The past shows us that transition is a key part of innovation – and organisations looking to move to Skype for Business need to plan for it.

Written by Stephen Wright – 18 March 2016


The story of the last forty years or so has been one of constant innovation – and of how newer technologies have remorselessly displaced older methods. The consolidation of communication technologies (represented by Skype for Business) seems to be following a well-trodden path. For example, the now dominant ERP merged previously separate manufacturing, distribution and accounting software into just one application. Today Skype for Business is bringing established, but independent, communications applications together. It’s been a common theme across many markets, from Office applications to Hi-Fi.

But the story of the last forty years hasn’t just been about innovation, it’s also been about transition. This is the part of the story that’s so often forgotten! We get so used to the established technologies that we forget about the teething problems of the initial transition. The first email and ERP systems were implemented on the back of large System Integration services which filled in the gaps that the vendors had forgotten such as:

  • Transferring names and data from one system to another.
  • Putting the right infrastructure in place.
  • Synchronising central email with mobile laptops.

What today would be implemented through a wizard, would previously have been implemented by bespoke applications developed by the system integrators. The new technologies win through in the end (but not without some challenges) because new technologies often mean real change in the organisation – and that needs to be managed.

Looking ahead, we can see the same with path with Skype for Business, leaving a number of questions that will need to be answered:

  • Will your network cope with the increase in real-time communications?
  • How easy will it be to transfer all the names, numbers and data across, while keeping your organisation operational?
  • Is your organisation culturally ready for the changes?
  • Do you want to simply throw away your old phone system and the investment you’ve made?
  • Are you ready to commit your contact centre to the new voice technologies?

Different organisations are giving different answers to these questions – but unless you want to commit to the large costs of a major change then you, like many others, will be looking for a more measured and cost effective route. You’ll want to make the most of your current investment, whilst giving your people the best collaborative environment available.
Looking at Microsoft’s list of features, voice and video are listed simply as one of many applications. In reality though they will dramatically affect how you set up your infrastructure. And if they do go wrong, they will be the ones that will impact users most. Yet many organisations are entrusting their transition to people who are simply not experienced in managing real-time communications or organisations who cannot handle environments that mix the old and new world. If an IM hangs for 20 seconds, chances are no one cares/notices – if it happens on a voice call with an important customer on the other hand…

Organisations need to remember that innovation is about both the new AND the transition to the new! You need people who have feet in both camps to make this transition as smooth and rewarding as possible. That way they’ll understand the full scope of the challenges ahead and put a transition plan in place that minimises the pain and maximises the undoubted gain.