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Unifying University Communications With Skype

Posted on October 26, 2015

This paper sets out possibly the most critical aspect of any technology deployment – getting buy-in from the wider institution, providing advice on how to gain the support of users and ensure senior decision makers are firmly behind, and understand the true value of, Unifying University Communications With Skype and the students it serves whilst Unifying Communications in Universities. Providing tips such as Creating usage scenarios and how to design a training programme.


  1. The Cultural Challenge

We have explored the benefits of adopting Skype for Business, how to plan your deployment and the pitfalls to avoid, but a critical element that could ultimately determine the success of your roll-out is getting every user in the university on board. If they don’t use the Skype for Business features, then your efforts and investment will be in vain.

Selling the Benefits of Skype for Business

Skype for Business involves a cultural change in the way users communicate and collaborate. You will be asking staff to change the way they work, so you must give them clear reasoning why they should. It also brings a range of new features and functionality that users are unfamiliar with.

It comes down to the old adage ‘what’s in it for me?’ Follow these steps to ensure every user, no matter what their role, understands the benefits as much as you do.


Step 1: Understand your Users

A person handling a query from a student about their grant is unlikely to care whether the Skype for Business is saving the university money or ticking a box in a management report; they want to make sure they can respond quickly and effectively and move on to help the next query.

Assess the entire university structure to understand all of the different roles and functions that are undertaken. Then interview individuals so that you really understand their job, how they work, their barriers to productivity and the potential impact of introducing UC.


Step 2: Create Usage Scenarios

Create bespoke scenarios around specific job functions or departments that users can clearly identify with. Use these to illustrate new ways of working and show how their job can be impacted positively.

Explain the advantages and benefits for the individual such as reducing their email volume or making it easier for them to reach colleagues or students.


Step 3: Design a Training Programme

Rather than being helpful, a lengthy and time-consuming training programme could leave your users confused and overloaded with information. Instead, provide a quick introduction to the most important features and frequently used functions.

Depending on the size of your university, it can be useful to train ‘super users’ within the staff and student base who can then deliver training to their peers, and draw on their own experience to bring out the benefits. This approach would also relieve the burden on your IT department.


Step 4: Develop an Internal Communications Plan

Think about all of the stages of your deployment and consider how and when you need to communicate these to a wider audience in the university. When will the platform be deployed? How long will it take? When and how will you provide training?

Rather than providing all of the information up-front, communicate smaller updates more regularly to your users, adding value to their migration experience as it progresses. Involve your HR team to understand the most appropriate methods and whether intranet sites could play a role. After the rollout, keep in touch with your users to find out what is working and what isn’t, so further training or help can be provided.


Step 5: Ongoing Support

Ongoing support for users can often be overlooked and it may prove unrealistic to simply train teams and walk away expecting them to retain all of the required knowledge.

Two forms of ongoing support should be considered;

  • Self-service – what tools can you put in place to ensure users are being supported wherever they are working?
  • Human intervention – it is important that users can find support from people who know how to use the platform, whether from super users or an IT helpdesk. Adoption may be negatively impacted if users can’t easily find the right answers


Guidelines to Skype for Business etiquette

  1. Always check a person’s presence status before sending an IM
  2. Use emoticons and underlining carefully or avoid them altogether, as it is easy to misinterpret messages in text
  3. If you are in a meeting or call, turn off IM audio notifications to ensure the sound of incoming instant messages won’t be disturbing to others
  4. Don’t invite someone to join a multiparty IM session that is in progress without first asking the others in the session if it is okay to do so
  5. When you need to focus on high priority tasks, set your presence status to ‘Busy’ to let colleagues know that you are not available for an IM conversation
  6. If you absolutely cannot be disturbed, set your status to ‘Do Not Disturb’, but use this sparingly because appearing unavailable too often is similar to rarely answering your phone or email
  7. If you are ‘out-of-office’, in training, working remotely or travelling, then leave a note to accompany your status about where you are and when you will be next available
  8. If someone adds you to their contacts list, a notification gives you the option of adding that person to your contacts list; typically, internal requests should be accepted
  9. Be respectful of your colleagues’ time. Log in to any online meetings a few minutes early, and check that your devices are properly configured
  10. Upload documents and organise presentation slides before your online meeting starts

  1. Setting your Business Case

If you are driving a Skype for Business programme, it is likely that you fully understand the implications of adopting the platform and the benefits it will deliver. However, some decision makers across your university may not have this level of insight and may be reluctant to invest.

It is important that senior decision makers fully support any new technology implementation. The following provides clear steps to making sure all involved work together to build a platform that will drive efficiency and reduce costs:


Step 1: Explain what Skype for Business will do for the organisation

There is a wide range of potential benefits to deploying Skype for Business as we have outlined, such as enhanced productivity, greater collaboration, cost savings and streamlined IT management.

Clearly set out what benefits will be delivered to your specific institution and, most importantly, make sure these are aligned to the wider goals of the university. Use specific scenarios to show how Skype for Business will transform even the most basic functions for specific individuals or departments, bringing the benefits to life.


Step 2: Set out how you will measure success  

Despite claims by some Skype for Business suppliers to the contrary, developing a ‘one size fits all’ ROI formula for universities is very difficult. Every university is unique, with different IT requirements, ways of communicating, cultures and sizes. As a result, the project sponsor or deployment owner should take special care when setting out how the ROI will be calculated and measured.

Senior decision makers, particularly those holding the purse strings, will need hard evidence that a UC platform can deliver the benefits that you anticipate. Establish clear, realistic measurement metrics. If you want to reduce travel time and costs, do you have a way to measure the reduction? If you want to increase productivity and collaboration, how will you know users are doing this more effectively? How can you measure greater efficiency of the IT department?

Even the more obvious ROI metrics like cost savings need careful consideration. Easily identifiable cost savings should be considered as the foundation:

  • Consolidation of other applications i.e. web and teleconferencing
  • Greater productivity, for example through reduced travel time and more effective collaboration
  • Reduction in travel and communication costs

Define your own ROI calculator so that you can clearly evaluate the potential financial impact of UC. This will form the basis of any business case and care should be taken to ensure full measurement of your key metrics.


Step 3: Present a clear migration path for success

It will be essential to reassure decision makers and university stakeholders that the deployment will be effective. Set out a clear path for the migration to the new platform, making it clear how you will minimise disruption and ensure service continuity.

This should ideally include the following:

  • A scoping exercise – work closely with a key team of individuals in the university to determine how the deployment can best be carried out and by whom. Build a project timeline with key individuals playing a role in making the deployment successful
  • A pilot deployment – nominate a specific willing department or administrative function to act as a pilot to identify any potential issues before a full rollout. Was it disruptive? Were there any problems that you didn’t anticipate? Was user adoption as you expected? Check your licensing, as pilot deployments can be free of charge
  • A communications plan – set out how and when you will communicate the deployment and roll-out plan to all users in the organisation
  • A user engagement approach – explain how you will support users of the new Skype for Business applications and features and the levels of time investment required