Has your company undergone digital transformation? If you implemented Skype for Business, then the answer is (partly) Yes.

Since the holidays are here, I thought back over the business year. Much has happened. We’ve had several big Skype for Business deployments. Businesses converting from old phone systems to VoIP. As I’ve said before on the blog, that’s not a small step. Many related systems within a business have to change—to transform—in the process.

Chances are you’ve heard the term “digital transformation” before. I had too, but wasn’t always clear on its meaning. (Truth be told, I’m still not clear. But I think that’s because I keep finding definitions!) I thought, “Digital transformation couldn’t occur without changes in communication. How does Skype for Business fit?”

Let’s figure this out, shall we?

What is Digital Transformation?

The term “Digital Transformation” gets bandied about frequently nowadays. It’s apparently been around a while, but someone coined & popularized the term in the past few years. (Like the whole “cloud” thing. We started hosting servers for customers several years before the term “the cloud” became popular!)

We have several possible definitions. I like the definition given by Dion Hinchcliffe, a technology strategist, in this 2016 InfoWorld article:

Digitization was “paving the cowpath,” using digital tools to automate and improve the existing way of working without really altering it fundamentally or playing the new rules of the game. Transformation is a more caterpillar to butterfly process, moving gracefully from one way of working to an entirely new one, replacing corporate body parts and ways of functioning completely in some cases to capture far more value than was possible using low-scale, low-leverage legacy business.

That gives us a standard in one hand, and Skype for Business in the other. How would a business use Skype for Business/Teams to “replace corporate body parts and ways of functioning?”

Nine Ways Skype for Business (and Teams) Enables Digital Transformation

Looking back over some of our customers’ Skype for Business deployments, I came up with several major points. How they “replaced body parts” and the results they gained. Here are 9 illustrated examples.

A. Replacing the old desk phone with a smarter phone/headset/both. One of our deployments still had 25-year-old phones in their offices! Old, old PBX. Installing wireless headsets instead allowed the workers to move away from their desks more often.

Old Phones
Not quite this old. But close!

B. Supplementing emails/Post-Its with chats/IM. Yes, we actually had a customer still relying on Post-It notes to convey information. (Even passwords. We quickly disavowed them of that particular practice!) Skype’s IM let them do this with quick chats. Big timesaver.

Skype for Business Chat in Office
Yes, they’re chatting on Skype. With one another.

C. Increasing the number of communication options others have to reach you. Nobody wants a phone call in the middle of a meeting. This is one hazard to Skype4B, as the client is on your laptop. However, Skype4B also gives people the option of sending you an IM or chat request instead. (Just make sure your Presence isn’t set to “Do Not Disturb!”)

D. Tracking more conversations. Since Skype for Business/Teams logs conversations, you have a running record. I can’t count the number of times I’ve relied on Conversation History for that last bit of information needed.

E. Separating communications from workflow (if needed). In our Lync Server days, one customer went all-in on the IM tool. They did financial consulting, so they needed to concentrate for long periods. A phone’s ring broke said concentration almost every time. Coupled with Presence, they could block distractions until they finished their workflow.

F. Democratizing meetings. Anyone can call a meeting in most cases. But with a tool like Skype for Business/Teams, meetings:

  1. Don’t have to be formal.
  2. Can take place from anywhere, anytime.
  3. Can take place over chat! (I like this option. Less intrusive.)

G. Plug customers into the same communications system. Federation and Guest Accounts speed up customers’ ability to get a hold of you. If your business deals with any type of emergency, those seconds count.

H. Introducing businesses to cloud services (via Hybrid deployments). We had a customer terrified of all things cloud. They were in a very old-school, slow-to-change industry. But their phone system was ancient and badly needed replacing. thunderstorm photoWe showed them the numbers on doing a hybrid Skype4B configuration…email on-site, O365 Skype, and some backups to our datacenter…and they bit. It gave them a pain-free way to embrace the cloud, not lose any stability, and gain modern communications tools.

I. Adding flexibility to all of your operations. Teams absorbing Skype4B only ups the flexibility everyone has. For example, a construction-industry customer wanted a way to review progress on their many projects. (Most of which were on remote job sites with limited bandwidth.) Without having to drive to one location, or limit to audio, or buy an expensive video conferencing system that wouldn’t work half the time.

Skype for Business took care of it (with some help from the RealPresence Trio). Teams is next on the deployment schedule; they’ve already talked about using it for “project check-ins” with on-site supervisors.

Pretty safe to say that Digital Transformation and Skype for Business go hand-in-hand. In fact, if I were to list out the elements necessary for digital transformation, this would be it:

  • Communication (Skype for Business)
  • Backups/Data Protection
  • Project Management (tools like Asana, Trello, etc.)
  • Cybersecurity Protection

Improving the existing way of working without really altering it fundamentally. Voila.

Where does Skype for Business/Teams fit as transformation continues?

Of course, 2018 will see businesses continuing along the path of digital transformation. Incorporating new ways to analyze customer behavior, change up their marketing, build software, and more.

We’re close enough to the end of the year for me to speculate a little. What kinds of technologies are coming up, and where does Skype for Business/Teams fit in with them?

Just scanning the headlines, I see technologies like Big Data, IoT, blockchains, and AI. (Tech never slows down, does it?) I’m going to leave Blockchain, AI, and Big Data aside. They don’t really affect Skype for Business, nor does it affect them. Instead, I’ll focus on IoT (Internet of Things).

Now, Skype-C already works on millions of mobile devices. Microsoft continues to sharpen the bandwidth requirements for audio/video calls through Skype-C, and Skype4B.

Could it minimize bandwidth enough to enable Skype for Business/Teams on IoT devices? Yes, in some form or another. It’s certainly possible to take a Skype Meeting on your fridge’s touchscreen.

I suspect Microsoft will try to make Teams usable on the IoT level. The question will be…would you WANT to use Teams on IoT devices?

I don’t know what you wear around the house. But I would NOT be considered “professionally attired” when standing in front of my fridge at 7AM. Chat with colleagues over Teams? No thank you. That particular “digital transformation” I’m okay skipping over.

Skype for Business/Teams works well as a Digital Transformation Foundation

Skype for Business/Teams remains in an excellent position to continue growth. Next year, and the year afterward. Basing your own digital transformation on it would serve you quite well.

Learn more about digital business transformation at: Online Guide to Digital Transformation – i-Scoop

Where does Skype for Business/Teams fit into YOUR digital transformation? Please comment or email your thoughts. Plans are good too.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers! Hope you have a safe trip, good times, and not TOO much food.

Where Skype for Business Fits in Digital Transformation
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