It’s a basic tenet of good design that your product should facilitate small changes that add up to a major transformation. And that’s how Lync works. You start off with some simple tools that do a few cool tricks. Next, you get used to relying on those tools and pretty much forget all about them. Then you visit another organization where there’s no Lync and you’re shocked to realize how spoiled you are.
No simple list of features and functions can adequately convey the impact Lync will have on the daily routines of people in your company. But once you’ve been relying on it for a few weeks it’s hard to imagine what workdays were like before you had it installed. Here are the three basic areas where the changes will creep up on you:
A Little Bit of Time Here and There Adds Up
I was recently working with another organization and needed to contact a particular member of the IT staff. Presumably, he was in the same building I was in, but all I had to go on was a phone number and an email address. Now, you’re probably thinking those should be enough. But I’m accustomed to using Lync’s control panel, which lets me type in a name and then displays that person’s availability. Is she in the office or on the road? Is she available to chat or is she in a meeting? Or maybe she’s in a phone call, in which case I may decide to instant message her with a quick question. All of this information is right in front of me, and every option for communicating with the person I’m trying to reach is only a click away.
I’d forgotten how much time goes into tracking people down without Lync until I had to go back to not having the control panel. How often do you get up and look for someone only to find out they’re not in the building? How often do you get voicemail, leave a message, and then completely forget about it? How often do you spend days exchanging emails with someone to get information that should only take a few minutes? Seeing everyone’s availability is one of those things you don’t fully appreciate at first, but over time you start to depend on the improved connectedness as it saves you more and more time in each of those tiny increments.
Integration with Other Collaboration Tools
A complaint I often hear when I tell people I specialize in integrated communications concerns the many perils of collaborative editing. You’ve probably worked at some point on a document that required the the input of several people to produce. And you’ve probably had to deal with the frustration of sending it out to everyone at once only to have them each send back a different version in turn. Now, instead of one document that has benefited from everyone’s input, you have four or five different documents. Or, even if you do end up with one version, you have no idea who made what changes and why, so you don’t know if it’s alright to make a further change without consulting everyone involved in the process again.
At Aptera, we have both Lync and SharePoint, and the two systems work so well together it just blows my mind whenever I see companies still bouncing documents around as email attachments. What SharePoint lets you do is save your document to a single platform where you can have several people work on it simultaneously. You can track any changes to the file, and if you want to know who made the change all you have to do is hover over it with the cursor and that person’s Lync information is displayed in a temporary window. If you want to ask why the change was made, you just click to call or instant message whoever made it. The collaboration would hardly be any better if you were all sitting in the same room.
Lync consolidates all your familiar communication channels and gives you access to them whenever and wherever you sign in, whether it’s at a desktop or on a mobile device. And the latest version of Lync takes all this a step farther, with cool features like video-to-video mobile chat and video conferencing with participants arranged in a Brady Bunch-style display that enlarges the window for whoever’s speaking at any given moment. And it’s not just your own people you’ll be connected to. If another organization also uses Lync, it’s really easy to bring people there into your circle. Lync also allows you to federate with other communication technologies, like Skype and Messenger for instance, so you can use the same to controls to communicate with a wide variety of other users.
Someday—when we all have wireless links built right into our brains that allow us to communicate telepathically—checking on our colleagues’ availability with a glance at a screen and choosing the best avenue to communicate with them with a click or touch may seem clunky and outdated. Until then, it’s hard to imagine how collaborating and sharing information could be any easier or more convenient than it is with tools like Lync and SharePoint.