By Keith Miles, MBA, President of Streamlined Management Group Inc.
Comment from Editor: We included this article from an associate of ours to give our readers some understanding of what and how next generation UC solutions can help improve business results. We encourage all vendors to ask their clients for feedback and use these customer stories to help educate the sales force to think about things from the customer view first.
From Google Apps to Microsoft Lync
One of the benefits of networking is the ability to chat with and learn from other consulting professionals. I decided to do that by reaching out to a long-time friend of mine, Roberta Fox, Chairman of FOX GROUP Technology Consulting.
During my visit to their high-tech executive work/life facility, Roberta (or Robbie as I used to call her in our teen-age years) showed how she and her group work together as a distributed mobile team. They use next generation unified communications (UC for short) that brings together telephony, email, video conferencing, document sharing and editing, calendaring and contacts all together, usable across any various computing and telephone devices. She demonstrated how they use their hosted cloud Microsoft Office 365 and Lync Telephony solution (provided by ThinkTel) to work with clients and her distributed team of professional technology consultants.
Because of the demo and a few Lync-enabled meetings with Roberta and some other people who use Lync regularly, I decided to convert my own management consulting company from Google apps for business to Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise/Lync telephony. I chose ThinkTel to provide the full Lync portfolio on a monthly, managed basis. I added multimedia computer capabilities to enable me to take advantage of the full collaboration capabilities by adding a Logitech c930e webcam and Bluetooth headset at each station.
Unprepared for the Impact on My Business Life
My company stays current – or so I thought. After all, we invented a breakthrough way to rapidly improve business performance – to permanently raise strategy execution and employee engagement in weeks, not months. We call this the SMG Observable Change™ Business Performance Improvement System.
As a result, my colleagues are unique, talented executives that are unfortunately rarely local. Like other professional service firms, our toolbox consisted of Microsoft Office and lots of emails, calls and road/air travel. Other standalone apps we tried for productivity’s sake did not really make a difference so they faded away.
We, of course, traveled to meet sales prospects, but also to meet face-to-face to work out new ways to accelerate client performance. In hindsight, we had not changed how we operated for years.
Now I feel like we have come out of the dark ages. I am normally unfazed by sales hype – the value to my business that UC (365E/Lync Telephony) represents took me by surprise.
Let me highlight a few of the reasons, then I’ll share a couple of thoughts:
Breadth of Productivity and Information Sharing Tools
The Office 365 Enterprise suite of apps represents the latest of Microsoft’s core products, but now many are usable, host-able within SharePoint, with apps like One Note and Info Path helping people capture ideas and impressions from others. OneDrive means in-process work is ever accessible wherever we find ourselves.
New Work Options for Business Relationships
The Lync-optimized Logitech c930e’s video is so sharp, lag free (due to in-camera video processing), and with a 90-degree field of view, it means more than just offering clients a video of my head – attractive or not. The wide-angle, crystal-clear HD output IMPO (in my perfectionist opinion) is professional enough to put the camera on a tripod and facilitate a meeting with me standing beside my office whiteboard. This is far closer to telepresence-quality interaction than I ever expected at a fraction of the cost.
Yes, personal meetings are important to start business relationships but Lync and this camera have opened our eyes to a new range of alternative interactions that could deliver sufficient extra-verbal content to consider conducting sales meetings using them.
Quality of Tools and Professional Brand Impact
The brand consistency and templates you can build and reinforce using the combination of applications, documents, and collaborative means (messaging, audio, & video) is outstanding. As we adjust them to match our corporate graphic standard, these tools will enhance our business’ brand and convey our team’s professionalism.
UC Enabled Devices
From PC to tablet, smartphone or desktop SIP phone, we can now work from anywhere and capture images, reactions, and share them instantly within our work or social connections, all with the same common interface.
Improved Quality of Interaction
We can now build layers of interaction to enhance work or non-work personal experiences. From HD video conferencing for individuals to groups to audio to messaging to virtual whiteboards to screen sharing to SharePoint team editing with full document versioning – the variety of quality-enhancing ways are helping us do a better job for our clients with less time and effort.
Positive Impact on Time/Productivity
Everything we create is closer, the number of barriers, the irritations that slowed our creative output have been significantly reduced and/or eliminated.
My available productive time multiplied as I realized the time I previously spent in travel, coordinating meetings and synchronizing work files was now available for development, collaboration, or billable client work.
During our initial week with the full Lync Portfolio I oversaw the migration, signed a new client, and still billed 20+ hours of time with a remote client who was at 4.5 hours flying time away – probably 7 hours door-to-door (considering traffic, waiting, and car rentals). The good news is that the travel time was MY time saved to be able to do other tasks that improve my business and quality of life.
Working with my remote client, I shared desktops, created a custom SharePoint site for their project, set up, and hosted an Access database on my corporate site to facilitate future analysis.
What is Next in My UC Journey?
I am planning to trade in my well-traveled iPhone for a Windows-based mobile phone in a couple of days. I thought I might have to wait for mobile payments. However, upon reflection, I care less about my phone issuing payments, and more about my phone enabling me to generate more billings (and in turn paying me!). I strive to make every minute count when I am working so I can spend more time not working.
The ThinkTel “Think365” combination of Office 365 Enterprise and telephony enabled Lync (or Skype for Business as Microsoft is now calling Lync) has created a high-speed, high-capacity, and outcome-enhancing work eco-system where ideas can be communicated and converted into action with less friction and time.
Leaders can now lead, communicate, and hasten outcomes with less wasted time. Talented staff can deliver more since they no longer have to transition and combine work artifacts from dissimilar applications and platform when working with other contributors.
This migration to Lync has raised our level of productivity, changed our view of time and distance with clients, and has opened new possibilities of collaboration.
While it has only been a month, my clients and I see a completely new level of enthusiasm in work together. I cannot wait to see what is possible and the business results we discover over the next year.