Sunday, August 11, 2013

Don’t forget the end user’s experience!

I have already written two posts on the subject of QOS and CAC, but how the user experiences the introduction of Lync is a topic you should not let go if want to implement Lync successfully (or any other UC application). So here is yet another post on the topic.
As an introduction to this post, I am going to make a bold statement: Given the exact same conditions (same pc, same equipment and same network), you will hear/see little (if any) difference in any UC application you test.

So why then, do I experience more complaints from customers introducing one UC application than others?
Next bold statement: Too many implementations are done less thoughtfully when Lync is introduced, as opposed to introduction of a competing brand. It’s like we all believe it’s Microsoft, and it has wizards, how difficult can it be?

This is the exact trap so many customers have fallen into, and is why I chose to write this post.
Just because the installation is done with wizards, doesn’t mean you do not have to think things through. True, the installation of Lync only takes a couple of hours, but why then do I spend 60-70+ hours on every deployment I set up. I’ll tell you why, 60-70% of my time is usually spent on planning, discussing and preparing the entire infrastructure for the introduction of Lync (or any other UC application).

Here are a few things for you to consider:

End-user’s headset: Oh, how many deployments fail to recognize the importance of a certified headset? A poor headset can ruin any user’s experience. Certified equipment does cost more than a cheap set from “best buy”, but you pay for what you get. (Do I have to tell you how many users I have met, who thought their built-in mic and speaker would do the trick (Hello!! Can You hear me?? I can hear you!!)

End-user’s camera: The cheaper the camera, the poorer the quality. And with poor quality comes the dissatisfaction. Get a real camera. The best ones will off-load the pc’s resources to an onboard processor.

End-user’s computer: Running a full HD conference will require your computer to be fairly up to date. When implementing UC on the desktop to your users, don’t forget to consider each user’s individual computer. “Nothing” is more annoying than finding out an incoming mail makes the video a “pixel show” and your audio all choppy, just because your A/V software figured out it had to scan an attachment in a mail you received during the conference. Make sure your computers are up to the task. And please, do not just look at the minimum requirements of the software. Think of all the applications a user might run in addition, it all adds up.

Network: Make sure your entire infrastructure is prepared for the impact of Lync. Use tools like CAC and QOS (a must for all deployments) to control the flow of traffic. Do not think for one second, the adaptive codec will smooth things out all the time. In fact. The adaptive codec was created to help in extreme situations. It was not created for us to forget about the network (as so many seems to think). No, just as with any other UC application, get your converged network under control. And maybe read my two previously mentioned posts on the subject (written for 2010) here and here.

And one more thing, Wi-Fi is a terrible thing. Yes, improvements have been made, and with Lync 2013 we have seen certified Wi-Fi vendors. But I still recommend you make sure most of your users are plugged in to the wired network when using UC applications. Unless of course, you have spent a lot (and I mean a lot) on your Wi-Fi infrastructure to prepare for the impact of HD Audio and Video.

I can also recommend you read through some of the whitepapers and TechNet articles on the subject:

Lync Server 2013 Networking Guide:

So, if you plan it all, and do it right, your users will be happy, and your boss won’t bark at you.
And, as I boldly stated at the beginning. Your users will not be able to tell one UC solution from another, with one exception: There is no application, in my opinion, so flexible and user friendly as Lync. Think through your own deployments, and let all your users experience the full potential of true UC.