Home » Skype for Business » Skype for Business – Adoption Strategies

Skype for Business – Adoption Strategies

Before looking at strategies, we must first understand how adoption is measured

  • Not easy to measure success, a number of factors such as, support tickets, complaints, comments, passing comments, use of other tools that sfb could do like conference genie (sales example)

Many people think that adoption begins on the Monday morning after you have deployed Skype for Business with an email from IT that says something along the lines of “Morning All, We have deployed Skype for Business over the weekend and this is now your default communication platform. As a result we have removed your desk phone and in its place you will find a USB headset. The Skype for Business application icon will be on your desktop. When you login, please launch this app to make and receive calls. For any issues, please log a support ticket on the IT portal. Best Wishes IT”. But no it actually begins before you even think about deploying Skype for Business!!

Adoption starts at the very beginning, design your solution starting with the end user in mind and work backwards. This way you design a solution that meets your user requirements rather than a solution you think will meet their requirements, there is a difference!

Make sure you size your deployment correctly and do not cut corners! Make sure you deploy to specification, make sure your network is performing optimally, make sure that your end user devices are up to specification etc.

5 key steps to adoption success

  1. Awareness and Communication
  2. Profiling
  3. Championing and POC
  4. Feedback & train
  5. Keep in touch


Communication is critical to the success of adoption and ultimately the whole solution.

Use all media communication streams available to you such as, email, internal newsletters, conference calls, posters and even visiting departments to raise awareness. – Use the client awareness toolkit from Microsoft and RASK to help you. Start at the earliest opportunity.

Personally I like to start with a low key visit to each department and gather feedback on what the current system does well, what it doesn’t do so well and what the users foresee as their ideal solution. You’ll quickly gain a great insight to your user base woes and wishes.

Whilst on your travels, try to identify the weakest link in each team. That person will be the one who struggles most with IT, maybe they are the ones who regularly submit tickets to the IT? These users are the ones you need to consider probably more so than anyone else. If you can win them over, then the rest should follow.

Collate your findings and then use these as your key business goals. From this simple but effective act, you have the basis to begin your marketing strategy moving forward. If you can tell your users the new system will make 9 out of their 10 pain points disappear, you will ignite enthusiasm and excitement.

Use email, but don’t hide behind it. Send out regular informational emails at key stages of your deployment to keep interest.

In all communications avoid technical stuff, users don’t care about HA, DR, CMS replication etc, all they care about is being able to do their job and make a call. But instead market the technology in a language they understand, such as from x date you will be able to use your mobile phone to receive a call from your work landline.

Always approach from the user side of the bench. Create your own / or use the Microsoft pre created information cards and print them off for everyone and deliver to their desk. Display large posters in communal areas showing what’s coming and when.

Offer weekly / biweekly open conference calls where you can talk about what’s been happening and what’s coming and invite users to participate rather than just listen.

Offer an anonymous feedback solution. Often people will say what they think you want them to say because they are afraid of causing a nuisance. However, you will find people are more honest if they can hide behind anonymity. Only use this for initial testing and scoping, after that people will need to identify themselves in order for you to resolve their issues!


Not all users are the same and therefore don’t all fit nicely into one basket. Evaluating your users based on their working requirements is critically important. We call this Profiling.

Profiling is a method to group your users into categories that define a user type. These categories are usually defined from user working location, user job title to expected call volume. Typically there are usually 3 main user profiles,

  1. mobile, or road warriors
  2. information
  3. and executive workers.

Part of any Skype for Business strategy success is to provide the right tools to the right people.

Mobile workers for instance wouldn’t benefit from a desk phone or a cumbersome headset they need to lump between locations. They would be better suited to an earpiece Bluetooth type headset.

While information workers, ones who are office based and spend a lot of time on the phone would benefit from a good quality headset.

Choosing the right devices for your users is critical for adoption success as providing the wrong device instantly means failure in that users eyes.

Once you have profiled your users, get a selection of devices in for trial that users can “try on for size”. Most vendors Plantronics / Sennheiser / Polycom would be more than happy to arrange trial devices and we recommend you explore these options.

Within each profile category offer a range of suitable devices, not just one size fits all approach. Some users may prefer a single ear headset, while others may prefer a double ear headset for example.

By involving users in their device selection encourages adoption naturally because by nature of participation people feel that they are involved and more importantly matter.

Obviously, profiling users is not just about choosing the right headset for the user. You can use this to correctly size and identify potential issues with your deployment from the outset. For instance, if you calculate that 60% of your workforce is mobile, and your ingress internet line speed is sub-optimal then you have an opportunity here to address this potential bottleneck issue before it becomes an issue, or use cloud PBX!


Often people fall in the trap of performing a single proof of concept when in reality to be a true success your POC should be divided two smaller milestone POCs.

Start off with an initial POC that we call an evaluation.

This POC is an early stage demonstration of the capabilities you are attempting to offer. This POC may not include your full feature set and may start off with simple IM and presence.

Your target users for the POC at this stage should be your championing users.

These users are people who are in working departments in the real world and should not consist of mainly IT department users.

Identify key people within user departments who are more IT literate than the normal user.

Department team leaders are a good target because they tend to be more approachable than the manager from the user perspective due to their position. Once you have targeted these people, get them on board, and involve them in your plans and consult with them on your proposed solutions. These people will tell you from a user’s perspective whether what you are trying to do is going to be accepted or resisted.

Provide them 1:1 training. Work with them to address niggles and perfect your processes.

Remember you need your users to actively participate, so by perhaps limiting or removing legacy systems from them during POC may be an added incentive.

Release one new feature to your evaluation at a time, and then inform your pilot users, training session / active demo etc.

Once you are ready and confident your deployment is ready for further testing it is then time to extend the POC into the next stage, preview.

Here you give your general users the option for opting in to the system early to while stressing the solution is still not generally available and may come with some niggles. Drive uptake through advertising (that we will come on to later) and try to gain a broad spectrum of your user base.

A fantastic tactic for your preview POC is to get your senior management and directorship involved, enable them and show them the power of Skype for Business in an SMT seminar.

Although many people will often quiver at this strategy we get really positive results from it. Once the senior management are involved and using Skype for Business it will become the central point of your service catalogue and ultimately these people are decision makers and will have a positive impact on your adoption success.

Once you are ready you are then able to consider a GA release and then plan / execute your migration strategy to the workforce. How long should a POC last? How long is a piece of string? It all depends on the size, type of deployment and features / integrations required. On average an evaluation POC can last between 30 and 60 days, while a preview can last another 90 days at least.

But ultimately, this is driven by your business requirements. When rolling out to general availability, we would advise doing this on a per department basis or manageable numbers of users in order to limit the stress you are putting your team under. You can then use your experiences to refine your roll out strategy.

During and after your POC always invite feedback from your users. Encourage it and be prepared for some stiff comments. How to gather feedback is often hard to determine the best cause of action. Do you go face to face with the users and ask them directly?

Many to avoid conflict will just tell you what you want to hear, others may tell you like it is. In my opinion and experience it is best to offer an anonymous feedback option as well as taking the direct approach. Maybe you do this using a “black box” type method in the staff canteen, or create an intranet form users can fill in without supplying their credentials.

Feedback & Train

Whatever the feedback don’t take the negatives and dismiss them into “the never to be looked at again pile”. Embrace them and act on them.

Most negative feedback will be down to the user not knowing how to perform a task, or try and do it the same way as they did in their legacy system.

Address them, put yourself in their shoes and work out a solution for them.

Sometimes, people just need to have their hand held for a little while, whilst other issues require some technical interception.

If you can’t solve their issue with the tools you have, research the tools you need to make sure users can perform their tasks. Obviously, not every issue can be solved with investment so these should be carefully analysed on business impact. Instead, devise ways in which you can work around their problem.

Another key area of feedback is to acknowledge them! Empathise with them and make them feel IT are there to help them and not “a department that stops me doing what I need to do”. Use all this information to devise your rollout training sessions.

Address the most common aspects within your training sessions to make sure users feel at home with the system. In training sessions avoid technical jargon and keep it simple. This is how to make a call, this is how to answer one. If you want to create a conference, click the Skype for Business icon thingy in Outlook etc. Don’t just deliver one training session where if you miss it, it’s tough. Schedule multiple and talk with department managers about allocating their people in to at least one of the sessions.

Keep them engaging and avoid boring powerpoints. Show them, make it practical with demonstrations.

Keeping in Touch

Finally, keep in touch with your users. Just because your solution has now become generally available doesn’t mean your communication stops.

Whilst it is tempting to park that project now and move to the next, you need to make sure that users are still happy and still getting the best out of the solution.

Although this communication does not need to be as frequent or aggressive as it was during the POC / roll out, a simple get in touch email with a link to a Skype for Business meeting to discuss any issues once every couple of months makes users feel as though you haven’t forgotten them.

A walk through a department and talking to some users ad-hoc is also a nice touch. The more visible IT is to users makes the whole process a lot easier to manage.

The key to any roll out success is to keep your users happy, design the solution from the users perspective rather than an IT perspective. Remember a user does not care how HA works, or the complexities of deployment / integration, all they want is a working solution at the end that does not impede on their day to day tasks and in the easiest way possible. Once you put your users at the centre of your deployment, only then can you start to design your solution. If you fail to do that from the outset, then you are on course to fail.

Remember, the success of your solution will be measured on how well users have picked up their new tools. If you have planned well, communicated well, and trained well then the solution will be a success. That day you can walk into an office without tip toeing or jumping between filing cabinets to avoid users and instead be greeted with “Hey, how are you? This Skype for Business thing is awesome, why didn’t you do it sooner?” is the day you can call a successful adoption.

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