Unified Comms Nirvana

UC is a philosophy and a culture underpinned by technology. It’s about communications and collaboration which are people centred rather than technology lead. UC is a journey towards a better personal and customer centred environment, that is not about just a technology refresh or buying new. As there is no universally accepted definition, this presents a challenge of common understanding in discussion, which can be overcome by simply investing a small amount of time to work back from a future vision to a current position. In doing this, the language can be neutralised as a potential barrier to common understanding. One of the key challenges beyond the definition is that of “baggage”. What I mean by this is that we are all a product of our experiences and whilst in many or most cases this can be a real asset, in the world I am discussing here, I see it as a potential pinch point. My rationale here is that telephony in particular has worked in a certain way for many years and in particular PBX functionality has been somewhat staid, and most people still use telephony in the same way they always have:

Scene 1
* Phone rings
* Answer phone (if you’re lucky)
* Conversation and perhaps transfer or enquiry
* Terminate call

Scene 2
* Pick up handset dial number speak and disconnect

Now when you start to shift your thinking – the whole communications experience can become enriched and the process cycles reduced. In the above examples, there are often additional actions that will take place after the call, such as an email will be sent to support the call, or to confirm the conversation or a document is shared via email. With a UC solution such as Microsoft Lync, the experience could look more like this:

Scene 3
* Lync client alerts to inbound call
* Click to answer and talk on your headset – hands free
* Caller shares a document with you and a focused conversation takes place
* You decide to bring in a third party who works for a different organisation, but because you federate your presence status you can see (using the rich presence capability) that they are free so you can simply “drag tham” into the conference.
* The call continues and you need to leave the office you transfer via a mouse click to your mobile device and continue the call * Whilst in the call, you send an IM message from your mobile to your colleague to ask a question not for general consumption, and get a response in seconds
*Call terminates and the project is advanced.

Scene 4:
* You want to convene an ad-hoc conference call so you click on meet me and add the participants from your lync client.
* Meeting commences as colleagues join you record the call and share the recording for others as reference point to agreements and actions and whilst on the call schedule the follow up.
* Call ends and project is progressed

This is a paradigm shift in the way we think about communications and collaboration and has to be experienced to be really appreciated but for sure it is a move in the right direction. Why not check it out – you will be glad you did…

Reduce your email traffic? Yes please.

It’s all got a bit out of hand now hasn’t it? Email started off so well too. Immediate communications from your desktop rather than the lengthy process of “word-processing” a document, printing it, fetching it, walking to the fax machine….. You remember that – right? Then the traffic began to build, and build, and build. Where do all off the emails come from. Conversation being held via email, copying “all” followed swiftly by a “copy all” WILL YOU STOP COPYING EVERYONE ON YOUR RESPONSES.
So is it any wonder that the introduction of a tool that’s”fit for purpose” is gaining high rates of adoption. Microsoft lync’s instant messaging does exactly what it says on the tin, removing the need for protracted email conversations AND because presence status shows availability and out of office message before contact is attempted, unnecessary traffic is avoided. In addition to which this capability can, through federation, function beyond corporate boundaries with clients, suppliers and partners within your chosen ecosystem.
The user experience is best in class, and you don’t even have to be at your desk to access it. Lync sets you free to work from wherever you can access a data connection….. Which also reduces your call charges.

Why wouldn’t you want to consider lync?

5 reasons you might want to consider Microsoft Lync UC

So if you made it here beyond the title, it’s very likely that you at least have an acquaintance with Lync and that in itself is reason number 1. If you have an awareness of the experience that Lync affords you, then the other reasons could well push you over the edge to a full deployment or at least a Proof of Concept.
2. Your Microsoft licencing could already include the Client Access Licences (CALs) that are required, and so your cost of deployment could well be lower cost than you had imagined.
3. You have complete flexibility to deploy a solution that uses servers on your own premises, or simply go straight to the cloud and take advantage of a hosted service and just pay as you go.
4. Lync is a Microsoft integrated offering that embeds communications into the fabric of all your applications and especially Outlook where most workers spend most of their working day.
5. By deploying Lync and federating your presence outside your enterprise AND taking advantage of future federation with Skype, you could substantially reduce your call charges…
Above all of this, the Lync EXPERIENCE is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Worth a look? If I can help, I’d be delighted to.

You simply wouldn’t bet against this would you?


Love it, or hate it, change is a regular and unavoidable occurrence in our lives and it seems that the pace of innovation and change is gathering pace. Never more so is this true than in the technology space and in particular that of communications and IT.

There is never a day passing without news of a new innovation that will sooner or later impact our lives, hopefully to show an improvement. Often it takes us a while to see these changes and certainly to get on board with the details of what the change is and its specific impact on our lives- working or personal. Within the IT and voice space especially the demarcation lines are getting ever more blurred between our business and personal lives and we see much talk about the concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) which is frequently tweeted about on twitter with the #BYOD hashtag, as well as the increasing trend towards home working. This is something that is becoming the norm rather than the exception and the freedom to choose where you work, or equally as important for nomadic workers like me, be able to work anywhere, is underpinned by some of the smart technologies emerging from the Microsoft stable.

Microsoft has for some time been on the fringe of “total” communications technology (TCT), delivering Internet Messaging (IM) and presence capabilities. This evolutionary journey began several years ago initially in LCS, then OCS, and now in Lync. What we have seen as a precursor to this TCT is Microsoft integrating their solutions into some voice vendor’s technologies with varying degrees of success – after all, when two large corporations come together, with the best will in the world, there is always a wrestling of “we do it like this so can you change that”. Notwithstanding that there have been some successful partnerships, but that has all changed forever, as Microsoft has declared their hand as a complete voice, and video enabled UC solution.

What for me makes this such a compelling offering is the usability and simplicity. Generally speaking when a “worker” enters the office (home or traditional workplace), the first place to go is OUTLOOK. Here, we can access all of our emails, appointments and contacts….. Contacts, with whom we wish to communicate. The simplicity of seeing the status of my (federated) contacts before I consider how to communicate is already a big bonus helping me decide the best mode to begin. Once I have decided, a simple click of my mouse initiates the call from whichever device I wish – so if this is my laptop, I could very well have chosen just a headset – This in itself brings huge benefits – NO IP PHONE = LOWER POWER CONSUMPTION – this is a good thing – right? NO PHONE ON MY DESKTOP = More space available – this too is a good thing – Yes? So we can reduce our carbon footprint, real estate costs and all from an integrated UC application – MS Lync, which means we no longer need a PBX – wow! Why would you not want to consider this?

UC – A technology, or something else?

 UC – or  should I cut out the TLA (three letter acronym – or in this case two letter) and give it it’s full title – Unified Communications, is one of those “titles” that has many different meanings and thus causes as much confusion as it does buzz.

For many in my industry, UC is absolutely a technology, and some are keen to talk the hind legs off a donkey about the technical details of what “it”can deliver, but rarely get to the real “pay back” part of the conversation.

So what have I got to say for myself – well I believe that there is significantly more to the UC conversation than just technology. I am firmly in the space that technology is rarely the only element of a successful solution, as we need to factor in the people engagement piece – whether that be employees, partners, or the paymasters themselves Customers.

UC is about bringing together various disparate channels of communications and devices into a device agnostic, location independent offering. That is to say that my ability to communicate is supported wherever I am and whatever device I happen to be using. Microsoft Lync is such a platform that enables a fairly intuitive interface for engaging with your colleagues, suppliers and customers using whatever is the most appropriate mode – Instant Messaging; Email; Telephone Call; Video Call and allows for Collaboration, through desktop sharing and discussion. All of the options are embedded in the applications that most business people are using in their daily work. Open Outlook, and you immediately have access to presence (availability and status of people in your work circles) especially if you “federate” (your presence) beyond just your internal contacts.

AND beyond the technology is the people element. Any organisation looking to embark upon a UC “journey” (that is how it should be viewed IMHO) should ensure that the company culture and people “fit” are scrutinised very carefully. The transition from existing pbx to lync voice, needs carefully planning and skilfully migrating, so that it appears seamlessly executed. This can only be achieved with a sound understanding of the process and the technologies. It is also key to be clear about your objectives and how the people in this journey are included and embraced. Just changing the tech alone will surely yield some improvements, but for the real payoff you need buy in and engagement. (If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got).

Finally consider this – today you are probably arriving at your office (home office, work office, coffee shop) and after turning on your laptop, opening Outlook. Good news – all of your communications are embedded here, and with the simple addition of a headset or similar, you have your communications hub ready to go – IM, telephony, video etc. So simple and ubiquitous, and think about the considerable savings of no longer needing your office wired pbx….worth serious consideration don’t you think?