When assisting customers planning to upgrade or replace existing telecom services, I am often asked about reliability, security, overall value, and costs associated with Microsoft Office 365 Skype for Business. After answering the reliability and security questions about the Microsoft Cloud, I then focus the discussion on trying to understand the existing costs and telecom infrastructure of the organization. While many organizations have a good understanding of their telecom costs, some only have pieces of what can quickly become a complicated puzzle. A completed puzzle will enable organizations to understand current expenses and realize how the overall value of Skype for Business in Office 365 can digitally transform their organization and save costs.
This blog contains important questions to ask your organization as you uncover the complex costs of a telecom infrastructure. While not an all-encompassing list of research topics, these questions will help you research the various details of your existing environment and perhaps prompt you to research several otherwise unthought of topics. The more information discovered about your environment and fully understood, the more accurate the cost analysis will become. Additionally, you will uncover the technical nuances of the environment to make sure Skype for Business in Microsoft Office 365 is the best match for your organization's needs. To further aid your research, I have included several cast studies at the bottom of this blog. This blog does not contain technical information or implementation or adoption information - this is all about discovering costs and feature information for a later comparison.
The key to a good cost analysis is being genuine with yourself. The true costs of your telecom environment must be understood and thoroughly documented. The information gathered and an open mind will allow you to understand why the idea of installing on-premises services have quickly become a thing of the past in many organizations. And, why so many organizations are now undergoing a digital transformation to the cloud.
Answer the questions below as thoroughly as possible. Keep the unit of cost measurement the same as either monthly or in annual. Also, develop a list of features offered by your current infrastructure and then compare them to the many great products and features in Microsoft Office 365. Using the information discovered, develop a simple Excel spreadsheet for comparison of the current costs and services to Skype for Business in Office 365. I suggest a simple spreadsheet, so the data will speak for itself to anyone reading your analysis. Remember, the more questions asked, the more accurate the cost and feature analysis.
Current Environment Telecom Questions to Research:
Gather information about the current Private Branch Exchange (PBX) server environment
- Locate how many of your office locations have a PBX server installed.
- Are these servers made by the same or different vendor(s)?
- What is the annual maintenance contract on each of the PBX servers?
- Have there been issues that have impacted the PBX servers in recent years? If so, how many instances, when, and what was the overall impact to the organization?
- Is your PBX system no longer covered by vendor maintenance contracts? What is the risk of downtime and the impact to your organization?
- Consider that Skype for Business in Office 365 now offers the capability to host the majority of an organization's telecom requirements. Once on Office 365, there are no more expensive upgrade costs and no servers to monitor. Your organization will have access to a wide array of collaborative tools as part of their digital transformation.
- Is this a larger PBX infrastructure that requires a team of dedicated personnel to provide administration services? What is the labor cost? If your telecom services are performed by a contracted third party, what is that associated cost?
- Is this a smaller organization with a PBX that is not well understood by the local IT person? What is the impact if telecom services provided by your PBX is unavailable? What is the cost for emergency vendor support and what is the response time?
- Consider the consolidated telecom and additional services in a transition to Skype for Business and other services in Office 365. The administration needs of a small or even a complex system is greatly reduced. The Skype for Business administrative interface is straight forward and intuitive to understand. Office 365 includes easy to reach 24/7 support.
Downtime of Current Telecom Services
- Have there been issues with the quality or reliability of existing telecom services? What has been the organization impact of downtime experienced in one site, multiple sites, or all sites because of this? This figure can be in terms of lost productivity and costs associated to restoring services.
- Consider that the Microsoft Cloud is one of the most secure and reliable cloud environments available in the world. The cloud based services are part of a network of over 100 enterprise class global data centers designed with security and redundancy in mind. These videos offer a snapshot of this infrastructure:
- What is your organization currently paying for telecom services when combined from all sites and providers? What are telecom charges when split between sites?
- Is your organization being charged for PSTN calls between sites (from one office to another) because each office has its own PBX system that are not interconnected?
- Consider that with Skype for Business on Office 365, your internal users can communicate as if right next to each other. Calling from one office to another does not route across a telecom network, but rather stays internal to create an often large cost savings for many organizations. Typically, we find most voice calls are made from one employee to another vs being placed as outbound calls. An analysis of existing calling patterns will help determine this behavior. If designing a global solution, be cautious of local telecom regulations.
- Do all users make external calls or only a few?
- Is there a local service number used that dials into one or more PBX system? Is there a toll-free number being used? How often are these numbers being used and are there extra fees associated with them?
- Analyze current minutes used for inbound and outbound calling as well as fees associated with service numbers (general office numbers).
- Consider that Microsoft offers domestic and international calling options that enable users to make outbound calls. For users only placing internal calls, there is no need to enable external outbound calling for them. This could add up to a large cost savings in your analysis.
Conference Call Services
- Are conference calling services being used in your organization to provide a general dial-in number and a PIN to join? What is the monthly bill for this service? Does everyone use it to schedule calls or just a few people?
- Consider that when using Office 365, each person who requires conference calling services may already have this capability in their assigned Office 365 subscription plan. If not, there is a minimal cost to add unlimited conference calling services per person (always check Office 365 subscription plans for the latest options and price).
- It is not unusual to find an organization spending a large amount of money each month on conference calling capabilities. So much, that a move to Office 365 is often paid for by eliminating the existing conference calling charges. How much can your organization save in just this expense?
Virtual Meeting Services
- Is your organization utilizing external collaboration services for virtual presentations? What are the capabilities of this service?
- Is there a separate client or plug-in that must be used to access this service? Does your organization's IT department receive help desk issues related to this client or plug-in. If so, can you determine the associated cost of each service request?
- How much is this service used and by how many people?
- What is the monthly charge to your organization?
- Consider that Skype for Business has virtual meeting services included and uses a single client on a PC, tablet, or smartphone using Windows, IoS, or Android to provide ALL features. The Skype for Business client is considered very intuitive to use by many organizations, enabling a faster user adoption.
- How does your organization receive voicemail messages today?
- There is often an add-on license for PBX vendors to provide voicemail services per user.
- Consider that voicemail services are offered as part of Office 365. A voice message is received, translated to text in many different languages of your choice, and attached to an email sent to the recipient. Ask if the organization's current system offer's this type of enhanced voicemail capability and if so, is it an added cost by the vendor?
- Assess how many phones are used throughout your organization? How many are at desks, reception areas, conference rooms, kitchen areas, etc.?
- Do some of these phones have specific capabilities to be aware of? Are there some executive class phones used, are there phones for someone answering a general service number to easily route calls, are there low-end lobby phones? These different uses and a quantity must be accounted for.
- Are these phones currently under a warranty or extended maintenance contract? How often are phones replaced in the organization under or outside of maintenance contracts? What is this monthly cost per phone?
- As of September 2017, there are three phone manufacturers who offer many phone models certified to work with Skype for Business in Office 365. Phones are offered by Audiocodes, Polycom and Yealink. In addition to phones, there are many headset models available from a variety of manufacturers that are certified to work with Skype for Business. Many organizations use a mixture of handsets and headsets in a Skype for Business in Office 365 deployment, so consider a mix of formats in a cost estimate of new equipment. Microsoft has a list of Skype for Business certified products available at this site.
Is the Current Service Flexible for Remote Workers?
- Does your organization have remote office workers or employees that split their time between working at home or in an office?
- Does your current solution enable employees to use their office telephone number at home or only in the office? Some solutions charge extra licensing fees for this type of feature.
- Consider that Skype for Business telephone numbers assigned to users will follow them to wherever they logon from. This enables a true collaboration experience when working either at home, an office, a hotel, etc. This capability is part of the Skype for Business in Office 365.
- Additional questions to consider in your research is available in the Skype Operations Framework. Download the Discovery Questionnaire from the Plan and Envision the Solution section.
Additional Office 365 Services
When researching the questions above to help develop your organization's current telecom costs, keep in mind that Skype for Business is offered as part of an Office 365 subscription. For an organization with on-premise needs, Skype for Business Server is also available. There are many subscription plans offered in Office 365 for businesses, enterprises, nonprofits, government, front-line workers, etc. and each offers many different features depending on an organization needs. Information on these different plans is available in this link.
When evaluating the cost savings of moving to Skype for Business in Office 365, the analysis should broaden to include research into how the additional services below may be used and can exponentially add to an organization's cost savings and service enhancements. When reviewing these capabilities, realize that when subscribing to the Skype for Business service in Office 365 that some of these services are already included. Review the link above for specific subscription plan information. If additional information is needed, please contact Microsoft here, or contact a Microsoft Partner who specializes in Skype for Business in Office 365.
Exchange Email Services
- Is your organization using Microsoft Exchange on-premises?
- For on-premises environments, consider the cost of the servers being used, the electrical power, the data center space, the operating system license, the email server application license, the anti-spam scanning licenses, public certificate costs, impact of downtime, administration, etc.
- Consider that Microsoft Exchange in Office 365 will eliminate or minimize onsite infrastructure mentioned above running on one of the most reliable email services in the world. This link has additional information.
File Sharing Services
- Is your organization using file sharing servers on-premises?
- What is the cost of the servers on premises that are offering this service?
- What is the cost of backing up the data to local storage units (DAS, SAN, etc.) and/or tapes?
- What is the cost of the tape backup software?
- What is the cost for administration of this system?
- Are there storage capacity issues that continue to increase costs?
- Consider that OneDrive and SharePoint services are part of many Office 365 plans offering large amounts of data storage per person and organization in a safe and secure manner. This data can then be used with Rights Management rules, reducing the chance of data leaked outside of an organization. Remote office workers will have access to this data safely and in a secure manner no matter where they logon from. This link has additional information on SharePoint and OneDrive.
Mobile Device Management and Security
- Are you currently using a service to manage smartphones for mobile access to your organization data? What is the cost of this service per device? Is there a team to administer this service and if so, what is the cost?
- In your analysis, consider the associated costs of this type of service in your organization as well as the capabilities. Using the Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) in the Microsoft cloud will enable you to safely and securely manage any device accessing your organization data. Information on this service is available here.
Microsoft Office Products
- Research needs done to discover how many copies of Microsoft Office, the specific applications, and the versions being used throughout the organization.
- If different versions are used, what is the impact in lost productivity when users in your organizations run into incompatibility issues?
- What is the cost of purchasing a full version of the latest Microsoft Office version for each user?
- When considering the costs of Office 365 services such as Skype for Business for telephone services, the costs of upgrading all users to the latest Office suite must also be taken in to account. Many of the subscription plans in Office 365 offer either an online version of Microsoft Office applications or a version available to download and install. Information is available here.
Below is a list of additional resources to help you in your cost analysis research. These can be used as references in your study and include cost analysis of several organizations.
- Office 365 Customer Stories - Including a story about a Chocolate Digital Transformation using Microsoft Office 365
- Total Economic Impact of Microsoft Office 365 (Forrester Study)
- Total Economic Impact of Polycom Voice Solutions for Skype for Business (Forrester Study)
My hope with this blog is that it will help you begin to ask the right questions about your organization to uncover all the complexities involved in a telecom cost analysis project. With the right cost and feature information, you can easily see the many advantages of moving your organization's telephone and other infrastructure to Microsoft Office 365.