The Value of Microsoft’s Skype Operational Framework

Earlier this year Microsoft launched their own delivery framework for Skype (SOF – Skype Operational Framework) and have now just rolled out a training programme for their partners which many have completed. At first glance SOF comes across as a very common sense approach. It is well structured and has all the components I would expect for the delivery of a COTS type solution: plan, deliver and operate:

Microsoft Skype Operational Framework

Microsoft Skype Operational Framework

Plan – Gather information and insights to asses, design and prepare for a Skype for Business Online service. Define expected business value, assess readiness for implementation and undertake remediation activities:

Deliver – Transition from deploying on premises to delivering high quality cloud services, by effectively implementing & delivering Skype for Business Online services while driving adoption. Identify areas for improvement by implementing new features and capabilities as these are released to deliver rapid success and additional value.

Operate – maintain a high quality and reliable Skype for Business Online service. Provide monitoring, reporting, run and support services

Personally I would have liked to have seen the Plan stage split into 2 parts Discovery / Requirements Gathering and then planning. This would have helped Programme and Project managers of traditional methodologies fit the approach to their approaches much more easily.

The key benefits customers are going to get from this standardisation of a Skype delivery are:

  • All Certified Partners will be using a common language when engaging with clients and Microsoft.
  • All Partners will adopt common delivery practices.
  • Standardisation of the SOF means that the learning feedback loop with Partners will enable Microsoft and Partners to evolve SOF quickly so that it is optimised quickly to provide Customers Excellence in Project execution.

You may well ask:

  • what does SOF do that other delivery methodologies can’t do?
  • Can I get the same value as other methods I use for other COTS solutions?
  • Surely we can just use PRINCE 2 / MSP coupled with common sense IT delivery activities to get the outcome we want?

The key things to note are that SOF does not replace PRINCE2, MSP or any other Project Management Framework. The Project Staging and Controls of these traditional methodologies still apply. What SOF gives Partners and customers are:

  • Practical guidance, tools and assets that range from scripts and reports to workshops and documents that are aligned with each activity in each stage. The stages would still need to be planned and controlled. This framework will not eliminate the need for control techniques that PRINCE2 and other methods insist on.
  • A combination of activities and tools that follow the SOF methodology enabling them to be delivered faster by providing the foundation to build or enhance their delivery practices. Many of these tools will result in intermediate products that will need to be managed in PRINCE2 and customers will do well if they invest in some time with their certified Partners to ensure they understand how these intermediate products fit into the delivery of the main delivery products as defined by PRINCE2. This will empower customers to ask the right questions and also be much more effective in their contribution to the Partners demands.
  • Empowerment of customers to apply execution excellence to achieve desired outcomes aligned with business initiatives by providing the common understanding between partners and customers of the need for and benefits of the Skype for Business online lifecycle. SOF will empower customers to control their costs and also have the flexibility to switch supplier for any reason – often underperformance. Agreeing in your contracts to use SOF will give you that flexibility and reassurance that if you need to switch supplier for underperformance that knowledge transfer costs to the new supplier will be minimal. N.B. Ensure that in your contracts you have permission to share with any new supplier all the SOF artefacts produced in your project.
  • A SOF methodology that is transferable and can be used for Hybrid and premise based Skype for Business solutions, however not all the templates and tools are designed for Hybrid and premise based solutions therefore Partners will need to invest in developing these tools further. Some partners will have invested greatly in making SOF applicable to premise based or Hybrid solutions asking the questions on how SOF will apply will definitely pay dividends.

I would welcome feedback from other practitioners or organisations that have recently deployed Skype for Business to hear what difference you feel SOF would have made to the successful delivery of your project. If you are about to undertake a Skype for Business programme and want to tap into my experience of similar methodologies, and what else you might want to look out for to avoid pit falls please feel free to contact me and I will try to answer any questions you may have.

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CoolHarbour is a Microsoft Silver Partner in Communications and recognised as a technical leader and innovator in the delivery of O365 and Skype for Business Solutions.

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