I was lucky enough to move from a career in pure data (mainly servers, messaging and networking) to an organisation that was – up until my joining them – 100% focused on telephony just at the time when VoIP was beginning to become fashionable and the term “Unified Communications” hadn’t yet been coined.
I was luckier still to be given the opportunity to transform that business into a true UC business (rather than becoming the typical voice business with the “data guy” or data business with the “voice partner”) helping build a multi-skilled sales and engineering team.
Probably the most important thing I took away from that experience was that “data people” do not understand voice/PABX technologies. This is a problem that I continue to observe today and is one of the things holding products like MS Lync back in many markets. Engineers that may be MS-Superstars and understand Lync inside out simply do not understand the business logic necessary to put together a replacement for a traditional telephony environment and they can’t understand why their customers aren’t impressed with the results.
Around 5 years ago I attended Microsoft’s excellent Microsoft OCS Voice Ignite! training roadshow which involved 5 days of super hardcore product training, targeted specifically at the VoIP features of the product. By the end of it, I could make OCS sing and dance but I still couldn’t slot it in place of a PABX. Sitting next to me was a PABX engineer with nearly 15 years experience who made the conscious decision to learn the data side of the business and who is one of the best (and few) true UC engineers I know. The insights he gave me during the training program made me understand that for a data expert to learn voice was similar to an Australian learning Japanese. Not only is the language different, but so is the complete logic of the system and until you learn that logic, you will never succeed with the technology.
Data systems are linear and logical. An email system is designed to send emails, regardless of whether it is Exchange, SMTPd, Lotus Notes or any other system; a File Server stores files, a database collates data. Voice Systems are multi-functional, and each user will likely have a different idea of what they need the system to do and the best way of doing it. Totally different logic.
IVR trees, Call Routing, Hunt Groups, Ring Groups, Pickup Groups, Paging Groups, PRI, BRI, Analog, DPNSS trunks, Voicemail, Call Recording, Speed Dials, E911….literally hundreds of features need to be taken into account when setting up a PABX and the exact same things (and more) need to be understood if you want to convince an organisation to move from their traditional PABX to a Lync-based system. If you don’t understand the language and the logic, you can’t deliver the right solution.
I had my colleague’s influence first which led me to get certified as a PABX engineer and carry out a dozen or so deployments myself. If you want to truly succeed, I strongly urge you to take a similar path. Failing that, buy an old PABX (analogue, digital or VoIP will do, most of their functions are nearly identical) with handsets included off Ebay or similar, fire it up and see how it all hangs together. If you are lucky, it will include the old configurations so you can see the sorts of things a normal PABX client wants in their system. Spend enough time doing this and try and replicate each function and feature on MS Lync in a lab environment. If you can accomplish this, you will truly be a Lync expert and be ready to offer the full PABX alternative.