The presence and coauthoring capabilities built into Microsoft Lync simplify the process of collaboration.
In today’s corporate environment, work gets done in groups. Even if just one salesperson is preparing a PowerPoint presentation, each content element comes from a different source or creator. There’s text from press relations, images from marketing and spreadsheets from accounting. While this salesperson is putting the finishing touches on his presentation, he’s bound to have questions for other team members. You need to track and manage every change and revision.
In the not-quite-as-good ol’ days, it was more difficult to track document contributors. With Office 2010, however, you can check out the File | Info screens of any Word, Excel or PowerPoint file and check “Related People.” This will list the document’s known authors and editors.
The Send Now button will immediately send each contributor the current version of the document via Lync instant messaging (IM). You could also opt to show them the document via application sharing with the Share Now button.
Using Microsoft Lync Server along with Microsoft Office applications can help you create more useful content in less time, and then share that content more efficiently with team members. Traditional collaboration tactics had team members contribute different pieces or sections. One person typically combined all the content. Using Lync Server and Office 2010, coauthors can see everyone who has the document open and work on it together in real time.
With Lync Server, you can check the online availability of past and present contributors through color-coded “presence” buttons alongside their names (see Figure 1). These buttons indicate whether a colleague is available, busy, out of the office and so on.
Figure 1 Seeing who has edited passages and if they’re available for questions saves valuable time
For example, let’s consider that Bob and Doug are editing a document in Word 2010. Bob is based in Duluth, Minn., and Doug is in Dublin, Ireland. Neither wants to incur traditional international calling charges and deal with time zone confusion. The coauthoring tools in Word 2010 show Bob when Doug is editing his open document. They also reveal Doug’s presence status and show which paragraph he currently has locked for his own editing.
This type of collaboration contact is more efficient and can expedite production. If Doug has had a paragraph locked for 15 minutes, but Bob really needs to make changes to that section, Bob can see that Doug is tied up on a call and use Lync to send an IM asking Doug to release that paragraph. Seconds later, Bob can proceed with his task. Without the integration of Lync with Word 2010, those seconds could easily become minutes or even longer delays.
No longer do you have to step out of an important meeting at the first chance to check voicemail. With Lync, you get automatic transcription of voicemail.
Voice messages run through a speech-to-text engine, which Microsoft has been refining for years (see Figure 2). It then displays an e-mail message showing the sender, all available contact information for that sender, the sender’s company and job role, and the sender’s Lync presence.
Speech-to-text accuracy is generally in the 80 percent to 95 percent range. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough to convey the speaker’s meaning, urgency and how you should respond. You can accomplish this without ever leaving your seat or making a sound at the meeting.
Figure 2 Audio voicemail capabilities in Lync Server 2010 let you hear messages when you’re otherwise occupied
The “how to respond” element of Lync feedback is critical. Most professionals are rich on information and expertise but short on time, so tools that can help you immediately share data can make or break a company’s productivity and competitiveness. This is why the integrated contact and presence elements that Lync displays through Outlook matter so much. They give practically instant access to the right person at the right time.
The presence information shown in Outlook comes from Lync contact cards (see Figure 3). Contact cards contain contact numbers, addresses, presence status, the person’s location, job role and available-until time based on the Exchange calendar. The Organization tab is another aspect of the contact cards. This view shows team members or managers along with their presence and availability (see Figure 4).
Figure 3 Each Lync contact has a fly-out contact card loaded with individual and organization metadata
There’s extensive direct integration between Office 2010 and SharePoint Server, so it’s hard to discuss one without mentioning the other. Business teams regularly create SharePoint sites into which they can store documents, schedules and other resources.
Team members all show up in their respective team sites. Using Lync presence capabilities, each person’s presence information is automatically displayed. Through SharePoint and Lync, team members can simply drag and drop each other into ad hoc IM, Internet-based voice calls, video chat, whiteboard and screen-sharing sessions.
Figure 4 Lync weaves “presence” status across many applications, showing whether users are available or away
“Leveraging Lync with Office and SharePoint is about getting the details right so projects go more smoothly,” says Douglas Splinter, former CTO of Convergent. Splinter’s company used Microsoft unified communications (UC) in its daily operations, and created applications to run over its UC system.
“We used to take five to seven days to get a proposal out the door. There was a lot of ping-ponging it around,” he says. “We’ve seen that drop to two to three days. That’s a huge impact for a consulting firm. Sales reps are getting those documents in roughly one-third the time it used to take. The difference on our storage-practices side is even bigger because there was so much difficulty coordinating the right engineers. Now, what used to take a week and a half is now down to a couple of days.”
Lync Server reveals a simple truth about work in the 21st century: No one exists in a vacuum. We are interdependent. The more we leverage our personal connections, the more effective and efficient we can become. Lync Server lets modern enterprise workers take a quantum leap in how they leverage productivity tools like Office.