Microsoft Lync: An opportunity that’s more than just licences

Microsoft Lync LogoThe launch of Microsoft Lync 2010 means new and enhanced features, but it also means an opportunity for channel partners that goes beyond simply selling software licences.

The latest version of the software formerly known as Microsoft Office Communicator includes enhanced 911 so emergency services can dispatch to 911 calls made over Lync. According to Vineet Parmar, senior product manager of unified communications at Microsoft Canada, enhanced 911 is an important feature that customers were requesting, and it’s not something that was present in Office Communicator 2007.

“This is an exciting release for us because it’s a culmination of a five-year journey around unified communications,” Parmar said. “The big investments we’ve made in this release are in a couple of areas. One is the big investment as it relates to enterprise voice, now the ability for customers to replace their PBX with Lync. The era of the PBX is over.”

The other core investment area is around high availability and resiliency as they relate to voice, he said. To declare the PBX era as over with, unified communications technologies are going to need that high availability, after all. With Lync, if the network or WAN goes down, the software can ensure customers’ ability to still make calls, whereas they had to previously install a third-party solution to get such capabilities.

Parmar told that there’s also been a lot of improvements around the user experience and user interface, including better integration with the Microsoft Office suite of applications. This will improve communication across Microsoft’s business apps, he said.

What does all this mean for the channel?

“If we think about what does the partner opportunity look like for partners to really make money around Lync, there are a couple of different ways,” Parmar said. “First of all, it’s a lot more than just selling licences.”

The idea behind the development of Lync is that it acts as a single communications platform, so there will be plenty of services opportunities for partners to integrate the platform across customers’ distributed workforces. One of the selling points on Lync (as is the case with any unified communications platform) is that it can support distributed workforces, improve employee productivity and reduce travel costs.

Partners can work with their customers on PBX replacement strategies, which will also enable partners to build up their own voice practices in a way they haven’t been able to do in the past, Parmar explained.

Additionally, Microsoft has opened up its APIs so that developers can build applications on top of Lync. This is good news for any partner that develops custom software. Parmar said there’s a big opportunity in integrating Lync into business line applications and integrating unified communications into applications customers use every day. He added that about 30 per cent of businesses that have deployed unified communications are building applications on top of Office.

“We have partners today in Canada that are building call centre applications on top of Lync,” Parmar said. So that means those partners are getting revenue from the sale of software licences, deployment services and from custom application building.

Since Lync was designed to work with the broader Microsoft platform, it’s rare that partners go into a customer environment only to deploy Lync, Parmar said. Instead, the entire opportunity is found in dragging in the rest of the productivity stack to increase the deal size.

“Up until now, because we weren’t ready from an enterprise voice perspective, customers were holding off, but now that we’ve made significant investment in voice, we’re now seeing customers look to Lync as their single communications platform rather than having to manage separated siloed platforms,” Parmar said.

Microsoft’s channel partners can help their customers make Lync fit their needs.

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