When discussing collaboration technologies today we frequently hear about the field of Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC). By itself, Unified Communications refers to the integration of real-time communication services such as instant messaging, presence information, email, screen sharing, whiteboarding, and audio, video, and web conferencing. However, the market realities imposed by the rapid growth in recent years of social, cloud, and mobile technologies as well as BYOD has meant a shift towards a more integrated model. Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) reflects this joining together of business collaboration and communication services in order to offer employees real-time interaction anywhere, anytime, and on any device.
Microsoft is one major enterprise company that has innovated heavily in the UCC space in recent years. We’ve already discussed Yammer as an enterprise social network service that helps people collaborate in real-time across departments and time zones in order to optimize processes and improve workflows. Another integral part of Microsoft’s platform for Unified Communications and Collaboration is Lync. Let’s take a look under the hood to see what this unique tool has to offer business customers today.
Lync is a fully integrated communications and collaboration client that provides instant messaging (IM), audio and video calls, Lync Meetings, presence information, and data sharing capabilities all from one, easy-to-use location. While many people associate Lync with its earlier life as primarily an instant messaging platform, the current version of Lync 2013 has many more features and offers a variety of benefits to make business communications more effective and efficient.
Some of the major features that Lync offers are outlined below:
- Instant messaging (IM): Send quick messages to an individual or group.
- Presence: Show or view availability based on your calendar or IM status; integrates with Outlook and Microsoft Office suite.
- Audio chat and desktop videoconferencing: Communicate through audio and/or video with two or more participants.
- Document and screen sharing: Collaborate with your colleagues to write and edit documents in real-time.
- Whiteboarding: Pull up a blank page and instantly brainstorm with your team by typing, drawing, or importing images, which can then be saved for later reference.
- Online meetings (Web conferencing): Schedule an online meeting through Outlook, and manage it with a presentation, integrated chat, whiteboards, and more.
- Mobile: Set your status, send IMs, or view contacts with the Lync app on your smartphone or tablet; integrates with iOS, Android, and, of course, Windows.
Let’s say you’re editing a quarterly report that requires input from several colleagues. You’ve been used to having them email the changes to you, but this process is so cumbersome and increases the risk of losing the most recent updates. Lync’s screen sharing feature makes it easy to edit the document with your coworkers in real-time and avoids the incessant back and forth emails.
Or perhaps you’d like to have a brainstorming session at your morning huddle but some of your team is working remotely. Not a problem! Just pull up Lync’s whiteboard feature and you’ll instantly have the ability to invite other meeting participants to type, draw, or import images that can then be saved and referred to later.
And if you have a question for a contact in another department but don’t want to send an email, you just need to view their “presence” and send a quick chat.
These are just some of the many ways Lync can help your organization work more collaboratively and efficiently in your day-to-day work.
The Lync platform is very reasonably priced as well. The Lync Online Plan 2 option bundled with Office 365 Pro Plus provides all the advanced meeting features you will need and runs a mere $17.50/month or $210/year. Comparison with GoToMeeting and WebEx shows that Lync is less than half the price of these other solutions.
At the end of the day, Lync provides a powerfully efficient and cost-effective way for organizations to optimize their workflows and to make collaboration more intuitive, simple, and fun.
So far throughout this series we’ve discussed cloud-based file sharing, enterprise social networking, and integrated real-time communication as some of the viable solutions for improving workflows and collaboration effectiveness. In the next and final segment we’ll look at how you can enhance your organization’s project collaboration strategy today with Basecamp.