Microsoft Lync and they will show you how to do this simply and cost effectively and have you asking why don’t we do this now?

Attendees at each session have the chance to win a Microsoft Surface Pro 3!

Register now!

Posted in Contact Centre, Enghouse, Microsoft, Microsoft Lync, Pexip, UC Centre of Excellence, Unified Communications, Video Conferencing, Zeacom | Leave a comment


This article excerpt, by Eric Krapf, originally appeared here:
When your IT department is determined to eliminate all desk phones, what does it take an employee to get an exception made? How about a note from your doctor?
That was what one enterprise IT organization decided to require, according to Quentin Kramer of systems integrator SPS; Quentin experienced this particular “solution” at a company where he was engaged in a Microsoft Lync deployment. The upshot: No notes came in, and nobody got a desk phone.
Quentin told that story at our last Enterprise Connect Tour stop in New York. Our panel was discussing the various approaches that different enterprises are taking toward the whole issue of what to do about the desk phone in a Lync world that clearly de-emphasizes hard phones.
Alan Shen of Unify Square had his own fun anecdote, starring former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. When it came time to put a Lync-compliant phone on Ballmer’s desk, the never-shy Ballmer rebelled against the wire coming out of the phone. It had to be wireless and powered by two AA batteries. Ballmer didn’t want to see any wires.
The solution: The tech team drilled a hole in Ballmer’s desk below where the phone would sit, and ran the wire through that, making sure its inevitable course to the wall jack was hidden from view throughout. Ballmer didn’t see any wires.
Somewhere in between requiring a doctor’s note to deter end user demands, and defacing the CEO’s desk to satisfy his demands, there has to be a happy medium when it comes to accommodating end users’ conflicting emotions about their desk phones.
In a No Jitter post on a phone-free Lync deployment she’d worked on, consultant Barb Grothe described a pretty constructive approach. Her consulting client told users they were going to get only headsets at the initial deployment. After a week, anyone who really wanted a phone could have one.
“Surprisingly, only two employees out of 750 stated that they wanted a deskphone,” Barb writes. “One was for a hearing issue, so they wanted the phone handset with an amplified hearing adjustment, and the other employee could not handle the headset because of “radio frequency issues.”
It’s anyone’s guess what those “radio frequency issues” were; Barb’s other hardphone hard-liner would seem to be someone who could, in fact, have secured a doctor’s prescription for a hard phone, had Barb’s client not been willing to offer over-the-counter desk phones. In fact, as our population ages, you have to wonder how enterprise communications will find ways to optimize devices and programs for those of us who may have attended too many, let’s say, Air Supply concerts in our youth. But that’s another whole story.
Overall, when it comes to the future of the deskphone, the signals, so to speak, seem to be mixed. You can find vendors and consultants who’ll tell you they’re putting in just as many today as ever. You can find case studies like Barb’s–wholesale successful efforts to eliminate desk phones.
But one thing’s sure: Taking into account replacement cycles on headsets, endpoint licensing charges, and mobile device costs, nobody on our 5-member Lync Tour panel thought you’d be paying any less, in a deskphone-less future, to equip users with the end devices they want to use.
And Quentin Kramer made another point, too–if every desk in a large installation is being used by a worker who’s charging up their laptop, tablet, smart phone, and headset, what’s that going to do to powering costs?
One thing you can safely predict: Neither the basic end device costs or the powering expense are going to slow this trend down once it’s under way in an enterprise.

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Close to 70% of companies that have adopted Lync cannot easily report on savings, which means proving how much cost savings a UC solution brings to the table is difficult.
Here is a high level, 3-step approach to gauge how much money a UC solution, such as Microsoft Lync, is saving for your organization. The focus compares ongoing usage costs instead of initial capital deployment costs. Capital costs for deploying a UC solution need to be considered as well, but are typically driven by budgets and become less significant from a cost savings perspective over the lifetime of a UC solution.
Step 1: Measure
For an on-premises Microsoft Lync deployment, this base requirement equates to knowing feature usage and summary amounts, which are broken down into business segments that make sense for your company over a variety of time frames (i.e. 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 1 year). For a UC solution being consumed in the cloud, such as Lync Online, on-going subscription costs can be used, but usage will typically still provide a better yardstick for cost comparisons.
Microsoft Lync Server 2013 natively includes a monitoring service, which provides the ability to collect and store Call Detail Records (CDRs). Enabling this feature will configure Lync to record Lync usage across the entire media stack, including peer-to-peer calls and all types of conferencing for all users.
The bigger challenge is making sense of all CDR information captured in the database. Being able to report on how much a feature was used by a user, department, or office with absolute and summary counts over different time frames is a necessary prerequisite to quantify and compare UC costs. Microsoft Lync ships with some native reports, which provide basic shorter-term usage metrics. More in-depth usage reporting and analysis, which are integrated with Active Directory to better understand usage and costs across your business segments, are available from several third parties.
Step 2: Determine Microsoft Lync Costs
Ongoing usage costs for Microsoft Lync must be known – or even approximated –to compare against existing non-UC costs. For example, if a Company spent $200,000 last year on a non-UC audio conferencing solution, we need an approximate cost for Microsoft Lync conference usage where the audio and dial-in features were used.
With access to the usage metrics discussed in the previous step, costs per Lync feature usage such as the per minute cost of a Lync audio conference can be assigned, and total costs can then be calculated and viewed for comparison purposes.
Companies often struggle assigning an initial usage cost (aka charge) for a Lync feature because it is a nebulous combination of costs (such as bandwidth, licensing, and IT staff). A good start is to assign a ballpark cost based on the high-level, ongoing Lync costs, such as the variable costs just mentioned, and then fine-tune it. Seeing the summary cost numbers with these first-cut estimates offers insight and often leads to quick refinement and a better reflection of true cost.
Step 3: Compare Apples-to-Apples
Often the most difficult challenge to gauging UC cost-savings is being able to do an apples-to-apples comparison with existing non-UC cost reports. Although traditional existing cost reports, such as travel expenses, are available in various data sources throughout the organization, they are typically hard-coded for a particular segment of the business (e.g. user or business unit) and only available in summary form for a specific timeframe (e.g. per quarter or last year).
Comparing these costs then requires that our corresponding Lync cost reports are available for the same time frame (e.g. “1 year”), for the same business segment (e.g. “sales department”), and for a Lync feature that is similar to what is being compared to in the existing non-UC report (e.g. “Lync Web conferencing” versus “airfare and lodging costs”).
Cost savings that depend on user behavior, such as a reduction in email usage, are harder to quantify. Even an approximation can provide valuable insight. Many companies have reporting tools for each collaboration platform. Simply trending and comparing the usage change before and after UC features are adopted provide a good yardstick for measuring cost savings in this area. Microsoft Lync reporting solutions that provide data on other platform usage (e.g. email) as well as Lync usage make this challenge easier.

This article excerpt, by Curtis Johnstone, originally appeared here: 

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Activity Based Working supports the way people want to work today and into the future.

As alternative ways of working become more and more popular for organisations, many companies claim that they understand what it takes to make Activity Based working a reality for their clients, but no one has Veldhoen + Company’s unique experience and expertise. They first introduced Activity Based Working in the Netherlands in 1996 and are now doing the same in Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.

As pioneers and market leaders, they offer clients something that no one else can, breadth of experience gained from real world implementations, and knowledge of what it takes to make ABW successful.

ABW is becoming increasingly popular as organisations are adopting flexible workplaces and practices. This includes creating virtual offices through implementing the latest technology such as unified communications and high capacity wireless networks enabling their staff to work almost anywhere.

Some benefits of this style of working include:

  • increased staff collaboration, productivity and efficiency
  • flexibility in where and how an employee chooses to work
  • focus on outcomes not effort
  • reduction in power, paper usage, real estate costs
  • improved work environment and job satisfaction
  • freedom and choice for staff
  • breaking down silos
  • modern work environment and practices
  • employer of choice
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Are you getting problems starting your Edge service role ?

Is your Edge service going crazy about the certificate being not accessible ?

Do you get this dreaded error message from Event ID: 14591

Event ID: 14591


Cause: The certificate may have been deleted or may be invalid, or permissions are not set correctly.

Fear not, you are not alone, after banging my head against the wall for a few days, rebuilding the Edge server from scratch, and trying out a bunch of different certificate templates; I have finally found the solution…

Although Microsoft Windows is happy with many types of Crypto Providers; alas, Lync on the other hand, only likes the "Microsoft RSA SChannel Cryptographic Provider"

Next time you want to issue a certificate, make sure you choose the "Microsoft RSA SChannel Cryptographic Provider"

To make this more informative, I have added below the certificate template options that should be used for generating Lync certificates…

  • Don’t select to publish to AD, as Lync Edge can not access the AD and is not authorized to do so: 

Template - General Tab

  • Choose the Purpose to be "Signature & Encryption" and allow "Private Key to be Exported"

Template - Request Handling Tab

  • Choose only the "Microsoft RSA SChannel Cryptographic Provider"

Template - CSP Selection

  • Choose the Application Policies to be "Server Authentication"

Template - Extensions Tab

  • Choose the Key Usage to be "Allow key exchange only with key encryption"

Template - Extensions Tab

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