Category Archives : Lync

All about Lync

Impending Lync Mobile Release

Almost a year after the release of  Lync Microsoft has this week released the server code and supporting documentation for Lync mobile clients, with clients to follow sometime next week.  While the lack of voice and video capabilities has disappointed some within the community I think this release is a good start.

I emphasise that Microsoft hasto view this as a start of the Lync mobile journey and not an end.  Mobile and Tablet adoption is simply moving too fast within the corporate IT system for Lync to fall behind on these devices.  For Lync to justify its licence fee and be the unified communication platform in an enterprise it must provide feature parity with the desktop version.

This is no easy task for Redmond, especially when the Lync team have to go and invest in non Windows platforms.  While the Lync team understand the need for a broad base of clients I’m not so sure this message is well received by their Windows counterparts.  Future Lync mobile and tablets are for another day, lets take a look what Microsoft will be delivering this week.

First off a broad and comprehensive set of clients, including iPhone, iPad, Android, Nokia and Windows Phone.  The Blackberry client was developed by Blackberry themselves.   The iPad and iPhone clients are probably the stand out in terms of look and overall feel.  The functionality revolves around three core components (a much more detailed feature list and comparison can be found below):

  • Corporate address book with the ability to see presence and share instant messaging (individual and multi party).  This is the core element of the clients.
  • Call from work – while voice and video calls can not be started the clients do have the ability to initiate a standard GSM call, with the Lync server calling a mobile/cell upon request by the user.  Single number reach can also be enabled.
  • One click to join Lync conference calls – this will be very popular, attempting to input conference pins on a mobile is a frustrating experience, as long as you have a data connection the mobile client will take all that entry away from you with a single click.
Implementation is not straight forward, changes are required firewalls, certificates and the Front End servers.
Further details can be found in the presentation given to partners yesterday.

Lesson Learned During Adoption Training

Well I guess there is nothing better than receiving very direct and constructive feedback on a session you’ve just performed.  Such feedback has helped focus our adoption training for Lync.  For the past couple of weeks we’ve been on a tour of locations providing an hour of informal introduction to Lync with people from all a Fortune 500 business.  I’d say the organisation we were in was typical of a non tech Fortune 500; a global, educated workforce some of which know IT well and others who don’t.  One important aspect of this organisation is that have a relatively low level of instant messaging uptake even though it is available to all employees.

We found that there were essentially three skills levels within the organisation relating to Lync:

  • Beginners, people who had never logged onto an instant messaging system at work and I would assume at home.
  • The majority, people who do use instant messaging and most likely communicate at home with Skype but require information on how to use features such as voice, video and web conferencing.
  • Advanced users, possibly the smallest constituents but extremely important.  These guys get the technology and are starting to think how they can embed it in business processes.  They typically push us and Microsoft much harder on what the technology can do eg why can’t Skype and Lync share IM’s now?  Why can’t I get fully featured Lync on mobile and iPad now?
In an hour you simply can not cater for all three groups and by attempting to do that you will end up pleasing no one.  So my advice to anyone running either physical or virtual learning sessions is to pre-qualify your audience and ensure you direct people to the right session.  We are now starting to deploy three separate tracks and publishing the level within the invite:
  • 100: Lync for Beginners – for people who have not logged onto the system or have not used features such as voice, video and web conferencing.  In this sessions we introduce how to log on, create contact lists and send IMs for the first time.
  • 200: Using Lync – for people who are comfortable with IM/web conferencing and possibly voice and video but would like to know some of the more advanced features within the client such as external access, call forwarding, team calls, activity streams, federation
  • 300: Advanced - specialist sessions for super or power users who would like to know more about how Lync could be embedded within business process.
I hope the above covers most bases because there is no doubt that user adoption of UC technology is critical to the justification of the business case.  Without tacit support from the user population I’m not sure it is possible to make the numbers stack up.  We are developing more content around the areas above so I’ll keep this blog updated with the type of material we are producing.
btw Lync has a great inbuilt recording feature that we will be utilising as part of this plan.

Lync Mobile Clients: Update

Official details of the Lync mobile clients are drip feeding their way.  Nokia blogged this week that they will have a Lync client for Symbian here.  Windows Phone 7 Mango imminent release will have a Lync client.  Blackberry support Lync with BES5 SP3, with the client available to downloaded on RIM’s app store.

That just leaves Android and iOS news.  MS confirmed they will have official clients available this year and I still expect this to be the case.  So if you are being asked about when Lync will be available on iPhone or Android you shouldn’t have to wait too long to provide an answer.  I would start to plan some time in Q4 to make sure you have some tech time to provide updates to your Lync servers.

I’ve seen some noise around the Lync twitter channels that voice and video will be available this year.  I have seen nothing from Redmond that has pointed at this.  At the moment I would set expectations that IM/Presence and one click to join conferences will be the available features with voice and video sometime in the future.  There are of course unofficial Lync clients providing voice and video.  I’d welcome any insights as to what the business value voice and video provides on mobile.  I have seen some specific use cases but they are aimed at supporting a new business process rather than just providing voice and video on the move.

Lync Mac Client Available 1st October

In a popular move for Mac and Lync users, MS this week have announced that a fully featured Lync client will be included in Office for Mac 2011 from October 1st.

This will be a big win for IT departments wanting to convince senior executives on the value of deploying Lync.  While we know that rational arguments should win out on deploying a large UC system having senior executives, who typically own Macs, seeing and touching Lync in such a feature rich way on their home machine helps to grease the wheels of a large organisation approval process.

Further details can be found here

There is one important point that MS released last week about Lync for Mac.  Full device support will not be available with the client.  While the audio quality will be assured, call control from the headsets will not be.  It will also be interesting to see if the easy switching of multiple devices if supported or not.  For further detail take a look at the blog post from Maura Hameroff here

Skype: Lync’s USP?

I’ve written before that I can see why Microsoft bought Skype at such a high valuation and it has to be based on selling advertising to the billions of potential Skype clients in the future.  What I didn’t fully appreciate at the time is the potential benefit it could have for Lync.  After speaking with end users over the past couple of weeks I’ve found an increasing number of them asking me about the Skype/Lync integration.

So why do I think Skype could be a USP for Lync?

Let me start with a perceived problem: Lync is an extremely powerful and stable UC platform with access to millions of Microsoft desktops yet for all the capability and large Microsoft sales and marketing muscle I don’t think Lync’s potential has been fully taken by Enterprise customers yet.  While there are several reasons for this Skype can help change in a couple of different ways:

  1. I often think that Microsoft and partners have difficulty explaining what Lync is and can do within an Enterprise.  Often saying it’s the corporate Skype is a good start and then gives you space to explain the full Lync capabilities.  In addition Lync advocates can now explain how Skype and Lync fit together within a UC strategy.
  2. Understanding how Skype and Lync fit together really starts to open up the larger opportunities.  When Microsoft integrate Skype and Lync, Lync will be the prime UC technology that works seamlessly and securely with over a billion potential users/customers.  I’ve already had several discussions within the Pharma/Healthcare industry that wish to exploit this type of connectivity:
  • Sales Rep with Lync being able to share IM/voice/video and content with Doctors without having to visit
  • Scientists within Pharma organisations being able to contact students and lecturers within Universities
  • R+D trial leaders being able to contact patients who are taking part in clinical studies

I’m sure every industry could create multiple use cases.  You may also be asking: why couldn’t the Pharma/Heathcare companies just deploy Skype now rather having to deploy Lync?  Most large organisations block Skype due to security concerns and Skype doesn’t sit well with regulatory requirements such as tracking and archiving.

Providing Lync with Skype integration an IT department is enabling significant business value within a controlled and secure communication environment that can meet any regulatory requirements.  Doesn’t that sound like a USP for Lync?

Current Mobile Client Lync Table 1

Here is a list of the existing clients that I know work with Lync.  Interestingly the Damaka client requires only the most Lync Edge to be installed but has the most functionality with Instant Messaging, Presence, Voice and Video.

Enterprise Instant MessagingBlackberryRIMIM and PresenceBES 5 SP3
Lync Edge
DamakaIM, Presence and Voice/VideoLync Edge
iDialogiOSModality SystemsIM and Presence
Existing CWA Service
Lync Edge
Windows Phone 7Windows Phone 7.5 - MangoHome DevelopmentIM and Presence
Bespoke Server with UCMA3.0
Lync Edge

Blackberry Lync Client Available

I’m not sure how many orgainsations will have Lync (with an Edge Server) and BES 5 SP3 in their environment but if you do you are now be able to access Blackberry’s official Lync client.  Unlike Microsoft’s Lync mobile clients which are coming this year the Blackberry client does not require the ‘Mobile’ server, although of course it does require BES 5 SP3.

Link to the client is here

Lync Mobile and Mac client update

While there is still no definitive date set by Microsoft for the official release of Lync mobile client support the smoke signals currently puffing out of Redmond seem to be pointing towards a Q4 2011 release.  It’s looking likely there will not be direct support for Lync mobile clients from the Edge server and a new Mobile Server role will need to be added into the Lync topology.  I’m not entirely sure why this new server role is required.  The Damaka client works well direct from the Edge server for both IM/P, voice and video.  It may well be to reduce the amount of traffic the Lync server sends to the mobile clients.

I’ve heard that iOS devices (iphone and ipad) are currently in a very limited beta trial, I don’t have any information whether RIM and Nokia are on target to release in Q4 and no information on dates for the official MS Lync Android app – I still can’t quite believe the Lync team are going to release an Android client, is it the only example of Microsoft software on Android?  Finishing off the set Windows Phone 7 is due to support Lync in the Mango 7.5 update which is in line with Q4 2011.

Unfortunately if you want voice and video support you will have to pay extra for 3rd Party releases until some undefined time – thought to be 2012.  This is real shame because Lync voice and video on an ipad works very well with the Damaka client and its holding businesses back not being able to fully exploit Lync services from mobile and tablet devices.

One more quick update on the Mac Lync client.  Mac support is currently on an older Wave13 client release but I’ve heard rumours of a Wave14 Mac client being in beta – I haven’t seen it myself and again no timelines on when or even if it will be seen in public.

Appreciate this is lots of ifs and buts but given the Q4 2011 timeline I’m hoping MS will soon release official information on a major element of the Lync experience.