Back in November, Microsoft announced that the next version of Lync will become Skype for Business. Delivering technology that helps people connect–to discuss, share and collaborate–is core to Microsoft’s mission to reinvent productivity, and Skype for Business is central to those efforts. Starting on April 14th, Microsoft will begin rolling out the Skype for Business client as part of monthly patches for both Office 2013 and Office 365 Pro Plus clients. This marks a shift in Microsoft’s rollout strategy for new products to help provide the best experience in their services by providing access to the most current software.
Skype for Business will marry the familiarity and ease of use of the Skype interface with the enterprise level control and security that has existed in Lync Server and Lync Online. When the Skype for Business client is launched it is critical to cover two key elements for successful transition and adoption of the new user interface – awareness and readiness. The largest element is the awareness that the new client experience will be installed on the users’ desktops and to ensure success and to that end there have been a number of resources created to help you in creating a smoother transition to Skype for Business.
The Skype User Experience
Many other sites and blogs have gone over the new user experience and discussed the user interface (UI) changes in detail. You can find that information here and here. The key changes to the client have focused on providing usability improvements to the previous Lync clients based on feedback from partners and customers with the goal of providing example access to the features you use every day. Some great examples of this; easier to use call buttons while you are inside a call and you can now transfer a call or share a PowerPoint or file with just one click instead of hovering like before.
Another great feature is the call monitor window, if you answer a call and then move over to another program, the call monitor window will stay up top so you can always find the hang up and mute buttons
Managing the Rollout
Change management is an important part of every organization and making sure that your staff has the proper information and tools at their disposal on how to best use new software is the key to a successful adoption effort. Thankfully the Skype for Business interface is an evolution of the Lync 2013 user interface that many people are already familiar with and the first time you sign in, a first run wizard will give you a quick tutorial on how to perform all of the common Skype/Lync tasks.
For more formal resources, Microsoft has put together the Skype for Business readiness kit. The kit, which you can download here is a collection of how to videos, email templates and quick start guides that you can use to help educate your staff on Skype for Business and how it can help transform the way you work.
For administrators, more information on how to best prepare your users or provide introductions on Skype for business can be found on the Office support pages here.
Controlling the Rollout
Although Microsoft services are best experience with the most recent updates, Microsoft realizes that not everyone may be able to spread the word of the changes to the client before the updates roll out. Because of that Microsoft has provided the administrator the ability to control the UI that is used following the client update.
For users with Lync Server on premises, the default client experience is as follows:
|Lync 2010||Lync 2010||Lync 2010|
|Lync 2013||Lync 2010||Lync 2013|
|Skype for Business update||Lync 2010||Lync 2013|
|Lync 2010||Lync 2013||Lync 2010|
|Lync 2013||Lync 2013||Lync 2013|
|Skype for Business update||Lync 2013||Lync 2013|
Following the update, clients will default to launching with the Skype for Business user interface and then prompt the user to switch back to the Lync 2013 user interface on first run. If you want to prevent that first run behavior, you can do so by setting the following registry key:
More information on how to configure the registry key via Group Policy can be found in the following article: https://technet.microsoft.com/library/dn954919.aspx
Skype for Business Server will enable the Skype for Business UI by default unless the client policies are set to false. Controlling this setting will allow you to upgrade your back end infrastructure without immediately changing the user experience.
For users in Lync Online, because Microsoft controls the platform, by default your users will be upgraded to the Skype UI immediately following the April Update. If you wish to delay the rollout of the client UI changes you can do so with the following command in Lync Online PowerShell:
Grant-CsClientPolicy -PolicyName ClientPolicyDisableSkypeUI
Once you have finished your user adoption efforts you can go back and re-enable the Skype for Business UI:
Grant-CsClientPolicy -PolicyName ClientPolicyEnableSkypeUI
The above registry key can also be used to prevent the Skype for Business interface from appearing on first run as well.
More information on how to control the experience at a user or group level (to handle a pilot rollout for example) can be found on TechNet: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Switching-between-the-Skype-for-Business-and-the-Lync-client-user-interfaces-a2394a4c-7522-484c-a047-7b3289742be0?omkt=en-us&ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US
Skype for Business (and the soon to be released Skype for Business Server) represent the next phase in the evolution of Microsoft’s Universal Communications strategy. To find more information start with the Skype for Business Learning Center as it’s a great launch pad for all features Skype for Business.
Stay tuned for even more great features an updates as Microsoft launches Skype for Business Server 2015 next month.