The venerable Skype consumer instant messaging and audio/video chat has received a corporate makeover. Microsoft, which has owned Skype since 2011, has introduced Skype for Business as the new presence, instant messaging and multimedia chat client for Office 365. Skype for Business replaces Microsoft Lync, and introduces some new features that will make it interesting to IT.
Like Lync, Skype for Business will be the way users of Office 365 access presence information for co-workers, conduct video or audio chat sessions within the enterprise, and send instant messages to peers. Unlike Lync, Skype for Business opens up a lot of opportunities for communications outside the enterprise. The biggest difference between Lync and Skype for Business for enterprise users will be that outside connectivity.
Lync was a tool for communicating inside the firewall. It did a great job of providing presence, video, chat, and telephony on the desktop or on mobile devices. But with the rebranding into Skype for Business, Microsoft has provided a link – pardon the pun – for your users to connect to the 300 million Skype users worldwide, some five million of which are active, everyday users.
Consumer IM and video chat has always been a fragmented market, and it is perceived as becoming less important as the mobile phone-based messaging clients, be it text, iMessage, BBM, or WhatsApp, have become more prominent. But of the lot, Skype has established one of the biggest and most loyal user bases – “Skyping” someone has pretty much become accepted as a verb meaning to video chat.
By the time you read this, the Skype for Business transition will be complete. Here’s how your business can benefit from its new features and its connection to the outside world.
Skype your Customers
Microsoft says more than 300 million users connect to the Skype network – which is now shared between the consumer and business versions – every month. There’s a good chance that some of them are – or should be – your customers. One common network between the consumer and business variants means easy connections to that massive universe – they can search you, and you can search them. This opens up Skype to become an important channel for pre-sales and post-sales support, as well as letting you connect with contacts around the world who are using Skype in their business or personal lives.
Greater employee flexibility
Skype for Business extends Microsoft’s new “cloud first, mobile first” mantra. While Lync was available for a variety of mobile platforms, Skype for Business extends that accessibility to even more platforms and far more users on those platforms, making it easier than ever for users to keep in touch inside the enterprise or while on the road. In a pinch, a user could even connect to co-workers via the free consumer version of Skype if a device with the full Skype for Business client is inaccessible, all with appropriate security controls to ensure that nothing is sent out of the enterprise that shouldn’t be.
A familiar face… with some new twists
For users moving over from Office 365, getting to know Skype for Business is simple – it’s a merger of two familiar interfaces. The user interface remains familiar to longtime Lync users, but adds some Skype touches. While the Lync quick action buttons remain prominent, the popular Skype Call Monitor interface is added on, for example. For users that have likely used Lync at work and Skype at home, it’s an easy transition. But there are some new tricks up Skype’s sleeve, since it’s now part of the integrated Office 365 experience. Users can, for example, take notes in their OneNote file directly from the Skype online meeting interface, further streamlining the process of getting the most out of meetings.
Believe the Skype
Skype’s legacy as a consumer communications tool may make some IT managers uneasy with the brand entering their enterprise, but Microsoft has taken steps to ease those concerns, promising enterprise-grade security for Skype for Business customers. Microsoft has already updated the consumer version of Skype so that calls from Skype for Business users can enforce call security settings on calls to Skype users outside the enterprise. While the brand may sound consumerish, any enterprise that felt safe running Lync in the enterprise should have no concerns about Skype for Business.
Skype for Business is now broadly available to Office 365 customers, and Office 365 partners such as Rogers can help provide an assessment of the new tool’s value to your business and optimize the deployment of Skype for Business.
(Rogers Voice with Skype for Business is a fully integrated, cloud-based voice and collaboration business solution that connects people virtually anywhere, anytime across devices – all with one phone number. When combined with Microsoft Office 365, it integrates all your communication needs to provide seamless collaboration, enhanced workforce productivity and simplified voice infrastructure management.)