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:
* Phone rings
* Answer phone (if you’re lucky)
* Conversation and perhaps transfer or enquiry
* Terminate call
* 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:
* 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.
* 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…
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.
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?
I was recently pondering technology and specifically the kind of technology that I’ve spent a significant portion of my working life with and that is telecommunications – telephones and data communications if you will.
For a long time the enterprise or business community led the way as far as technology adoption went and especially telecommunications. I’m sure you all recall the first mobile phone “bricks” that were for a long time “status symbols” in the workplace. But now it’s all change,as nearly all of us have I am sure, very “smart” smartphones full of the latest apps, and tablet devices aplenty for our own use, and acquired personally. And so most people have better technology available to them in their pocket than many enterprises have afforded them today. As a result of this “dynamic”, increasingly individuals are deploying their own devices in the work environment (Bring Your Own Device) causing an absolute headache for the IT department as far as security of information is concerned. Notwithstanding this, many enterprises are stepping up to the plate and enabling their workforce to deploy their own devices which on the face of it might seem to be a good thing for the enterprise – allowing them to save money on not equipping everybody with new technology – perhaps?!
However this is only part of the conundrum given that ultimately communication is all about, well …..communication and the very disparate nature of these devices with different operating systems et cetera clearly presents a challenge in terms of integration and of course making them all work seamlessly. And that’s before we even get into a conversation about support. So having said all of this what’s my point. Well my point is this. The Legacy PBX and communications infrastructures are clearly creaking at the seams, in fact many haven’t been updated since the end of 1999 (when the Millennium bug was going to see planes falling from the skies) amidst fears of failure if nothing was done, and I begin to wonder who today is really offering the greatest innovation to meet the needs of the way we’re choosing to communicate and work these days?
Many of the usual suspects are struggling with the very legacy that everyone else is, and I can’t currently see any vendor really rising up to the challenge, however, I can’t help feeling that one of the worlds biggest players albeit not known for their “voice” credentials – Microsoft may well have the answer with their Lync offering and the partnership ecosystem (or ISV ecosystem) that I’m seeing beginning to evolve.
There are increasingly so many compelling reasons to ensure we review and change the way in which we communicate, not least of which the challenges around travel and the drive for organisations to become increasingly more green and create a much smaller carbon footprint. So I guess the biggest challenge here really is the disparate nature of these technologies and the understanding for organisations in order to be able to successfully integrate these technologies to work effectively and of course in these austere times to find an affordable solution. So in the final analysis I can see that we will increasingly see the adoption of the aforementioned technologies and in a “use what you require” cloud supplied utility price model. And it seems to me that for the next few years certainly that this will increasingly be the preferred acquisition model. Services organisation with a heavy bias on knowledge workers will be the “glue” that makes it all work, and ultimately free us from the “desk”?? – well that is I believe a completely different challenge and discussion for another day.