A Tale of a successful Lync deployment….

 

Unified Communications:

I want to discuss UC implementation based on Exchange 2010 and Lync 2010. This is from a client perspective, not a vendor’s. Just some thoughts that may help someone build a business case and successfully implement a project. I have excluded design and software licencing from this article. I am hoping to provide a framework for a project.

Our particular project was very successful and we are very happy with the implementation.

What are you trying to achieve?

What are the benefits your firm, each firm is different, for example one obvious benefit for a multiple sites, is lower interstate call costs, however with companies that have only one site then this is less beneficial.

When looking at the Benefits there are 3 main categories:

  • · Business Benefits
  • · End User Experience
  • · Cost Reduction

All of these items are linked, I think it best for you to think about your benefits for your firm in these categories and communicate in business terms with a value attached.

I have attached out achieved benefits at the end of this article.

For Example, “Reduction in Travel” can be across all 3 categories and I think it is important to recognise this.

How do I fund this?

Funding is an important aspect of any project, you need to really analyse your current spend before you can understand the cost impact, it may be difficult, for example what will your phone bill be post deployment and how do you estimate this?

Recurring Cost:

You are most likely spending money across the following categories:

  • · WAN link/s.
  • · PABX maintenance.
  • · PABX moves, adds and changes.

o Phone updates.

o Button configuration.

o Desk moves.

o New users.

  • · Teleconferencing with a provider as a managed service.
  • · Software maintenance for.

o Voicemail.

o Call accounting.

o Operator console.

  • · Video Conference Clients such as Polycom or Tandberg software H323.
  • · PSTN connection charges.

Cost avoidance:

  • · Do you need more lines for you current PABX system this will cost money and can be rolled into an upgrade to VOIP instead of upgrading the PABX.
  • · Office move or renovations?

o Minimise cabling, cabling a desk with one connection, most phones have a built in switch can save you cabling costs that are => than the phone cost.

o Minimize risk, the new phone system can be pre staged.

  • · Disaster recovery solution for phones, much cheaper to do in VOIP world than PABX world.
  • · Is there any projected growth within your firm, adding handsets to VOIP are more cost effective than upgrading PABX.

Linked opportunities:

  • · One mentor told me “never ever link projects as if one fails all are doomed to failure” I strongly agree with this philosophy, however in this case linking projects can help get the project funded.

o WAN contract upgrade, better provider, cheaper cost, increased bandwidth, QOS, Layer 2.

o PSTN connections, still with Telstra, shop around; there are some good deals to be had.

o Mobile phones and mobile devices, is it time for a refresh, again shop around look for opportunity to sign a new desk with a tech fund, this can be used to offset VOIP costs.

o Disaster Recovery: is there a business pull for DR, this can built into the solution for phones which gets you started.

Why Microsoft?

  • · Next Generation of software, we have found the software very resilient over WAN links and via the Internet with high quality audio and solid video capabilities, without the need for QOS.
  • · We already had Lync in our EA. This is a no brainier to me….thanks Biagio….
  • · It was cost effective across multiple angles.
  • · Device support allowed us to explore different partners, Audiocode/NET, Polycom, Jabra, Plantronics..etc…
  • · Integration with Microsoft Office Product suite.
  • · Integration with Intranet SharePoint.
  • · Rich feature list. Comparable to any other solution, without addon mentality….
  • · Ease of support and ability to get help.
  • · Familiar with software.

o Clients and Administrators.

  • · Leverage internal skills already developed.
  • · Less complexity and servers.
  • · Easy scalability.
  • · Garnet Magic Quadrant Leader.
  • · All features by default, instead of different modules for this and that.
  • · Documentation and training material, Microsoft have provided a fantastic standard of documentation and material that can easily be leveraged as internal documentation.

Why Polycom?

  • · Native support for Lync.
  • · Easy to deal with.
  • · High quality hardware.
  • · Easy to configure and use.

What is the process for this type of project?

Audit:

You need to get a list of all services: Audit.

  • · Phones.
  • · Phone numbers.
  • · External phone numbers.
  • · Faxes.
  • · Fax numbers.
  • · Printer with Fax.
  • · Franking machines.
  • · Modems.
  • · EFTPOS terminals.
  • · ADSL modems.
  • · PABX configuration.
  • · Analogue devices.
  • · PSTN Services.

o ISDN services/ BRI services.

o Fibre.

o Call routing.

o Caller display settings

Get Ready:

Get your house in order:

  • · Virtualisation.
  • · Software deployment.
  • · AD Clean-up.
  • · WAN upgrades.
  • · Redundant WANS.
  • · Telecommunication contracts for PSTN.
  • · Software updates.
  • · Get to a stable point.
  • · Core switching and edge switching.
  • · DMZ.
  • · Firewall.
  • · Internet links.
  • · Desktop platform and OS.
  • · SOE.
  • · SQL server and SQL Reporting Server.

The above should be started before you start; these items are the foundation of a good VOIP deployment.

Exchange plays a major role in UC, this needs to be right, this is your chance to resolve DR issues and create a solid Exchange platform, Exchange 2010 and Lync now support vitalization, both VMWARE and HyperV.

Design:

You will need a design, this is where you need to use your training and get support from a consultant. This is the most important phase. Try to do it yourself but get help to ensure you don’t miss anything.

This area is its own area and I could go on for ever here.

Keep it simple but allow expansion later.

Consideration needs to be given to backup, including the gateways, Lync, AD, and Exchange. You don’t need to have hardware maintenance on the phones, just some spares, however you need maintenance on your gateways.

Software maintenance, every Lync update and major release significantly improves the system, we have seen this, it is getting better and better. You don’t want not to be able to upgrade in your own time, your need software maintenance. This is a long term commitment, not unlike other VOIP solutions.

Build/pilot

If you have a smaller site start there, you need to build confidence in your team for support of the new system.

Training:

You users will need training, it is not much but you will need to maintain focus through this stage. Offer prizes and incentives to attend training, run the training yourself, this aids in knowledge building and transfer.

Deploy phones:

Get the phones out early build excitement, it takes forever to unpack and setup the phones, allow time to do this and ensure you have the devices at the right location as early as you can.

Go live:

Cut over your PSTN lines to your new system.

Training and handover:

  • · Help your users get setup: one on one
  • · Get support from other teams, our DBA did phone handovers. Each trainer can see 10-20 people in a morning.
  • · Offer training.
  • · Get small groups and practice transfers
  • · Setup simultaneous rings
  • · Test conferencing with non-critical meeting and build up confidence.

Post support:

Make sure your scope include post support for several days, this will help with ironing out issue on the spot, we had great post support from GenE, provided by Nathan and Damien and our project manager.

What you will need to buy…BOM

Software:

Do you own Exchange 2010 CALS (enterprise CAL) and Lync 2010 CALS?

  • · You will need the software licences; we were lucky we had this in our EA and did not require further investment.
  • · You will need at least one Exchange Server and one Lync Server, both can be standard version depending on database number in exchange.

Hardware:

  • · You will need gateways: I really like the Audiocodes gateway, they worked for us, we went with Audiocodes as NET did not support on hold music at the time of implementation http://www.audiocodes.com/sba. These devices connect you to the PSTN, or Skype via, Fibre, Copper or SIP.
  • · Switches: If you don’t want to deploy power adapters, you need to deploy POE switches, we used Cisco, and they have been great the model was 2960.
  • · Phones:

o There are plenty of phone providers, the Polycom CX600 is what I chose, they had the best build quality of the tested phones and were the easiest to deal with as a company. We had 2 bad handset out of 300+ both swapped out within 24 hours, we had some spares as well. http://www.polycom.com.au/products/voice/desktop_solutions/microsoft_optimize…

§ You will need more handsets than users for spare desks, home users, meeting rooms, reception, spares. Keep this in mind,

§ Do not mix models, each model has a different software build, and updates can become complex. See Device-Based Clients http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/lync/gg131945

o A lot of people go with the headphone linked to computer option, this is OK, however keep in mind:

§ Your desktop computers and laptops need to be up to the task, I have heard that softphones can be the straw that breaks the computers back.

§ Computer must be on to make and receive calls.

  • · Headphones: Your users will start to want to use headsets, they are great. They need to be good quality as the poorer quality ones do not last and affect performance.

o Wireless or Wired, this will be a big discussion, we push wired but often get requests for wireless. Wired are plug and play and have no radiation potential. Wireless adds complexity to your solution (Battery Life and Crosstalk); you need to factor these requests into your proposal. We use Jabra and Plantronics, Jabra seem to be of higher quality and easier to configure and use in my opinion.

  • · Web cameras and speakers: Desktop video conferencing will gain momentum after deployment; this really impacts on end user experience. To use a video camera and achieve high quality video quality you need:

o Quad core cpu – Lync does an internal CPU core check when negotiating video quality.

o Good quality web cameras, I have stuck with Microsoft, for no other reason that there is no additional software required when installing the cameras maying deployment easier, I but the HD3000, it does not support auto focus which in an office environment is great as people walking past do not distort the video. http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/en-us/p/lifecam-hd-3000/T3H-00001

  • · Room systems:

o It is possible you will want a group of people to get-together in a room and then call in desktop video attendees, Polycom has solid integration with Lync supporting the Lync video codec RTVideo, the HDX range is as easy to configure as a video recorder and can provide fantastic Lync room based results, recently Polycom released a room setup based on Lync. http://www.polycom.com.au/products/voice/conferencing_solutions/microsoft_optimized_conferencing/cx7000.html

Consulting:

  • · You will need some help; in Australia I can strongly recommend GenerationE. http://www.generation-e.com.au/ , they provided us with great support.
  • · How much help you need will depend on the following:

o Current state of your:

§ Network

  • · WAN
  • · Switches (POE capabilities)
  • · Routers
  • · QOS – not really required for Lync.

o Internal Skills

§ Exchange Skills are essential.

§ Voice Skills are essential.

§ Network Skills are essential.

o Training opportunities:

§ If you are thinking about implementing Lync you need to get training for your admin staff. On Lync and Exchange 2010. We used EA training vouchers. http://www.ddls.com.au/VendCourseGrp/MS%20/124.htm

Device Support

  • · Mobile Devices:

o Lync can be installed on your staff’s laptops to allow for remote use for voice, video, desktop sharing, conferencing and remote support.

o Lync is available on several mobile devices including iPads and Android tablets.

  • · Apple support, there is a MAC Lync client
  • · Windows- obviously…….
  • · Other Devices:

o Phones.

o Headsets.

o Laptops.

o Cameras.

o Room systems

Software

  • · Microsoft Office.
  • · Windows.
  • · Exchange.
  • · SharePoint.
  • · Various clients:

o Lync.

o Web Client.

o Mobile OS.

o Attendant Console.

o Attendee Console.

  • · SQL (inc Reporting Services)
  • · PowerShell

What are the Gotchas?

Well some…not all bad though….

  • · On Hold Music: Microsoft have got an interesting approach for on hold music for phone devices, there is none at the moment, the soft client uses an mp3 file on each computer. You need a gateway that supports this, Audiocodes was the only confirmed one we found, it worked very well, however you need to plan for this.
  • · Web conferencing: It works and it works well, however end users outside of your organization need to have firewalls that allow traffic, admin rights for client install and some intelligence to get it to work, no fear you can always fall back to audio conferencing for users.
  • · Scope: List all your devices and functions, eg who sets up faxing and what do you use nationally, GenE supported us with this even though it was overlooked when scoping. We use rightfax, with a virtual fax card.
  • · People want a phone, we setup conference phones in all meeting rooms, one of our users was most upset when he could not find a phone with a handset in a meeting room for a private conversation.
  • · Integration: You need to test all scenarios, people find new ways to connect with lync and find ways that you did not know about. Think like a user.
  • · Group pick-up: there is no button on the phone for other users, you need to configure simultaneous ring, this works but is an different concept to traditnional group pick up.
  • · Have patience: Users get used to this system, it is very very intuitive, however users will take time to explore and different users will have different levels of skill on doing this.
  • · Start off small: This cannot be rushed, you need to allow time for user adoption, deploy lync client early and get “im” working, training you users.
  • · Transfer of calls: it is too easy, therefore users don’t think they can do it, encourage practice for your users. Define the types of transfers, announced and direct.
  • · Jargon: Microsoft have introduced a new set of jargon, get used to it and help the users understand, be consistent with your advice and terminology, your users will get confused as it is different to a traditional PABX solution.
  • · Too integrated, when you logon to a phone, you are automatically authenticated to Exchange, this means anyone can walk up to the phone and listen to voicemail and wait for it…email….so you need to look at device pins, they are not a big deal and can help provide security. No one ever uses them to unlock the phones as the screen saver does this for you. The phone acts like a normal phone if locked.
  • · Quality control phone install, make sure the USB cable is in and that the connections are right, i.e. don’t plug the handset into the headset jack….
  • · Trust your own judgement,: the vendors are trying to do their best but you need to know your own infrastructure, you need to make the calls, don’t leave ti to the vendor, as you will need to own this long after the vendor goes.
  • · Don’t restart your SBA during the day, this drops calls…..
  • · Attendant Console: With training very good, but this took a lot of hand holding to get right, even surprised us with some undocumented features.
  • · You need to allow for additional IP Addresses for the phones, sounds simple but will require some additional DHCP scopes and some changes to VLANS.
  • · A lot of tasks need to utilize PowerShell to work; your administrators need scripting skills.
  • · Click to dial: click on an AD group and you can call the whole office, I accidently rang my whole Perth office at once….all of them.
  • · On cutover, when the phones first sign in, they wait for an update, this takes five minutes of inactivity, while the phone restarts users computers lose connection to network, it is better to have the phone logged in prior to user with a generic account. Otherwise it confuses users and gives a negative first impression.
  • · Lync is a good bridge for video not as good as an RMX, you may need both to really leverage your system, for example limited screen layouts and options can cause confusion. RMX now has native support for Lync which is impressive.

What are the nice surprises then?

  • · User adoption – our users have adapted very quickly.
  • · Standard systems made a massive difference to support.
  • · Roaming users: Our users started sitting where ever they wanted, in the office or other sites.
  • · Work from home: Perth users now logon to meeting from home without being in the office at the crack of dawn.
  • · Simplicity on change: we need very little support and the solution is easy to adapt and change to our needs.
  • · Bandwidth, QOS and lack of need.
  • · VLAN support, no complex voice VLAN required.
  • · Friendly consultants, maybe we were lucky, our consultants and project managers were really helpful and insightful and did not need to “Google” everything.
  • · User features: our users find ways to do things we did not train, there are many ways to do most tasks and the users find ways to suit themselves, which is great as different people use it differently and get the same outcome.
  • · Audio conferencing: this was very easy and out of the box.
  • · Happy users: our users are happy, we had over 90% user satisfaction, this was way above our expectation.

There were a lot of nice surprises…..

Realised Benefits

Business Benefits:

  • · One Firm à One System: we now have a national communications system that provides the same services to all offices.
  • · Enhanced communication between offices.
  • · Software based moves and changes providing a reduction in PABX move and change time and costs.
  • · Enhanced Disaster Recovery capabilities.
  • · Corporate Office Moves – streamline and reduce cost in the process if and when we move offices.
  • · All reception operators on single system, allowing for full national control and follow the sun operations. 6:00am to 8:00pm coverage.
  • · Users are provided enhanced capabilities to “work from home” or “on the road”.
  • · Federation: ability to share information with clients and public.
  • · Utilization of existing resources:

o IT Staff in Sydney.

o Sydney Infrastructure.

o Remote Access Solution.

o Lync phone system.

End User Experience:

  • · Empowered user: user have worked out how to do most things without IT involvement.
  • · Simplified: A single place to manage all of your communication in a uniform fashion such as phone calls, voicemail, contacts, video calls and instant messaging.
  • · Extension Mobility: Your phone extension will be available on any preconfigured computer or handset wherever you are, within or outside the organisational boundaries.
  • · Remote Worker: Communication platform that is available from anywhere – i.e. a laptop connected to the internet in the Qantas lounge will have fully feature of, voice, video, email, voicemail, instant messaging and presence.
  • · Click to Dial: Allow users to dial numbers with a click of the mouse.
  • · Integrated teleconferencing and web conferencing for our clients.
  • · Personal Attendant functionality.
  • · Presence of our staff members and colleagues.
  • · Easier to find details and communicate with staff members and clients, as contact information will be recorded within outlook and easily accessible.
  • · Minimise user intervention for updating contact details, the system is self-auditing ensuring a high degree of accuracy on contact information.
  • · Higher performance interstate and internet network.

Cost Reduction:

  • · Reduced Fixed line costs for telephone line rental and call charges.
  • · Reduced PABX maintenance.
  • · Reduced cost of moves and changes for telephone moves.
  • · Reduced software maintenance for the PABX system.
  • · Reduced WAN costs for connecting offices. (Nextgen WAN upgrade)
  • · Reduced Internet costs.
  • · Reduced interstate communication cost, effectively removing STD calls.

What’s next?

Microsoft has approached our firm to be a case study based on the success of our implementation.

We are now looking at defining procedures for use, our users are continuously find new ways to work and share information with each other onsite and offsite and we need to keep on top of these methods and ensure we provide information on what is available and how best to use it.