Every now and then, someone releases a new business management software application that lives up to the marketing spiel and genuinely makes working lives easier. I’ve now been using Microsoft Lync 2010 for a couple of years and I can say, hand on heart, that it I think it’s one of the most useful communication and collaboration tools I’ve ever come across. I’ll explain why in a moment but first of all, it’s probably worth talking a little about Unified Communications – Lync is very much a UC tool – and despite being a concept that first came to light in the late 80’s, it is only really now taking off and being adopted by businesses on a widespread basis.
There are various definitions of UC (none of which really matter as much as the end results it can provide) but in a nutshell, it brings together an array of communication tools, including desktop phones, mobile phones, email, voicemail, text messaging, instant messaging and video conferencing. Users can use whatever internet-connected device they have to hand to communicate with colleagues, using (and switching between) these various communications tools. Furthermore, UC features like presence, provide users with visibility of the whereabouts and availability of colleagues and their preferred means of communications.
However, the most important thing to remember about Unified Communications – in fact, the whole point of adopting it – is that’s it’s all about improving people’s ability to collaborate; enhancing their ability to work together, despite the fact that they may well be thousands of miles apart. Improved collaboration leads to enhanced productivity and efficiency – and this is where businesses really stand to gain by adopting Unified Communications.
There are various UC applications and platforms on the market but by far the most popular are those produced by Cisco and Microsoft – with Lync 2010.
Lync comes into its own through its ease of use. I usually need to have new software explained to me (at least) twice before using it but not so with Microsoft Lync – it is ridiculously easy to use. The presence feature tells me where my colleagues are and what they are doing, and their availability (or otherwise) is signalled by green, amber and red ‘traffic lights’. I can initiate voice, video and conference calls with colleagues simply by clicking the appropriate symbol and begin an Instant Messaging session just as easily with a single click. All features are accessible via a single interface, meaning there is no need to ‘jump’ between different applications.
The consolidation of communications technologies – the technical backbone of Unified Communications – is, quite simply, a means to the end of bringing people together and enabling them to collaborate as simply and efficiently as possible. By ensuring Lync 2010 is simple and intuitive to use, Microsoft have developed a genuinely useful business tool that really does deliver.
Lync 2013 is set to be released in the New Year and anticipated features include high definition video conferencing, integration with Skype and enhanced integration with new mobile and web applications – all of which should make it even easier for dispersed teams of people to work together.
Nick Hardy writes for Advanced 365, a managed services it company based in London. Advanced 365 specialise in IT outsourcing as well as software delivered as a service such as Microsft 365 and Microsoft Lync