Next week sees the kick off for TechEd New Zealand 2014, the annual Microsoft conference for developers and IT professionals. So we’ve put together a few thought starters below on why there is such a powerful link (no pun intended!) between unified collaboration and Microsoft Lync.
If you need help convincing the IT decision makers inside your organisation about the benefits of MS Lync, then read on. We hope you find it useful and welcome your thoughts.
If you are based in NZ and heading to TechEd, make sure you check out our stand, located in ‘The Hub’. If MS Lync is on your radar, have a chat with our NZ team who will be showcasing our latest unified collaboration solutions for Lync and catching up with customers and partners. They can help deepen your understanding of our technologies and demonstrate how they will help your organisation work smarter.
The link between MS Lync and video collaboration
Today’s workplace collaboration has morphed into a combination of verbal communication, shared documentation and enhanced video experiences. Many organisations are choosing to expand upon their existing investments in Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Exchange by rolling out unified communications (UC) with Microsoft Lync. The opportunities for improved collaboration using a UC solution that works natively with Microsoft Lync are significant. If Microsoft is your collaboration platform and you are thinking about embarking on a Lync enabled UC journey, then consider these points:
Addressing Network Complexity
An essential part of creating a UC strategy that works within a Microsoft Lync environment is creating the right network infrastructure. Instead of having isolated worlds where the key collaboration platform and video conferencing solution operate independent of each other, the content and communication worlds connect to create a seamless end-user experience. This allows users to focus on what they are seeing and hearing instead of worrying about how the technology works - which also means less pressure on IT resources. It is challenges like this that have been traditional barriers to entry – if it doesn’t work easily, people get fed up and revert to traditional ways of communicating.
Simplifying the User Experience Ensures Anyone Can ‘Fly the Plane’
To drive adoption of any new UC environment you must focus on creating a user experience that is so simple that anyone can use it from anywhere and on any device. Most users are already familiar with Microsoft’s operating systems and software. So, the migration to video collaboration is far less daunting when it merges seamlessly with what they already know – familiar user controls with integrated address books and calendars provide comfort to users. An essential platform for simplification is driven by a common security and identity model. If your people need to log in more than once, using multiple passwords, then it’s possibly too cumbersome and it’s likely they won’t use it.
Boosting Your Bandwidth
If you are investing in video you need to make sure your network’s bandwidth can cope. Integrated video collaboration will increase the demands on your network therefore network configuration and prioritisation will need to be reviewed. Bandwidth size will depend on how you plan to use the system and your reseller can help you assess this.
Understanding Which Microsoft Lync System is Right for You
There are three areas to think about here:
Telephony: This is where we’ve seen the majority of adoption among New Zealand Lync customers and it represents a great entry point which can be added to if needs change at a later date. New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) recently deployed a Polycom and Microsoft Lync telephony based solution, including replacing multiple aging PBX systems with a connected UC system.
Video: How do you want to deploy video within your Lync environment? Is it one-to-one video via desktop or are you looking to integrate desktops with room based systems and mobile devices? Take the time to think through where video can improve collaboration by job function and the location of your people (mobility workers versus office based teams).
Content Management: Will you need a system that’s enabled for messaging, presence and conferencing? Or will you also need voice and video to share content and collaborate? Integration with Microsoft’s productivity suites and SharePoint delivers the potential for creating an end-to-end content solution. Think about how people work and share information within your organisation and any existing communication roadblocks that need to be overcome.
Leveraging Your Existing IT Investments
Creating a Microsoft Lync UC environment also helps protect your current IT investments, as in many cases you will not need to invest in new technology but can easily integrate with existing solutions. This delivers value for money against investments already made. The delivery of a common Microsoft user interface also means that you will save money on training and support costs due to user familiarity.
Remember, the nature of any emerging technology or movement is that it is heterogeneous and the value is in that. A unified communications environment integrated with Microsoft Lync will drive productivity across your organisation, no matter where people are and what devices they are using.
Finally, Five Things to Think About When ‘Making the Call’ on MS Lync
Investment Protection: Having interoperable solutions protects the current investment of the customer – video and UC investments can be scaled to meet a company’s requirements.
Ease of Use: Companies get a common user interface so adoption rates are typically higher, there is less pressure on training requirements, and it keeps support costs lower.
True Interoperability: Given the multitude of IT solutions on offer, companies often operate a heterogeneous IT environment – having true interoperability alleviates the complexity associated with this.
Video Dial-Tone: If we are serious about enabling companies to make a video call as seamlessly as an audio call – UC vendors need to deliver interoperable solutions that work in tandem with existing end-user deployments.
Open Standards: Business value is no longer defined by the individuals who sit behind a company’s firewall or wear a company badge. The technology infrastructure that enables them is equally as important, so it is essential to ensure that solutions are based on open standards.
Find full details about Microsoft TechEd NZ 2014, taking place 9-12 September, on the event website.
“Do you have a minute to chat?” How many times have all of us had this or a similar message pop up in an IM as we go about our work day?
Thanks to the proliferation of Unified Communications tools like Microsoft Lync, most of us will see this at least a few times a week. It has become the virtual equivalent of knocking on your colleague’s office door. And while it is a great tool, it has its limitations:
The recipient may be working on 2-3 other things and only giving you half their attention when they respond
For more than a quick/simple question, back and forth asynchronous typing is not efficient
IM's can often be taken out of context because, even with the cutest emoticons ( ;-p ), we miss out on tone, facial expression, and body language
Enter video. And obviously along with video comes voice. With a simple right click in most UC clients, we can now extend that quick virtual door knock into a full fledged virtual hallway meeting. And with another quick click, we bring in another colleague for a virtual team huddle. More formal meetings can easily be scheduled using Outlook and include everyone from mobile users on smartphones and tablets, to those in conference rooms, or even full-blown immersive telepresence rooms. All can easily collaborate over video.
Take a look at Polycom's quick 20 minute webinar discussing “The Top 5 Reasons to Add Video to Your Lync Deployment”.
We shared trends and highlighted how organizations from all sorts of industries and markets are improving their organization with video collaboration. No sales pitches, no boring product specs – just 20 minutes of great examples and Q&A about Lync and Polycom video.
Polycom RealPresence One is not a new solution. It does not provide new features or experiences. Yet, it is one of our most important releases ever. RealPresence One is a new package of the entire Polycom solution and experience, provided to our customers in a very simple format for exactly the size of deployment they need.
So, what does it include? In a word, everything.
The complete Polycom end user experience
Highest quality video, audio and content collaboration
From any device or environment – room systems, laptops, tablets, smartphones, browsers
Connect to anyone regardless of network or technology
Fit to your workflow, whether you use scheduling, presence, or ad hoc Virtual Meeting Rooms
Superior ease of use to book, connect, and manage calls
The best in call experiences with advanced camera options, SmartPairing technology, and more to ensure that seeing, hearing and sharing with the far side is as natural as possible
The complete Polycom IT experience
Scalability, reliability, and security provided by the RealPresence Platform
The industry’s best native interoperability with any UC environment
Complete centralised management of the solution
A 100% software solution that is easily deployed in your existing virtualised data center
Complete deployment of your solution
Polycom Adoption Services and Adoption Portal to drive utilisation and maximise ROI
Monthly reporting on utilisation and benchmarking to ensure you get the most out of your investment and track its growth
Best in class maintenance and support
Complete software upgrades to ensure you always have the latest solutions and capabilities from Polycom
Customers no longer have to choose which pieces of the solution they need or can afford. No more compromises on capability or the experience. You get it all.
Nor do customers have to overbuild their deployment any longer and hope it gets utilised. You buy it for exactly the usage you need and easily grow as utilisation increases. Buy the full Polycom experience for 50 users now. You need to add 20 more users further down the track? No problem.
Customers no longer have to budget for big, one time capital outlays. RealPresence One allows customers to maximise their cash flow and Opex budgets with a per-user, annual subscription model.
Polycom RealPresence One is the most complete, most flexible solution on the market. There has been a lot of hype and confusion created by a number of new entrants in the market. RealPresence One clears up the confusion by providing the complete, superior Polycom experience you want combined with the business models you now expect, all provided by the vendor that you trust.
I apologise if this sounded a bit like a sales pitch. I just truly believe in this new offering and I want to make sure everyone understands why it is so great. RealPresence One is the most significant launch I have seen at Polycom in over 10 years. And it makes me wish I was back in sales!
I recently returned from a two week trip where I met with customers, partners, and Polycom sales teams in Korea, China, and Singapore. Being currently based in Melbourne, Australia this was my first trip to each of these countries with Polycom and it was eye opening. It was interesting to learn about all of the little nuances of how customers use Unified Communications and Collaboration in each country and what they focus on. It was quite different to what I have been used to in Australia/NZ.
In China, 1080p60fps is the entry requirement for video collaboration. If your solution does not support this, you will be lucky to get a second look. The Chinese like the reliability of hardware and see pure software as risky. And PSTN conference phones are still a huge part of our business there due to government regulations against public VoIP.
In Korea, separate web-based booking portals are the norm for setting up a video conference. Everything is booked, and ad hoc collaboration has not taken off yet. Users expect to walk into the room and for the system to be up and running without any intervention. IT workers take the place of automation.
And in Singapore, there is a focus on multi-purpose rooms and work spaces due to the high cost of facilities. Full integration into UC platforms and BYOD strategies is the norm.
But, despite these big differences, one thing remains the same – what creates value for our customers is not any of these specific requirements; it’s the total experience and what can be done with these solutions. In each country, we work with our customers to show them how we can provide a complete end-to-end experience for their users and how we can apply these to specific national and international business scenarios. It’s about how we can seamlessly integrate our technology into the way their employees work, and naturally embed remote collaboration into their business. It’s about how they apply these experiences to transform their business.
So, while the different requirements in each region are important, they are not what determine the success of our customers. In all cases, it still comes down to finding the right application of UC&C technology and providing a great end user experience.
Cisco has recently announced that it will make the H.264 codec available for free. As someone who knows the industry and the technologies, I immediately get excited about this news. But, I know many others who have asked “what the heck does this mean and why should I care?” I will try to quickly summarize and let you know why this is a good thing.
WebRTC is an emerging technology that makes it possible to do video collaboration over the internet very easily. It can be embedded in web pages and is very easy for developers to use. Google and Firefox are leading the deployment by using this in their solutions, meaning that it could become a leading standard for video on the internet.
The current/previous issue with WebRTC is that it is not a complete, ratified standard. There is a lot of argument about what some of the core technologies/standards used as part of WebRTC should be. One major concern is interoperability with other video collaboration solutions and technologies. For interoperability, the simple answer would be to use standard codecs (video encoding technologies, or “video engines” if you will) like H.264 as the core for WebRTC. However, developers have pushed back against this due to the fact that H.264 is a patented technology owned by someone (MPEG LA) that charges a royalty for use. With the potential scale of deployment, these royalties could be significant for small developers and startups. So, developers were pushing for free open-source technologies, but this would mean less interoperability.
Cisco has now announced that they will essentially cover the royalties and make the H.264 source code available to developers for free. This move is a great thing for the industry. This means that the royalty fees are no longer an inhibitor to using H.264 as a core technology in WebRTC. Hopefully this will allow the ratification of WebRTC as a true standard to move more quickly. And hopefully it will mean that WebRTC will have H.264 embedded. This remains to be seen, but is now much more likely. This will mean a huge proliferation of apps and websites with standards based video collaboration embedded, allowing them to connect with the millions of standards based video systems deployed around the world.
With Polycom's vision of video being ubiquitous, this now opens the gates further to this becoming a reality. This is great for our customers as we strive to make simple, high quality collaboration available for everyone. This will open up an amazing world of possibilities for how we can use collaboration to improve the business of our customers and the lives of the users.
It is great to see Cisco joining the standards party. Polycom has been providing royalty free video and audio technologies available to the industry and standards bodies for decades (G.722, G.719, H.264SVC) and it is good to see others doing it as well.
So, that is my simple man take on this news. Techies, please forgive me if I have oversimplified or made some technical errors or stretches. Don't blame me, I'm a marketing guy after all!
If you would like to get more insight into this news, please see these entries from the Polycom Techie Blog: