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Taking Lync Into the Conference Room

If you've brought Microsoft Lync into your organization as a tool for instant messaging and presence, like many have, then you probably haven't given much thought to its use for room-based collaboration. But, ultimately, that's exactly where you might find yourself.

Enterprises often begin at IM and presence, possibly with some peer-to-peer voice tossed in. The next stepping stones are audio and Web conferencing, as they make for easy ROI compared against hosted options, Kevin Kieller, partner at enableUC, told attendees of this week's No Jitter Webinar, "Extending the Life of Your Video Investments Through Microsoft Lync" (now available on demand).

At this point, Kieller added, video on Lync might enter the picture, but mostly on a best-effort basis. "Sometimes the network team hasn't been fully engaged to ensure there's reliable delivery."

The more natural follow-on is enterprise voice, first as an option to legacy voice but then as a PBX replacement. In such organizations, Lync handles calls to and from the public switched telephone network (PSTN) via SIP trunks. Lync becomes the sole voice system, sitting atop the unified communications platform.

All is good in this Lync-connected collaborative universe -- as long as the user is tethered to the desktop or on a mobile client. "There's still a problem when people walk into meeting rooms," Kieller said.

What's needed is that last stop along the migration path: Lync as a tool for room-based collaboration, allowing people to collaborate whether in a group meeting face to face or at far-flung locations. "Room-based collaboration, where video has a guaranteed offering, can play a tremendous role," Kieller said.

Quite frankly, however, many organizations aren't really sure how to deliver room-based collaboration via Lync, Kieller said. Ted Colton, a group vice president at Polycom, agreed, noting that investment in the company's dedicated room collaboration solution for Lync has been a little slow, but is on the rise.

Lync on Steroids
In working with enableUC clients, Kieller said he's noticed several trends among organizations that have already made or want to make the leap and use Lync for room-based collaboration. First, they place a strong emphasis on usage and adoption as key performance indicators -- no surprise there, given how important ease of use is for technology adoption. "But when it comes to room-based collaboration, even before ease of use is ease of scheduling," he said.

Users want to know how easily they can book rooms, confident that the equipment matches their needs, for example. Most organizations are looking to do this through their normal Outlook calendars and want seamless integration with other Lync functionality, Kieller added. "They want something that comes into the Lync ecosystem, extends it, and makes it better."

Ideally, users would be able to walk into a conference room and in one click have a Lync collaboration session up and running and drawing in remote participants. And, he added, if the organization is using Lync federation, then that means those remote participants might just as easily be external to the company as internal. In addition, anything the user experiences with Lync while accessing it from a desktop or mobile client should carry forward into the room, be that sharing desktops or documents... or conducting a video meeting.

The expectation is having the same functionality across all modalities, Kieller said. "To a Lync user, it should feel like Lync on steroids."

For IT, this shouldn't be about rip and replacement, he added. Rather, organizations should be able to leverage an existing room-based video system.

Giving Lync Some Love
Establishing Lync's use for room-based collaboration takes more than just good technology, however. Kieller emphasized organizations need to do their due diligence and study the specific use cases that'll provide measurable benefit. In other words, "you have to do a little work to uncover, document and prioritize what your most typical room-based collaboration scenarios are going to look like -- size of audience and where they're most likely to occur, for example," he said.

And, just as with any technology, "the perfect room-based collaboration solution would be supported by the appropriate communications, change management and training," Kieller said. "All three of those are really targeted to make sure your end users understand how to use the equipment and get the most out of the experience."

During the Webinar, in which Colton shared an enterprise case study and details on the Polycom strategy, many attendees who participated in real-time polling said they're already using Lync for voice and are eyeing Lync for video. I'm wondering whether that's reflective of the No Jitter audience at large. Share your Lync strategies in the comments below!

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