I received an email on Monday from Microsoft. They’ve added a new requirement for their Communications competency (which PlanetMagpie retains).

One person must pass a SOF assessment for Silver Communications. Two must pass the SOF assessment for Gold Communications.

Which reminded me – we haven’t talked about the Skype Operations Framework (SOF) yet!

So let’s close out 2016 with a breakdown of the Skype Operations Framework. What it is, what it’s not, and what you should expect from it.

What SOF Is: A Mapped-Out Approach for Deploying Skype for Business Online

The Skype Operations Framework is a complete method for planning, deploying, and operating a Skype for Business Online service within an organization.

Skype Operations Framework Visual

There are four primary divisions on the SOF website. First is “Get Started,” with the map for deployment. You have two routes to take, labeled as Customer Journeys:

  1. Get Deployed (you have no Lync or Skype deployment), and
  2. Cloud Migration (you have an existing Lync/Skype on-premise or hybrid deployment).

Next is “Learn It,” a beefy training section called Skype Academy. There’s a list of training sessions for almost every aspect of both customer journeys.
*Also, don’t miss out on the Skype Operations Framework & Skype Academy Blogs linked in the top right corner.

Third is “Give Feedback,” which leads off to the Skype Feedback site’s SOF forum. It’s an open field for people to leave feedback about the SOF itself.

Fourth is “Partners,” a resource to find Skype for Business deployment partners (hmmm, we should be on there…).

Finally, there’s a bonus link in the top right nav bar, “Skype Community.” It goes to one of the MS Technical Community discussion boards, dedicated to Skype for Business. The Skype Operations Framework has one of the 6 available Spaces.

(The Assessment is linked at top right, below Blogs and Downloads. You will need a Microsoft account to access the Academy and Assessment.)

This is an extremely detailed approach for Skype deployment. The SOF diagram serves as a powerful visual for the Skype for Business Online deployment process. It also gives you a reminder that cloud services are “evergreen” – constantly updating, instead of waiting long months/years between software versions.

The branding and content even equivocate “the cloud” with Skype for Business and Office 365. Clever.

What SOF is Not: Short or Simple

While the Skype Operations Framework is thorough, it’s not comprehensive. It doesn’t try to extend beyond its goal–which means a few limitations.

SOF is Not: A replacement for product documentation. We’ve had TechNet for years; this won’t replace it. The Framework is more like taking documentation and applying it in practice.

SOF is Not: The One True Path. Even Bryan Nyce, one of the Ignite 2016 presenters talking about SOF (“Dig into the Skype Operations Framework“) said that SOF is a recommendation, not a command. (He gave a great talk; it’s worth an hour.)

SOF is Not: Concise. The documentation is thorough, and appears to overdose on planning (likely to avoid problems caused by rushing in). In the process, some of the content’s downright ponderous. I kept reading passages and thinking, “I could have said that in half the words.”

What’s Missing? The Server Side

Now here’s the biggest flaw with the SOF – from my perspective, that is.

The Skype Operations Framework does not cover Skype for Business Server deployments!

All this work to promote adoption of Skype for Business Online (even at the expense of on-prem servers—the whole “Cloud Migration” route takes you off of on-prem deployments), and Skype for Business Server is barely mentioned.

I did find a response to a comment posted to the Skype Feedback page.

Skype Operations Framework Feedback

“The SOF framework provides a standardized approach to successfully plan, deliver and operate Skype for Business by incorporating practical guidance, tools, assets and recommended practices.”

“Many of the tools and assets created for SOF, while designed for the cloud, are applicable to on premises deployments.”

“As we deliver new assets and offers we will continue to focus on assisting customers and partners with their journey to the cloud.”

This sounds a little too dismissive for me. Maybe I’m biased (okay, I’ll admit some bias).

But, given this message, the conspicuous absence of Server mentions, and Microsoft’s “the cloud” focus, I must come to one conclusion. The Skype Operations Framework appears to suggest that Skype for Business Server—Microsoft’s own software—is antiquated in their eyes. Skype for Business Online is not only a better choice…it’s the only choice.

What You Should Expect from the Skype Operations Framework

If you want to deploy Skype for Business Online, it IS possible to follow the exact method laid out in the SOF. (That’s kind of why it’s there…) It even includes variants, so depending on where you are with Skype, you can reach successful deployment.

However, since the Server deployment is not included, anyone wanting an on-premise Skype for Business deployment has more of a challenge.

  • The Cloud Migration section does help direct you from an on-premise Skype deployment to O365 or Hybrid version.
  • The Plan phase offers the most value for on-premise Skype4B. It’s critically important to assess your overall IT readiness (including network bandwidth & activity) before any major software deployment.
  • The Deliver phase quickly loses its benefit when you’re working on-premise. Many of the cmdlets are the same, yes…but setting phone policy in Office 365’s Administration Portal isn’t nearly the same as Voice Routing in the Skype for Business Control Panel.

The Verdict: Useful Roadmap and Training Resources – If You’re Following Microsoft to Cloud-Only

I haven’t gotten through all the material in the Skype Operations Framework yet. There’s a ton of it. Which is great for IT pros looking to get on Skype for Business Online.

It really is a wealth of information—training, partners, roadmaps, and resources. Continuously updated too; in fact, they posted updates just yesterday. To you guys who wrote & developed SOF – you did some good work, and we appreciate it.

All that said, I do hope SOF gets an update to include Skype for Business Server. We hammered out our own deployment approach over time, through several problems and lots of testing. Having a roadmap like SOF would have saved us weeks.

What are your thoughts on the Skype Operations Framework (SOF)? Please comment or email me. This is a big topic, and I’m sure plenty of people have questions we can address.

Until next time, faithful readers…Happy Holidays, and have a safe & joyous New Year! We’ll see you back here in January 2017.

Skype Operations Framework 101

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