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Living With Lync: 4 Ideas for Enabling the Agile Workplace

Organizations increasingly are adopting or experimenting with agile workspaces, embracing a philosophy that work is an activity not a place. Agile workplaces support working from home and feature the use of flexible and bookable spaces open to all. Agile working incorporates time and place flexibility, and involves doing work differently.

Management consultant Paul Allsop broadly defined the concept of agile working during a 2009 CoreNet Global conference:

Agile working is about bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology, time and place together to find the most appropriate and effective way of working to carry out a particular task. It is working within guidelines (of the task) but without boundaries (of how you achieve it).

    Allsop's definition complements the one I regularly use for collaboration:

    Collaboration is working with one or more people in order to achieve an end goal more quickly or deliver a better quality product or to solve a problem you could not have on your own.

      Given agile workplaces and collaboration programs are both driving improved business outcomes, it shouldn't be surprising that Microsoft Lync, as a strong unified communications and collaboration tool, can help with the journey towards a more agile workplace.

      Making Telephones Mobile
      Lync with enterprise voice, for example, turns all telephones, even those previously constrained to particular locations, into mobile phones.

      With Lync anyone can receive and place business calls from anywhere. You can connect with your clients, your suppliers, or your colleagues not just from in the office but from any location in the office. And, you have equal communications access from home, when traveling, or when working in a different office or at a coffee house. Lync with enterprise voice delivers true communications agility.

      This agility applies not only to individuals but also to functional areas. Switchboard operators or receptionists no longer actually need to be at the office. If you have multiple offices, branches, or locations, then anyone, anywhere can answer and transfer calls to any other individual within your organization.

      Pushing the Boundaries
      If, per Allsop, agile working is about removing boundaries, enterprises that choose Lync as their voice and UC platform have the opportunity to explore extreme agility and work to decimate all time and space restrictions. They can:

      1. Go wireless. Lync can provide rock-solid audio and video on a wired network properly configured to support prioritized real-time traffic (using QoS/CoS techniques).

      Providing voice and video over a wireless connection also improves agility but requires additional work. Microsoft does a good job presenting some of the current challenges based on network cards, device drivers, and wireless access points in this detailed document. On the Office TechCenter, it provides a list of Wi-Fi devices tested with Lync.

      In my experience, most laptops provide great wireless voice while stationary. However, you'll have to do some testing and tweaking of network card drivers and access point configurations to boost voice quality when roaming with a laptop. Providing consistent voice via the Lync mobile client on tablets and smartphones, which have less powerful radios and antennas, especially when roaming, can be challenging, too.

      2. Publish location information. Lync allows you to share your current location, based on privacy relationship settings you control.

       

      portable

       

      When configured to do so, Lync also can "notice" when you have changed locations based on network subnets.

      In an agile workplace, you should encourage users to update their Lync location field -- at a minimum. Optimally you can use your office hoteling, or reservation, system to populate this information. If you want to explore improved location awareness, consider using the ability of wireless access points to track device locations, cross-reference this information to users and populate Lync location information.

      In a non-agile corporate environment, many times I have wandered by an office or cubicle and, seeing a nameplate, have been able to put a face to a name. In agile workplaces, I would recommend that minimally you encourage users to upload Lync pictures and potentially explore electronic nameplates integrated with your office hoteling software.

      3. Support agile federation. Most agile organizations think within their own organizational boundaries. Lync federation allows companies to extend the concept of agility to key clients and suppliers. Achieving an end goal more quickly, with better quality than you could on your own, is even easier when you can seamlessly enlist skills and input outside of your organization. Lync federation makes this possible.

      4. Promote persistent/ambient video. An agile workplace enables, frequently allows, and often promotes working from home. But this can come with a downside, that being a loss of the unexpected positive outcomes that crop up from serendipitous hallway encounters or elevator meetings.

      In your agile workplace, what would happen if you installed a multipaneled video wall in a common area, perhaps a cafeteria or lounge, and then allowed remote workers to enable bidirectional video when they're working? Lync and an auto-answer Unified Communications Managed API, or UCMA, application could easily allow you to explore this possibility.

        1. Go wireless. Lync can provide rock-solid audio and video on a wired network properly configured to support prioritized real-time traffic (using QoS/CoS techniques).

        Providing voice and video over a wireless connection also improves agility but requires additional work. Microsoft does a good job presenting some of the current challenges based on network cards, device drivers, and wireless access points in this detailed document. On the Office TechCenter, it provides a list of Wi-Fi devices tested with Lync.

        In my experience, most laptops provide great wireless voice while stationary. However, you'll have to do some testing and tweaking of network card drivers and access point configurations to boost voice quality when roaming with a laptop. Providing consistent voice via the Lync mobile client on tablets and smartphones, which have less powerful radios and antennas, especially when roaming, can be challenging, too.

        2. Publish location information. Lync allows you to share your current location, based on privacy relationship settings you control.

         

        portable

         

        When configured to do so, Lync also can "notice" when you have changed locations based on network subnets.

        In an agile workplace, you should encourage users to update their Lync location field -- at a minimum. Optimally you can use your office hoteling, or reservation, system to populate this information. If you want to explore improved location awareness, consider using the ability of wireless access points to track device locations, cross-reference this information to users and populate Lync location information.

        In a non-agile corporate environment, many times I have wandered by an office or cubicle and, seeing a nameplate, have been able to put a face to a name. In agile workplaces, I would recommend that minimally you encourage users to upload Lync pictures and potentially explore electronic nameplates integrated with your office hoteling software.

        3. Support agile federation. Most agile organizations think within their own organizational boundaries. Lync federation allows companies to extend the concept of agility to key clients and suppliers. Achieving an end goal more quickly, with better quality than you could on your own, is even easier when you can seamlessly enlist skills and input outside of your organization. Lync federation makes this possible.

        4. Promote persistent/ambient video. An agile workplace enables, frequently allows, and often promotes working from home. But this can come with a downside, that being a loss of the unexpected positive outcomes that crop up from serendipitous hallway encounters or elevator meetings.

        In your agile workplace, what would happen if you installed a multipaneled video wall in a common area, perhaps a cafeteria or lounge, and then allowed remote workers to enable bidirectional video when they're working? Lync and an auto-answer Unified Communications Managed API, or UCMA, application could easily allow you to explore this possibility.

        Agile working improves business efficiency and business outcomes. Lync supports agile working and in so doing drives positive business outcomes.

        Has Lync helped your organization be more agile? If so, I'd like to hear about it. I welcome and endeavor to respond to every comment. Alternatively interact with me in real time via the links below.

        Follow Kevin Kieller on Twitter and Google+!

        @kkieller

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