By Lindsey Westbrook
Skype for Business is growing fast, in part because it comes pre-installed on many new computers and phones, and also because of its integration with Microsoft Office 365 (Microsoft bought Skype back in 2011). But, enterprise, Skype for Business users, as it is turning out, are sticking primarily to its instant messaging (IM) and presence (the dot that shows if you’re online or not) capabilities, not video. This includes those who have purchased additional licenses for video calling capability.
Why is this? Robb Woods, BlueJeans Director of Business Value and Solution Strategy, attributes it, in large part, to the fact that Skype for Business lacks interoperability. It’s incredibly complicated to connect to Skype for Business from video-enabled Cisco or Polycom conference room systems, he notes, in terms of joining and starting an online meeting.
And it can be inconsistent across devices; depending on whether you’re on a Mac or a PC desktop machine, or an iOS or Android phone, you will have a different experience. Mac and Linux users will definitely have issues, as the Skype for Business clients for those platforms are dated and/or feature-limited.
Recognizing this gap, BlueJeans and Skype for Business have collaborated to create what they call a “best-of-breed” scenario. Bundling the two combines what Microsoft does well—desktop IM presence, Exchange, calendaring—with what BlueJeans does well—extremely high-quality video communications that can be enabled with just a click on a link or a button.
Because it is open and customizable, customers can even apply their own brand to the video calling experience. And because the BlueJeans app is free to download, you are no longer constrained to only video calling other Skype for Business license holders.
“It’s a common story that I hear a lot from CIOs,” says Woods. “Microsoft owns the best operating system, the best business tools out there. Excel, Outlook, Word, PowerPoint—they are all very robust and employees find them second nature by now. Microsoft has such a strong footprint on the enterprise desktop. Skype for Business represents Microsoft’s attempt to integrate some instant message and presence (IM&P) tools. And a lot of businesses have gone down that road because it fit in with the calendaring and other tools they were already using.”
The term for this is Unified Communications, or UC, and it means centralizing all communication methodologies (presence, instant messaging, voice, video, and messaging services) within a single system and software client.
But there are still shortcomings to some of the technologies and gaps in their ability to work together. One is the aforementioned difficulty getting Skype for Business to connect to wired conference rooms. Another is the video call quality and bandwidth usage with Skype; it can also be cumbersome for multipoint online calling.
CIOs find BlueJeans a great solution because it was designed from the get-go as a video platform with lots of application integrations that specifically solve these problems and more. BlueJeans isn’t trying to beat Microsoft at its own game; it makes it better, more robust.
“We are often asked to help enhance a strong Microsoft IM&P use case with our service,” says Woods, “either because the company has elected to disable audio and video calls within their Skype for Business deployment, or because Skype for Business just doesn’t meet their needs due to bandwidth, quality, or interoperability with existing solutions they run in parallel such as Cisco video conferencing rooms.
“This has been one of the most beneficial integration points for our users—simply making things all work together in an easy-to-use, cost-effective manner, while providing a best-in-class experience.”