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Skype for business – opportunity or threat?

Where would you be without your phone? Microsoft’s Skype for Business is hoping the answer to that question is, with them. We take a balanced look at the pro’s and cons of Skype for Business and what it means for the telephony market.

Despite the massive growth of text messaging, video conferencing and apps, the desk phone is still the backbone of business communications and although not a traditional player in the telephony market, Microsoft is positioning its Skype for Business unified communications (UC) suite, part of Office 365, as an enterprise telephone option that could, in the future, eliminate the need for a traditional system.

Office 365 gives businesses access to a suite of services, so when deciding to opt for Skype for Business, a decision needs to be made whether to put all your eggs in one basket and opt for an on-site Skype for Business solution, a fully-in-the-cloud Office 365 solution or to continue to choose a multi-supplier approach.

A case could be argued for each, however it could be said that what you may gain in functionality you could lose in terms of service and if your business can’t function without a guaranteed, 24/7 iron clad telephony system, are you really prepared to discard tested and reliable voice systems for a product that’s not yet mature and has its limitations?

Service and training are key when adopting any new technology and another consideration when looking at the possibility of adopting Skype for Business. With any new product, not only will internal IT staff need training, but so will all users including your customers and if your customers aren’t willing to accept this new approach where does that leave your business?

In an article in Computer Weekly, Ann Strachan, senior product manager at Orange Business Services said “with any unified comms solution, the most critical part, other than the network, design and deployment, is going to be the education programme and end user adoption. If you don’t get that right, you get dissatisfied end users and potentially low adoption rates.”

She adds that setting up a unified comms platform such as Skype for Business starts with involving the users from the very beginning. The next step is to define what you want to achieve, including the amount of functionality you want to give users. Then comes the pilot phase, particularly if running it from new.

Of course, all that comes at a cost, including an outlay in terms of training and time in bedding down a new system.  Until recently Skype has been free for consumers, but as a business tool it will come at a cost as Microsoft introduces business licenses, meaning it may not necessarily be the cheapest option for end to end calls.

There is however a short term solution which gives businesses the robust, dependable functionality of a phone system with the advantages of Microsoft. RHM Telecommunications offers a half-way house, integrating Skype for Business with your own existing phone system,

All RHM telephony systems have the option to integrate with Skype for Business allowing you to control your phone through Skype using your existing system. Customers can choose between using a desk phone or not, as you can dial out from a laptop or PC, giving you a laptop solution but full phone functionality.

Without doubt, long term Skype for Business may well become a threat to traditional telephony systems, but we believe Microsoft still has a fair way to go before it can stand up as a real contender for tried and tested telephony systems.

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