Microsoft Ireland’s Jeremy Showalter on the Lync unified communications platform

30 Jun 2011

Jeremy Showalter, Productivity Lead at Microsoft Ireland, spoke to Licensed Wireless News about the road map for Microsoft’s unified communications platform, Lync, and how the days may be limited for the humble PBX.

Q: What is Microsoft’s own definition of unified communications?

A: It’s about pulling the different ways we communicate into a single experience. Currently, people have to log into each system they use: company email, personal email, instant messaging, personal instant messaging, voicemail, etc. It’s a situation people tolerate, but they shouldn’t have to. Unified communications brings together different communication approaches into a single experience to connect with people, which speeds up whatever you’re doing.

Q: Are Irish companies adopting UC, and, if so, what benefits are they seeing?

A: Adoption is absolutely happening in Ireland across companies of all sizes. As for benefits, I group them into two areas: improving business outcomes by working more effectively, and decreasing costs. We see companies reducing travel expenses because they are using UC to meet online, but also because they can work from wherever they are when events like snow, the ash cloud, or the Queen’s visit make it hard to travel. The cost savings in telephone charges are incredible when companies turn off their PBX and run their telephony through Lync.

Q: Do you believe companies will replace their PBX with Lync?

A: Absolutely. We have customers running today on Lync as their voice platform – they don’t have a PBX, and that’s how they work. We did some PBX replacement with the earlier version of our UC platform, Office Communications Server, but it’s much easier with Lync, whether you’re a small, 50-seat business or a multinational corporation with tens of thousands of users. For instance, Pepsi and Boeing are using Lync as their PBX now and they are both multi-geography companies with more than 20,000 users.

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Q: Are there lessons we can learn from the early days of UC, mistakes that don’t happen anymore?

A: There are two big lessons people are learning about UC. One, it’s not just a technology change, it’s a culture change. People need to think about issues around presence; with UC, presence automatically shows people in your organisation that you’re working and available to contact. If part of your work pattern is that you work late at night, do you want to appear as “available” then?

The other and more technical lesson about UC is that the network is very important. The network is becoming an IT issue. We have built quality of service into Lync, so it knows and will warn you if bandwidth is insufficient for certain things like a videoconference. But companies should perform network testing and make sure they have the appropriate level of network to make UC work.

Q: What’s next in Microsoft’s vision for UC?

A: We work to deliver the best productivity experience across the PC, the phone and the browser. Shortly we will be releasing Lync for all the major mobile platforms, including Android, RIM, Windows Phone 7, Symbian, iOS – and that will create a lot of reach and options for business. It doesn’t matter which platform business customers choose, or if they have a mix of platforms, Lync is that unified experience for how people will interact.

And voice is very much core to that vision. If you are sitting in front of the PC with Office 365 and Lync Online, and you need to make a call, you will be able to pick up your headset to call any phone. We’ve announced we will be partnering with Jajah for those telephone breakouts to the PSTN. The Microsoft acquisition of Skype is still pending regulatory approval, and there are no changes to announce because of that to Office 365 or Lync Online.

Q: Jeremy, thanks for your time!

A: Thank you! If anyone wants more information, the best places to go are our Unified Communications Solutions page for Lync Server, and we also have a lot of great customer videos on the Lync customer site.

Photo: Jeremy Showalter, Productivity Lead at Microsoft Ireland

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