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US Virgin Islands government connects dispersed employees with Lync Online

Today’s post was written by Reuben D. Molloy, director of the Bureau of Information Technology and chief information technology officer for the Government of the US Virgin Islands.

Within the government of the United States Virgin Islands, the Bureau of Information Technology (BIT) works hard to make it easier for government employees to do their jobs effectively. One way we do this is by actively exploring and implementing innovative new technologies. One of our big successes was deploying 3,350 seats of Microsoft Office 365 to give our users access to a robust suite of cloud-based applications for email, collaboration, document sharing  and communication.

USVIBecause government employees are spread across 30 different agencies on three of our islands, we need to give them tools that make it easy to work closely together, even if they are physically far apart. With Microsoft Lync Online, they can use instant messaging, audio and video for one-to-one chats or group conferences.

In the past, government employees often had to travel between islands to attend meetings together, but with Lync Online they can join a conference on another island without ever leaving their desks. We use Lync Online in our Polycom videoconferencing rooms to make it easy for presenters to share their materials on both systems simultaneously. That way, users who are in the room and users who are connected remotely with Lync Online are always on the same page.

As a result, we’ve significantly cut back the number of interisland trips we need to make, and that saves us both money and time. Personally, I used to split my week between my office in St. Thomas and my main office in St. Croix. Now I don’t go to St. Thomas every week—if I need to attend a meeting there, I just use Lync Online. And the same holds true no matter where I am. We recently had an important presentation from our local Microsoft team, but I was in Oklahoma at the time. Thanks to Lync Online, I could fully participate, just as if I were back in the office.

We also use Lync Online for meetings with our vendor partners and our private cloud hosting company, and we conduct training sessions via Lync Online. Because we’re basically a Microsoft shop, we communicate regularly with our local Microsoft team, so we’ve gone a step further to facilitate that communication. We’ve established Lync Federation with their office, which lets us chat and conference with them as though we’re all on the same network without the need for users to set up special connections.

Part of our mission within the BIT is to change the culture of computing within the government. This means not only introducing powerful new tools and streamlining our IT processes, but also getting our users to look at communication and collaboration in new ways. For example, not all users are comfortable at first using video for calls and conferences—they’re used to communicating in writing or by phone, and may feel a bit odd being seen. At BIT we try to lead by example, so when I place a Lync call, I make it a point to turn on my video, and more and more of my coworkers are now doing the same.

While the chat and conferencing options are great, Lync Online offers additional features that have made big changes in the way we run our help desk. In the past, technicians would travel from office to office to troubleshoot and repair problems. Now they have access to desktop sharing, which lets them see exactly what is happening on a user’s screen as part of a Lync Online session. If necessary, they can go a step further and use desktop control to remotely take over the user’s computer and make changes directly.

These days, more and more of our users want to be able to work on mobile devices. With the Lync Mobile app, they can take advantage of the great features in Lync Online from a Windows Phone, or an iOS and Android-based smartphone or tablet. Just the other day I had a conference call with colleagues on both coasts of the United States, and I joined in from a hotel room on St. Thomas using Lync Mobile on my Windows Phone. Even though we were all thousands of miles apart, we were able to complete our business easily and efficiently thanks to Lync.

We’re very proud to be an early government adopter of Office 365, and we’re proud of the fact that our employees now have the tools they need to be more engaged, more productive, and more satisfied with their jobs. And by making them happier and more efficient we are helping the government run more smoothly, and ensuring that our citizens and visitors receive the highest possible level of service.

— Reuben D. Molloy



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