Do you know your best friend’s telephone number? Or your spouse’s? The telephone number is practically as outdated as my deerstalker hat. Perfect real-time communication means just two things: people, and contacting them in the way they want. If you’ve ever used Microsoft’s long-standing Windows Live Messenger, you’ll know what that means. With Messenger, you can see who is available and free for a chat; you can identify them by nothing more than a name, and you can choose to converse by text, audio or video. This month’s Hidden Gem takes those principles and applies an enterprise-grade breadth and quality of services: it’s called Lync, and it could be the most useful communication tool in your business.
The Target: Microsoft Lync
Whereabouts: Available on-premise using Lync Server or in the cloud (perfect for smaller companies) included with Office 365
Modus Operandi: All your communication needs in one place, including chat, speech, video, screen-sharing and conferencing; on PCs and mobile devices.
Microsoft Lync allows everyone in your business, and indeed your broader ecosystem of clients, suppliers, mentors and other contacts to communicate in the best way for the job at hand. Here are a few typical examples:
- With Lync, you can not only place a phone call to an Outlook contact with one click; but you can see if they’re available to talk, first. Very convenient!
- Bring people closer together with video calls anywhere in the world; limited only by bandwidth – and that includes 3G/wi-fi-enabled mobile devices
- Want to run through those figures? Share your screen straight into a videoconference.
- Three-, four- and more-way calling is not a problem. Ideal for board meetings when everyone’s in different places.
- How about a quick run-through of a PowerPoint before a big presentation? Transfer files to participants and go through them in real-time.
- Chat on Instant Messenger across many different IM platforms.
All of this is not only available on innumerable different devices from PCs to tablets and mobiles, but you can also switch modes at the click of a button. See if someone is free, initiate a quick chat, and then switch to voice or video calling when you want to engage further.
Here are some easy functions to use for starters.
Set your status:Hit the dropdown menu under your name to pick from typical statuses like “Available” or “Be right back”; or type in your own: “Meeting MegaCorp today!”, or perhaps less effectively “Duvet day! Leave a message!”
Other users’ statuses, just like yours, are updated in realtime, so nobody gets disturbed in the middle of a meeting. You can set your location too; from “Meeting Room 2” to “On the school run till 10”
Tag a contact: Contacts appear in a simple list, along with their presence status. If a contact is unavailable, right-click them and select Tag Contact – they’ll get a message to get in touch as soon as their status changes.
Use contacts everywhere: Your contacts persist throughout Office applications – so they will appear (with full contact information cards and click-to-contact functionality) in, for example, Outlook. So, when you receive an email from Bill at MegaCorp who wants to talk through a new idea, his details will be right there (it turns out Bill is the purchasing manager... excellent!) and you can call him with a click.
Who’s doing what?: Hit the Activity Feed button to see what all your contacts are up to.
Have an online meeting right now: Hit the ‘Cog’ icon for the menu, and select “Meet Now”. Then select “People Options” and either invite guests from your list of contacts, or invite people by email- even people who don’t have Lync. They will get a simple link to click and join the online meeting through a web browser. You can also schedule future meetings direct from Outlook (versions 2003 onwards) by selecting Meeting > Meeting Options
Share your desktop: From within any conversation (with any number of people) hit “Share”. You can then share your current screen, or a second screen only for viewers (ideal for presentations). You can also share Programs (an Excel spreadsheet, for example) whilst not ceding access to anything else on your desktop, or also a Whiteboard – onto which everyone can contribute. As with all chat materials, whiteboard content is stored for reference after the call.
Under the magnifying glass...
All of the above functions are available instantly from the main Lync Contacts display, and they will be the easiest tools with which to get started on day one. Many people will also be familiar with this interface from using Instant Messenger.
However, Lync allows for endless customisation and extension; often in ways which will not only simplify your communication, but can also add previously impossible new services to your business. You could, for example, use Lync to provide an autoresponder service to your clients, to field support calls, advise on delivery options or offer hints and tips. Here are ten more functions to discover on “day two”:
Group Chat: create permanent chat-rooms for participants in an ongoing project.
Prioritise using filters and notifications: filter chat content for any term you choose, and get notified of specific actions or search terms being used.
- Search: through all chat history
- Record everything: chats aren’t the only thing you can record. Video calls and screenshares can be recorded too, and sent direct to you by email as attachments.
- Beat your desk phone: Lync call functionality supports all the services your desk phone offers, including call waiting, hold, forward, transfer, reverse number lookup, and divert to voicemail or Instant Message, as well as more specialised features in some cases like private lines, and caller-definable ringtones.
- Trickle-down availability: Set your availability to automatically trickle-down between different communication tools. If you’re not available for a call, users can be offered a transfer to mobile, then a voicemail, and then Instant Message, for example, as alternatives.
- Create groups: with Lync, no man (or woman) is an island. Group your contacts in whichever way is most convenient. Set ring groups so that specific calls (whether audio, video or text) are routed to whole groups of people, simultaneously or in turn; or indeed forward unanswered calls to single or multiple end points.
- Have Voicemail wherever you want: even delivered to your Outlook email as an attachment.
- Route calls: Using IVR (that’s Interactive Voice Response, or “press one for sales...” to you and me) or even voice recognition to route calls to where they can most easily be answered and efficiently dealt with. Call handling can be completely dynamic, so that routing depends not only on the caller’s selections, but also on the availability of you and your colleagues, or the time of day.
- The headset of your choice: And Lync is compatible with a large range of third party equipment, so you can still wear a comfy headset, earpiece, or mobile phone.
The target exposed
Find out more:
Download a Lync Trial
Find out about Lync in the Cloud with Office 365
Check out Lync for your mobile phone