Living without Lync: No Thanks!

[Cross-posted from the Compugen ITbuzz blog]

I’ve been working out of a home office for the past 10 years and although it may not be for everyone, I’d have a hard time going back to being in an office every day. While there are both merits and pitfalls to telecommuting, there is one tool I couldn’t do it without: Lync.

I have to admit, I have a certain bias here. After all, I did just come from 6 years of working at Microsoft where Lync is baked into the company’s corporate culture. When I was interviewing for my current role, I was happy to discover that Compugen is also heavily dependent on Lync and use it to embrace a flexible work place for employees. It weighed nicely in the “Pro” column when considering my options.

Why Lync? Implemented right, it’s more than just a teleconferencing application. For example, it integrates with Exchange, SharePoint and other applications to show presence. When I open up an email or shared document, I can see who is offline (gray dot), busy (red dot), away (yellow dot) or available (green dot) and I can click on the person’s name to email, IM or call them right from my computer.

Presence information in Outlook

Because I’m not physically near my colleagues, being able to see who is available and being able to have multiple ways to easily contact and communicate with them is critical. I don’t want to miss opportunities to have quick chats with a colleague on an issue or ping someone with an idea simply because I’m not in the office around the water cooler.

Through federation, I have similar visibility into the online status of customers, partners and others using federated Lync. With Lync 2013, federation extends to customers, partners, etc who use Skype as well. Even though I’m sitting by myself in my home office, I’m totally connected to all the people that I need to be in order to be productive and effective. All without the daily commute.

Federated contacts in Lync

To be optimally effective on any conferencing software, it helps to have good hardware. In fact, ineffective hardware can be a big barrier to adoption and can make telecommuting very frustrating. I had the opportunity to speak to Jabra, Plantronics and Polycom at the recent Lync Conference in Toronto and each of them have solid Lync optimized options for whatever environment you’re working in.

There are hundreds of hardware options on the market. Here are my two personal favs:

  1. For in my home office, I like to use what I call my Jabra hockey puck. The Jabra SPEAK is optimized for Lync and all I have to do is plug it in to my notebook’s USB port. The call quality is great and people don’t realize that I’m calling through my computer without using a headset. Because it’s a speaker phone, I can get up and stretch without being tethered to my computer or worrying about my glasses or hair getting in the way of an earpiece.clip_image003
  2. For the days when I do go into the office or I’m working from a coffee shop, train, airport or other shared workspace I have been using a Plantronics Voyager Pro Bluetooth headset which I’ve absolutely loved. I’ve never felt like I needed to raise my voice any higher than normal, it’s pretty discreet and it fits over my ear well. However, I was given the latest version, the Voyager Legend, at the Lync Conference and I’m pretty excited to try it out.clip_image004

It looks much like my old headset but with a few key improvements. The volume and power buttons are easier to work with and it comes with this great little case that has a rechargeable battery to charge the headset when it’s stored there. How cool is that!clip_image005

So how do you like to work when you’re on the road and mobile? What are your favourite tools? Post a comment below – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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