5 tips for making Skype for Business pay off

Skype for Business (formerly Microsoft Lync) is an increasingly popular UC solution. However, deploying Skype for Business doesn’t automatically guarantee a quick return on investment. To improve your chances, it’s good to look at best practices.

Businessman talking in the office

Jabra happens to be one company that successfully implemented Skype for Business. In the words of Jabra’s COO, Deborah Wenger:

“Our products are not only an important component of a successful UC solution, but we significantly improved processes, shifted corporate culture, and realized meaningful return on investment as a result of our own Skype for Business deployment.”

Let’s look at five key aspects that helped Skype for Business pay off in Jabra – to the tune of four-to-one ROI in the first year alone.

1. Begin with goals and objectives

This may not surprise you, but a good UC project is a lot like any good IT project: You need to begin with the end in mind. In Jabra’s case, this meant clearly defining project objectives as far as both the company and employees were concerned.

“We are a distributed, global enterprise with 875 employees and offices in more than 20 countries,” says Wenger. “We knew that a successful Skype for Business implementation could knit the company closer together and help us achieve some key goals.”

These included:

  • Consolidating separate communication tools into a single application
  • Making it easier for both employees and external stakeholders to work together
  • Reducing travel costs
  • Dramatically lowering telephony costs

By defining these goals, the project started off on the right foot.

2. Deliver Skype for Business in stages

It often makes sense to implement Skype for Business in several phases. This lets you realize some early benefits and keep the momentum going. To improve the project’s chances of success, Jabra broke the Skype for Business deployment down into four stages:

  • Internal collaboration: This stage focused on presence management, internal phone calls, and instant messaging. Employees were able to see when others were available, send them a quick message instead of an email, and call up a co-worker anywhere in the world. “We keep track of the applications our employees use most often, and within a couple of months, Skype for Business was in the top three,” Wenger says.
  • Conferencing: Soon after phase one went live, employees wanted more. The next phase involved team meetings and the ability to set up video conferences. According to Wenger, “This immediately became part of our corporate culture and our way of doing business. I don’t think we could go back…sometimes I don’t even really remember how we worked before this.”
  • Enterprise Voice: Phase three was about dropping PSTN altogether and moving all phone calls – both incoming and outgoing – to Skype for Business. Some workers took a while to get used to this change, so Jabra offered a safety net by letting them keep their desk phones for a while.
  • Mobile apps: At this stage, IT started to support Skype for Business on mobile apps, so road warriors could have the Skype for Business functionality directly on their smartphones and tablets.

3. Take away the safety net

Adoption rates were very high but still far from 100 percent. “We allowed employees to keep their desk phones for up to a year after we deployed, and I have to admit I was one of those people that kept theirs to the bitter end,” explains Wenger. Sure, people started using Skype for Business more often, but it was hard to drop the old habit of using a desk phone. Having it around was a sort of safety net.

This planned safety net prevented some people from getting the most out of Skype for Business. As a result, the costs were higher and productivity was lower than expected. It was time to take away the safety net.

“We made sure every team member had a professional grade headset that was right for them and then pulled off the Band-Aid” said Wenger, “Usage spiked, as we knew it would, and ROI increased.”

4. Remember training

As with any new technology, training people is critical. In this case, Jabra’s IT team set up a series of webinars for each stage of deployment and provided links to online training for all employees.

“By using the web meetings we were able to not only provide instructions on how to use the technology, but also to clearly explain why the company was investing in Skype for Business in the first place,” explains Wenger.

5. Measure performance

With any major project, it’s important to measure how well it did. This goes for hard numbers and the more “soft” outcomes. Jabra tracked both. The company saw wide-scale adoption of Skype for Business. As a result, it quickly developed a culture of working together online as first priority.

According to Wenger, “We have more employees teleworking at least part-time. We have reduced air travel significantly and employees now routinely ask whether this meeting requires getting together or if it can be accomplished via video conference. We have even seen the conference room bookings go way down. If we were to be looking for new office space now, my guess is we would need less square footage and fewer conference rooms as a result of this initiative.”

As for hard numbers, the entire program paid for itself many times over. “Between software, hardware, headsets, and IT resources, phase one of the project cost around $220,000. Hard savings related to inter-office phone calls alone resulted in over $1 million in savings in year one, or well over four times return on investment,” says Wenger.

“I have to admit I was a little skeptical when they first introduced the concept of Skype for Business, but now I can’t imagine working without it,” Wenger claims, “Our productivity has increased, our culture has evolved, and the numbers speak for themselves.”

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You can test Jabra Skype for Business headsets for free when you order 100 or more.