There are a lot of people talking about Skype for Business these days (including us). More than 50% of all enterprises have it, and almost everyone has used it at least once. Microsoft is making a major push in enterprise collaboration with Skype for Business and Teams leading the way, and, if rumors are true, the two services may soon become even more integrated.
At Vyopta, we view Microsoft’s expansion as a game-changer for the unified communications industry because it is so simple to communicate out of this ubiquitous Microsoft Office platform.
The challenge of Skype for Business
Historically, most communication investments has been made in two different areas:
- Communication equipment and conference rooms, a.k.a Hardware
- Infrastructure and desktop applications, a.k.a Software
Massive innovation has occurred in both areas, but the bulk of usage growth and impact on businesses have been on the software side. These two areas often fall under different teams at large enterprises, and this can create conflict over shared network, bandwidth, and financial resources. It also creates a very big management, support, and user experience challenge, and Skype for Business is at the heart of it as a leader in the software world.
To put it as simply as possible, the challenge for UC leaders is that these are different technologies by different manufacturers, and they weren’t designed to work together. The challenge increases with organization size because the more technology you have, the bigger the problem gets.
The heart of the management problem is that you can’t get the same data from different platforms, and you need data to effectively measure and manage these technologies.
Skype, a leader in UC software, collects usage and performance data in multiple different historical databases for quality and usage; it has live traffic information in the SDN API, and it has live server information in various operations tools. Cisco, a leader in hardware, has an API for every device in its considerable portfolio for both status and usage, and several tools for getting information from the omnipresent Call Manager and Telepresence Management Suites for registration and inventory. As you can imagine, the data output by all of these various APIs and databases are very different.
You get it, but what can you do about it?
At Vyopta, this data disparity is exactly the problem we have been tackling for several years with our unified monitoring and analytics platform for collaboration. We are extremely excited to formally announce that we have made the huge step of integrating data from Microsoft Skype for Business into our platform alongside Cisco, Polycom, Pexip, Vidyo, and Zoom data. Customers with ANY of these technologies can now view all their performance and usage data, live or historical, in our single tool.
Is that difficult?
Heck yeah, it is! This is a big technical achievement that nobody else has been able to do until now. We take data from nearly 100 different interfaces and combine them into one unified, deduplicated, normalized, and highly accurate set of information and insights for every customer. We are able to do this because of our experience with nearly 1500 enterprise customers who have every possible permutation of collaboration technology imaginable in their environments. Because our data aggregation is in the cloud, we are constantly learning and improving from every new customer we add to make this data as accurate as possible, and then applying that learning to every other customer’s data so they reap the benefits without having any of the hardships!
Easy install + unified data = instant insights
In addition to being the only single, unified dashboard for collaboration, Vyopta is also the easiest to deploy because of our architecture. After setting up a single VM and installing our simple data collector (17 MB), all you need to do is connect it to the APIs and databases of your collaboration platforms across Cisco, Microsoft, Polycom, Zoom, and whatever else you may have. The entire Vyopta install process takes hours compared to months with vendor tools for on-premise solutions.
Performance analytics + alerts =
better user experience
The power of having a unified data set opens up a lot of possibilities for the analysis of that data. First, you can combine reports about call quality and call failure from multiple sources across servers and platforms to create powerful reports about performance to help you quickly identify why calls are failing by drilling down by location, software, user, call type, and more. Here is an example performance dashboard for a multi-vendor environment that is focused on Skype Call Performance.
Usage info + business data =
The second big benefit of an easy to use, unified data set may not be as obvious. First, you get the ability to look at usage for everyone in your company across the technologies and modalities that they prefer. This is powerful for planning and investing on it’s own because you can make sure you spend on tools that people will actually use.
Secondly, you can apply your own external data to the UC data to be able to gain relevant business intelligence. For example, you could add information about where all your users sit, by building, region, state, country, and more. Or you could add HR or Finance information to help facilitate training or chargebacks. The possibilities are endless.
Customer often ask us for this information so they can make targeted adoption campaigns. For example, Western Union was able to roll out new technology, Pexip, to help bridge the gap between their rooms and their Skype User along with Vyopta. Because they had insights into performance and usage, they were able to increase adoption 10X in two years. This is more than just usage – this is digital transformation. Read more about it here.
Empower small UC teams to make a big impact, save time, reduce stress, and get benchmarks!
Some people may still think they can just “brute force” this analysis and data unification process with enough time and patience. To you, I say “good luck.” However, let me propose a few counter-arguments first.
- Save Time. How long does this take you? The bulk (80%!) of data analysis is deceivingly spent collecting and organizing the data before any actual analysis can be done. Do you feel like spending 5x longer generating your own reports every single time!? Or would you rather Vyopta reduce your workload 5x and deliver reports on demand?
- Improve Accuracy. Many of our current customers are those who spent many long months trying to do the manual analysis. Not only did they find it tedious and extremely difficult, but they found that the data was wildly different every time they tried to repeat the analysis. This is because there are a lot of configuration changes and MACD happening in between every analysis. Vyopta keeps track of all the changes in your environment automatically and also accounts for vendor software updates and reporting changes 24/7/365.
- Big Data Insights from Industry Leaders. Do you or your team know the average number of minutes of usage for video conferencing endpoints according to industry and company size for every model type of endpoint on the market? Probably not. We do. And that is just a sample of all the benchmarking data we have gathered around utilization, capacity, licensing, adoption, and performance. In addition, do your teams have experience with hundreds of enterprise UC deployments? Ours do, and they can help you navigate around issues that others have experienced.
By now you may be curious about what Vyopta looks like. Here is a short video of the latest features we have added for our Skype Launch, but if you want the full experience, sign up for a demo.