Date: 10/03/2015

How to solve our biggest communications problem

By Guido Marchetti, cloud solutions specialist, MJ Flood Technology

Communication is at the heart of productivity. Our ability to reach colleagues, partners and customers by phone, instant message or email, dictates the pace at which we work and the pace at which we can get things done.

And if communications are difficult, chances are this has a direct, knock-on effect on decision-making, slowing business processes, and reducing the effectiveness of the enterprise. Speed equates to success and keeping our supply chain or service process – no matter how simple or complex – running lean and mean is where we need to be.

If you sit back and think about it, the process of communications is quite inefficient. We typically have a desk-based landline, mobile phone – which we use for voice, instant messaging, and email – and possibly access to an online video or conferencing application. Some of these can be accessed from a smartphone but that’s not always the case and oftentimes, we have to use separate applications, depending on the medium we want to use.

And if you add to the mix the enterprise cost of managing these siloed applications, you quickly begin to recognise that the cost of communications is about much more than the euro value of the infrastructure we use to deliver it. It’s at the heart of everything we do. If architected in the right way, it has the potential to deliver competitive edge. If not, well let’s not contemplate that particular scenario.

In the first half of 2015, Microsoft will launch a new platform that brings together the power of telephony, voice mail, audio conferencing, video conferencing and instant messaging in one enterprise-grade, easy-to-use application. But it’s already used by more than 300 million of us for messaging, calling and sharing. Its new name is Skype for Business, probably best known to most of you in the business world as Microsoft Lync. And Skype for Business brings together the power of Lync with the user-friendly design approach of Skype.

Skype for Business has gone through quite a metamorphosis since its first iteration as Office Communicator back in 2007. But it’s really once since its most recent reincarnation as Lync with integration into the Office 365 productivity suite, that its unique proposition of combining user-friendly communications with security, compliance and control that organisations have started to embrace the Lync, now Skype for Business platform in their droves.

So we’ve had integrated email, voice mail and instant messaging for quite some time. Many organisations have already broken out Lync for voice traffic through a SIP gateway. There’s nothing new there you might say.

But for me, the beauty and power of Skype for Business is based on the big C – collaboration.

Collaboration is a huge driver within organisations today and video is playing an increasingly important role in helping to achieve collaborative objectives. Small, agile start-ups are using video to draw together engineering talent working from geographically dispersed locations across the globe. Indigenous companies are using video to facilitate their Monday morning sales meetings, negating the need for regional sales executives to drive to the ‘big smoke’ to get their marching orders for the week. Organisations are using video to reduce the cost of sales, by conducting product or service demonstrations via the web.

New service-based industries are also springing up, based on the principle of knowledge sharing. Consider the personal trainer, offering live one-to-one or one-to-many conditioning classes via video to the local community for a monthly subscription charge or the small business offering training and education to technical staff from all over the country.

The potential is enormous and having one cost-effective interface, on either desktop or smartphone or both, to carry the weight of your sales or marketing message can revolutionise the way in which you conduct business. Add to that the power of Office 365 – cloud-based versions of Microsoft’s most powerful software suites in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and SharePoint and you have your entire business in your pocket.

Skype for Business is coming soon but the good news for existing Office 365 customers is that upgrades have become a thing of the past. Once released, the new Skype for Business will be pushed out to Office 365 accounts and you won’t have to do a thing.

Are you going to embrace Skype for Business today?

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