Tech Talk Live Blog

Utilizing Microsoft Lync as a Replacement for your Existing PBX System

Tim Laubach

If you are considering replacing your traditional phone system with Microsoft Lync, this information might help make your transition easier.  Two years ago, Lancaster-Lebanon IU 13 was faced with the challenge of replacing our aging 3COM PBX phone system.  After looking at various traditional PBX and VOIP options, we made the decision to go with Microsoft Lync as our replacement solution.  It provided all of the features of a traditional phone system with the flexibility for a mobile workforce that we had not previously considered.  We have been using Lync now as our primary phone system for over a year, and I have several useful recommendations for a successful implementation.

  1. Make sure you have the technical resources and expertise to support the product. This includes getting your staff trained on running and maintaining not only a Lync environment, but also the associated hardware such as a gateway device to interface Lync with SIP trunks, T-1 lines, and even POTS lines.  We sent our staff to multiple trainings, which have been invaluable when troubleshooting issues.  Expertise is also needed with Microsoft Exchange and Unified Messaging, which are an integral part of the Lync environment.  If you do not have the expertise in house, consider a support contract with professionals who perform Lync installations.
  2. Prepare your employees for a culture change before the switch.  The way users communicate using Lync can be vastly different than what they are used to with a traditional phone system.  Many of our staff struggled with just the idea that their computer was now their phone.  If you make the decision to add IM, one touch dialing, phone forwarding options, and using Lync to do presentations over the web, they can quickly get overwhelmed.  We did demos of the product multiple times in advance of the actual rollout so that we could answer questions up front and try to help with the transition.  Even with multiple training sessions, we still experienced a lot of resistance to change.
  3. Set up Lync on everyone’s system before replacing the phone system. Have your users use Lync to make interoffice calls to each other and use IM so that they can get familiar with how it works before you remove their traditional phone.  We did this for a period of several months before we completed final implementation of the transition.
  4. Train your users, and then follow up with more training. We did a combination of general training classes, departmentally targeted training, and web trainings.  We also provided a support website with quick reference cards, instructions, and videos.  This provided flexibility to accommodate our 1,200 staff members.  Many staff members utilized all of the methods of training to help make the transition easier.
  5. Offer traditional phones and devices to help with the transition. These include Polycom phones that network with Lync directly, as well as USB phones that plug into your computer.  These devices took a lot of the mystery out of Lync as they operate just like a traditional phone. For staff members who were resisting the change, having a traditional desk phone to send and receive calls made a big difference in their switch to Lync.

These are just a few of the things I would recommend for you to consider if you are planning on using Microsoft Lync as your solution to replacing an aging phone system.

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