I was an OCS guy when Office Communications Server came out. I hated Live Communications Server, but it was a great first step. Then, they changed the name to Communications Server. I kind of liked that name. However, before Communications Server was released, Microsoft made the decision to release new version as Lync Server 2010. What a great step forward from OCS. The next version was Lync Server 2013. Lync Server 2013 is a fantastic product and business users love it.
Then… Microsoft bought Skype. Skype is a consumer product with a great name and some nice technical features and it includes some great built-in telephony capabilities. The Skype brand is well recognized by all sorts of people all over the world. Even my Mother-in-Law knows what Skype is because her friends talk about having video chat with their Grandchildren all over the world. So, of course, there was a rebranding of Lync to Skype. Microsoft decided to apply a similar brand to the business product as the name really does have great value. Microsoft recognized that they needed to make it clear that the rebranded product was different. To make the difference between the two products, they added the words “for Business” and expected the world to get that they are two separate products with different features and target markets. There is the Skype product and there is the Skype for Business product. Yep, no confusion there. How could anyone be confused when they added “for Business” to the newly rebranded product.
WHOA! Confusion! Yep, Nobody Saw it Coming (yes, sarcasm)
The last couple of months have seen Microsoft put the brand changes into the Lync product. Microsoft started with the client. All of a sudden, people came into work to start their Microsoft Lync client and saw something different, and freaked out. Users all over the world lost their minds and started calling their help desks. “Who installed Skype on my computer, and where is my Lync client?” Some of the more savvy users said, “WTF! We can’t run consumer software in our business environment!” Of course, the really super savvy people realized that Skype for Business is not Skype, and they were a bit shocked but they didn’t run down the aisles screaming that ”the Skype is falling.” OK, let’s be clear, I get credit for that one.
Two Skins, One Product
I kind of like what Microsoft did in that they realized that people might jump out of windows (yes, pun intended) and that they needed to help keep calm in the colonies of business cubes around the world. Microsoft’s solution is to allow the new client to have a “Lync Skin” to it so it appears to be like the old Lync client. Companies have the option to approach their uses and provide counselors to help them make the adjustment from the Lync world to the Skype for Business world. They can run the Lync skin until they are ready to accept Skype for Business into their lives.
There are some differences in functionality between the two skins, and the interfaces are clearly different. I am not going into that here. I don’t need to create any more fear of change.
What Users See – Help Keep them Calm
For those companies try to minimize change for the users out there, they made the decision to keep the Lync skin. However, some Skype for Business branding still became part of their world. It is like pulling the band-aid off slowly instead of just ripping it off. Even though they run the Lync skin, they will still see some Skype for Business branding.
So, let’s talk about what happened for those users, and some that are still to come as they haven’t had the latest/greatest updates to their Lync 2013 clients.
First, they start their computer, and then they start their Lync client and they see…
OK, deep breath… This looks scary. It looks like Skype, but if you look closely, it says “for Business” on the splash screen. OK, this can’t be too bad.
It looks like something is happening…
Then, BAM! They see a whole new interface.
This can really hurt some of the users out there, and they start to get that feeling that something has changed, and all is not right in their world. Somebody moved their cheese, and they don’t like it. I saw some users sit there and stare at their monitors. They looked. They looked away. Then they looked again. Then they started yelling, “Hey, Steve, are you getting the same thing that I am? I started Lync and something weird is happening. I don’t know what this is? Should I call security? Did somebody hack my computer?”
Luckily, before they start to run down the aisles screaming that “the Skype is falling,” they get some more… umm… stuff… thrown at them.
They see a restart screen. They will only see this restart screen if you set up the policy to force use of the Lync skin. This is the bit of software that guides them to restart their Skype for Business client so that the Lync skin can be slapped onto it.
With a little coaching, and some communication that a few users will read before this happens, we might get some people in cubeville that know what is going on. Steve might reply that, “It isn’t anything to worry about. It is OK. Don’t run. Just sit still for a few minutes, and it will be OK. Really, it will be OK, you can trust IT.” (yeah, I know, I went a bit overboard with that one)
If everything goes as planned, they will see a normal looking Lync interface and then they can go about the start of their business day.
The Branding is There!
The biggest issue is that while the users will see the Lync user interface, as they start working, they might notice some minor changes like the short cut link in their task bar now looks like a Skype client because it has Skype branding.
The branding in the task bar can be a bit of a problem. It sounds crazy to many of us, but some users just can’t handle even the smallest changes. So, they will see the change, but there are two changes that really mess with users. The first is when they use the Start button and type “Lync” in the search and Skype for Business 2015 shows up in the results. I have to admit, that one caught me by surprise. I didn’t expect the search result.
The second one is seeing the “Skype Meeting” link. This branding change is one change that really catches attention. I get calls about this one all the time.
All in all, change can be a challenge. So, you can try to communicate that the change isn’t going to hurt them, but even then, almost nobody reads those emails from IT that tell them about the upcoming changes.
Take a deep breath, keep the windows locked, and try to help stop the panic.