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Microsoft's Top Communications Partner Leads with Skype User Adoption

With a new brand presence, Skype for Business simplifies the unified communications message for partners. Promising much more than just a name change, Microsoft's Skype for Business team wants the Office 365 suite to be at the center of all business conversations -- written, audio and video.

For some advice on how partners can take advantage of the growing opportunity led by Skype for Business, we looked to Enabling Technologies, Microsoft's 2015 (and 2009, 2010, 2012) Communications Partner of the Year.  

"We are seeing success because we are in alignment with where Microsoft is going, and must go -- user adoption," said Bill Vollerthum, president of Enabling Technologies. "About a year ago, we developed a formal organizational change management program which we call 'Lights, Camera, Adoption.' It's been a very effective way to promote user adoption, even creating passionate users who are excited about evangelizing the new tools."

The first step in Enabling Technologies' "Lights, Camera, Adoption" program is to work with stakeholders to develop the project success criteria. Next is creating an effective user communication plan, which identifies the users most likely to champion the new technology and help other employees who are more resistant to change. Quick reference guides used in admin and end-user training are customized to support the client's unique business processes. At the end of each client's change management program, a user survey helps identify any problem areas that should be revisited.  

Interest is reflected in the numbers, with 80 percent of Enabling Technologies' clients opting for organization change management as part of their project engagement. Offered for Office 365 and SharePoint engagements in addition to Skype for Business, a dedicated Enabling Technologies team builds a customized program for each client.

"It is a fully staffed team devoted to change management -- and we anticipate that team growing by 100 percent over the next year," Vollerthum said. "We have trainers and documentation specialists, as well as a CIO advisor who leads envisioning sessions to ensure the technology investment is aligned to the business strategy."

Enabling Technologies is adding an impressive 10 to 12 new Office 365 and Skype for Business clients every month. With a run rate of 100 to 120 new customers per year, maintaining service levels has to be a top priority.  

"It comes down to execution first. If you don't have the very best talent, you won't have the best team," Vollerthum said. "We have best players from sales to the technical experts to execute on our game plan. As a result, we have the highest levels of customer satisfaction."

The benefits that Enabling Technologies reaps from that level of satisfaction include clients who are willing to provide testimonials on the Microsoft Pinpoint partner directory, host reference calls and participate in case studies. "But the most compelling evidence that we help our clients achieve their goals is reflected in collections," Vollerthum added. "Less than half of 1 percent of our billings are uncollectable. That is a testament to delivering on our promises."

As many partners find, Skype for Business serves as a foundational engagement that opens the door for long-term client relationships. Communications touches every part of the business, which can lead to further engagement for SharePoint, Dynamics and managed services opportunities for partners.

"A big part of our growth is coming from managed services following implementations. Clients don't want the day-to-day admin responsibility -- they'd rather focus on strategic IT projects," Vollerthum explained. "In addition, clients are looking for custom development to integrate Skype for Business with other applications, like CRM and ERP."

As to the recent name change, Vollerthum is enthusiastic, "Changing the name to Skype for Business was a great move by Microsoft. Skype is a strong brand -- people even use 'to Skype' as a verb. That comfort level with the technology will help with adoption in the business community."

The way businesses think about communication is changing and Skype for Business appears to be well-positioned to enable the shift. Perhaps more than any other technology, to be successful, communication tools have to be universally adopted across an organization. Partners can capitalize on the Skype for Business opportunity by helping their clients build out that user engagement. 

Posted by Barb Levisay on June 24, 2015