Living without Lync: No Thanks!

I’ve been working out of a home office for the past 10 years and although it may not be for everyone, I’d have a hard time going back to being in an office every day. While there are both merits and pitfalls to telecommuting, there is one tool I couldn’t do it without: Lync.

I have to admit, I have a certain bias here. After all, I did just come from 6 years of working at Microsoft where Lync is baked into the company’s corporate culture. When I was interviewing for my current role, I was happy to discover that Compugen is also heavily dependent on Lync and use it to embrace a flexible work place for employees. It weighed nicely in the “Pro” column when considering my options.

Why Lync? Implemented right, it’s more than just a teleconferencing application. For example, it integrates with Exchange, SharePoint and other applications to show presence. When I open up an email or shared document, I can see who is offline (gray dot), busy (red dot), away (yellow dot) or available (green dot) and I can click on the person’s name to email, IM or call them right from my computer.

Presence information in Outlook

Because I’m not physically near my colleagues, being able to see who is available and being able to have multiple ways to easily contact and communicate with them is critical. I don’t want to miss opportunities to have quick chats with a colleague on an issue or ping someone with an idea simply because I’m not in the office around the water cooler.

Through federation, I have similar visibility into the online status of customers, partners and others using federated Lync. With Lync 2013, federation extends to customers, partners, etc who use Skype as well. Even though I’m sitting by myself in my home office, I’m totally connected to all the people that I need to be in order to be productive and effective. All without the daily commute.

Federated contacts in Lync

To be optimally effective on any conferencing software, it helps to have good hardware. In fact, ineffective hardware can be a big barrier to adoption and can make telecommuting very frustrating. I had the opportunity to speak to Jabra, Plantronics and Polycom at the recent Lync Conference in Toronto and each of them have solid Lync optimized options for whatever environment you’re working in.

There are hundreds of hardware options on the market. Here are my two personal favs:

  1. For in my home office, I like to use what I call my Jabra hockey puck. The Jabra SPEAK is optimized for Lync and all I have to do is plug it in to my notebook’s USB port. The call quality is great and people don’t realize that I’m calling through my computer without using a headset. Because it’s a speaker phone, I can get up and stretch without being tethered to my computer or worrying about my glasses or hair getting in the way of an earpiece.clip_image003
  2. For the days when I do go into the office or I’m working from a coffee shop, train, airport or other shared workspace I have been using a Plantronics Voyager Pro Bluetooth headset which I’ve absolutely loved. I’ve never felt like I needed to raise my voice any higher than normal, it’s pretty discreet and it fits over my ear well. However, I was given the latest version, the Voyager Legend, at the Lync Conference and I’m pretty excited to try it out.clip_image004It looks much like my old headset but with a few key improvements. The volume and power buttons are easier to work with and it comes with this great little case that has a rechargeable battery to charge the headset when it’s stored there. How cool is that!clip_image005

So how do you like to work when you’re on the road and mobile? What are your favourite tools? Post a comment below – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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5 thoughts on “Living without Lync: No Thanks!

  1. I agree that Lync is a pretty cool tool and with Federation it’s even more powerful. You are very luck to have the level of integration with your customers. I’m on a small distributed development team right now and we use it to communicate. The problem is stability. It has been really unstable over the last four or five weeks.

    Sometimes it’s just certain pieces of functionality that go out. IM goes down but the Lync calls continue to work. Presence information goes bonkers. People appear to be offline when you’re chatting over IM or on a Lync call with them.

    Ironically, right now. It’s completely down on the MS side. Can’t even log in. We have a ticket open with them.

    It’s a great tool and getting better, but stability of the service is an absolute must have.

    Cheers,
    dave

    • Hey Dave – sorry your Lync isn’t working well right now. That would drive me bonkers! It’s true that with a software solution like Lync versus a traditional PBX, a solid underlying network infrastructure and a well architected implementation are critical to a stable experience. I hope you get it sorted out quickly!

  2. I’ve recently moved from corporate IT to a tech company road warrior, and have found a few things super useful. My current headset of choice is the Motorola Flip Elite. It works great with all my machines and devices – BlackBerry, WP8, Android, Mac and Windows 8. I’ve never had a complaint about call quality that wasn’t related to the signal strength since I started using this headset. Rock solid and it looks pretty schnazzy.

    I use Skype and Rogers One for making phone calls when I’m in the home office or connected to reliable wifi to keep the cell phone bill low.

    Last – a month ago my Bell contract was up for a hardware renewal and I went in and bought a Galaxy Note II, just because I wanted to try out the “phablet” category. It is bit of a monstrosity but I found a benefit I didn’t think about. Battery life! This thing has a 3100mAh battery in it, which translates to 14 hours of my heavy use. On those days I am out the door at 7am and not home until after midnight I swap SIMs and run with this device all day. Not having to constantly search for a power outlet between meetings or at dinners is unbelievably awesome.

    Last tool for on the road is software – a good IM client for keeping in touch with my family is super important. I’ve been using BBM, Touch, Kik and WhatsApp in different ways, and I think WhatsApp has won me over for its true cross platform support. I often need to send that “Meeting is running late” or “Dinner with clients last minute” message to home, and I need to see that it’s a message that’s been received. BBM is my go to whenever my BlackBerry is in hand, but WhatsApp is on everything else.

  3. Pingback: Living without Lync: No Thanks! - Morton-ology - Life in a creative, technology-filled world

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