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The LYNC rebranding: 2 steps forward or 1 step back?

To my absolute horror, last week Microsoft announced that the Lync product would be renamed “Skype for Business”.  I struggled to understand why they would introduce a brand like Skype, widely associated with poor call quality and questionable reliability, into a market where clarity and consistency are a prerequisite.  I turned to other colleagues in the Lync community to try and rationalise this apparent insanity from Microsoft.

Quite surprisingly amongst the Lync user-base there were signs of cautious optimism. Further discussions with Lync partners and analysts yielded a similar response. I soon realised that my knee-jerk reaction was rather premature and there was actually an ingenious strategy afoot.

The future of enterprise is debated by corporate philosophers the world over. The era of the 9 to 5 employee was superseded by the always connected workaholic on her crackberry. For many the concept of work-life balance has come to mean the infiltration of one into the other. When is the last time you “had coffee with friends” and didn’t talk about work?

Forward thinking organisations recognise that their intellectual assets, or employees, are most productive when there are accommodations for domestic duties during the work day. Such organisations proactively develop a work “culture” and encourage a “family” atmosphere, shrewdly crafting emotional attachments using words otherwise associated with one’s private life.

So when a communications executive at Microsoft highlighted the organisation’s desire to “move from tools that focus on individual abilities to tools that empower social productivity”, coupled with the recent announcement of the rebranding of MS Lync to “Skype for Business”; we start to get a sense of how far forward MS are actually looking. This is a new and possibly smarter Microsoft than we are used to, one that is looking to both get even more entrenched within its customers’ business as well as reach out across ALL of the customer’s stakeholder supply chain.

Quite simply, the rebrand is an announcement of intent, a strategic and marketing coup in fact, banking on the familiar experience of a vast number of skype users and of course the slight matter of an 8.5 billion dollar acquisition. But what of those for whom the familiarity with Skype has already bred contempt?  “Not to worry sir, this is Skype FOR BUSINESS and therefore retains all of the security, functionality and administration of your beloved Lync.”

With the merging of Skype and Lync, the future “Global Microsoft App stack” takes shape in perhaps the very interesting by-product of identities consolidation. Understanding one’s customer and therefore one’s entire supply chain has always been a key principle of business relationships. But in this age of multiple identities across internet usage, organisations are working harder to understand their stakeholders better. This begs the question: “Where next for MS?” Could Skype for business eventually look to join forces with Yammer and so.cl? Or perhaps social media 4.0 will be a Microsoft product!

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