The future of Converged Communication, Today.
That's a pretty poignant question, and one I heard asked recently to us, whilst we were in the midst of a multi-particant conference call using Lync (it went seamlessly by the way!) & it made me think about whether there are likley to be any other 'game changers' in the next few years, with respect to converged communication in business.
I've used, along with my colleagues, Lync for a long time. Before Lync, I was using OCS (Lyncs older and slightly jaded brother) in blue-chip companies both here in the UK & the US. A few things I've noticed, points raised and Lyncs stepped up to answer include;
- The importance of Presence - never under-estimate this, and I just don't mean at Christmas either, that's different :-) In every environment I've seen, people, users, staff, managers, all rely on a quick at-a-glance ability to see if a user is at their desk. It's such a simple feature, but watching someone's presence widget blush from green to red when they walk away from their desk provides a type of real time data feedback & social engagement you cant live without, once you've got used to it. If your not relying on presence yet, to see if your staff are around, or your MD's available, then you should try it.
- An easy way to get online, on a call, and share content with one click - So many times I've sat in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere, from the deserts of Arizona to the dense suburbs of LA, and needed to jump on a conference call to handle some 'disaster' with several DBA's and techs spread out throughout the world. Usually my only options in a hotel would be a poor Internet connection (usually dial up, or at the very most highly contentioned broadband), and massively expensive call charges via my mobile. If I needed to watch a presentation or share a file with my staff, forget it. With Lync, simply logging into the client, jumping on a call, and having at the very best 'reasonable' audio over this amazing Lync infrastructure, is just fab! I've actually watched Lync, to preserve the call integrity, drop my video conference, but keep the call up - allowing me to shout at my engineer for just a few more minutes. granted, I may of sounded like the R2D2 at times, but still :-), Lync is so much more intelligent and I have to applaud Microsoft for a great product. Forget VoIP, forget packet loss and time outs, even with slow slow Internet, Lync is a really viable tool.
- Mobile me - Going out the office and knowing you have full connectivity to your phone on your desk, your desk number, your voicemail, and being able to make proper Lync based calls via your cell phone without worrying about claiming expenses and talking your way into getting your $900 cell phone bill paid when you get back, is such a good feature. Yes the Microsoft client as it is now is slightly immature, but overall, the mobile experience of Lync is truly seamless.
I guess where I'm going with this is the features I've mentioned above, plus more, really put proper converged communication on the map. The features we're starting to enjoy in business are the very vision Microsoft probably had with OCS a long time ago. Now with carrier grade voice, true SIP platform, e911 compliancy, and mobility, I see Lync, and its enhancements being the very fabric of communication for the future. I'm meeting some Lync devs this weekend in London, and some of my predictions about the future include;
- Forget the phone number - You wont bother dialling numbers anymore. You'll simply have both federated and non-federated contacts populated through your contact lists by name, on your cell phone, your tablet, your PC, and you'll know via presence how and when you should communicate with them. A context sensitive and intuitive UI to decide whether you have enough bandwidth to make a video call, share your screen, make a voicecall, etc.
- Skype will merge into the Lync client - Microsoft paid a lot of money for Skype, its an almost certainty we'll see Skypes more social fluffier side brought into the more staid and corporate suit-and-tie feel of the Lync client. Search for users by name alone, feature rich contact cards, more friendlier functionality, watch this space.
- Plugins ahoy - with Lyncs API open to Devs, we'll see so many clever plugins available. we can already update our Twitter and Linkedin via the Lync client, wait until you can run Polygraph tests on potential business clients, display a Lync widget on your Facebook page, or stream your Lync activity via an RSS feed to your boss, believe me, there's a sixteen year old Russian developer in a basement right now, working on these plugins!
So to answer the question, is Lync here to stay, I have to say *climbs up on soapbox and reaches for megaphone* "yes" :-)