Wednesday morning, I was involved in a business process that, over the course of four hours illustrated one of the points I plan to talk about at the AIIM Conference next month in New Orleans – the way we work and the way we need to work. While we worked through our issue, I was following some comments about an article from Cisco, regarding all the ways they think Microsoft Lync is inferior to their product. Ironically, the Cisco conversation underscores a second point of my presentation. OK, before this gets too hypothetical, let’s get to the story.
One of our engineers contacted the SharePoint designer on my team, asking if she could create a place for him to store some information about the sites we insure. They realized that the best place was on a site that we are building for our Emergency Response group. Our designer looped me into a message exchange and a phone call via Lync, and we all exchanged emails amongst ourselves, the ER group and our Systems Administrator. The interesting thing is that my SharePoint designer was in Florida on vacation, the engineer was working from home and the people in the ER group were traveling. Not only did it not stop us from making progress, I was the only one that realized that I was the only one of us in the office!
We often here about how remote workers need access to company information in order to do their job. In addition, we hear (and talk) about how well SharePoint helps us to meet that important requirement. But providing remote access isn’t the same as supporting remote workers. In order to allow remote workers to work, we have to provide an environment in which they can conduct business, not just read, write and store digital content. Of course, we have email, but email is too slow and lacks the functionality to support remote work. Remote work often requires a fluid conversation, and email can’t deliver that experience. Messaging systems can, and that’s what we use Lync for. Here’s a short list of what we could do via Lync, as we worked on this micro project:
- Message Traffic – Instant messaging is a conversation exchange of information. It’s fast, easy and the conversation can be opened up to more people as necessary.
- Voice – When a complicated question came up during our project, my designer simply called me (added voice) to the discussion. We talked for a while and then we dropped back to text messages.
- Screen Sharing – We frequently run into questions like “how do I give (person) access to read the contents of this library?” The answer is “here, let me show you” followed by a screen-sharing session. Again, this can be between two people or the entire group. In addition, I can share my screen with you, or you can give me control of your screen.
- Video – While it wouldn’t have been helpful in this exercise, we can also add video to a Lync conversation if it adds value.
In my presentation, I have a slide that speaks to “using technology” as being something Information Professionals have to do in order to further our collective cause. It doesn’t make any sense to own all this stuff and then postpone a meeting until we can all be in the same room. The other point that I make is that you should use “whomever” works. My SharePoint designer was on vacation, but she was available. If she hadn’t been available, I could have snagged my Systems Administrator. Lync lets me know their status by the Presence indicator, which is another powerful feature of unified messaging.
The point that the Cisco Twitter discussion supports has to do with the pace of decision making today. Simply put:
- We don’t have time to be late adopters – Technology changes too fast to take a wait and see attitude. By the time we are done analyzing the current offerings, something new has been released. We have to be better at defining our actual requirements, and then move toward meeting them.
- Imperfect solutions aren’t a type of failure – There’s an old saying “perfect is the enemy of good” which has long governed the work that I do. It’s not that I don’t want to deliver quality solutions, but there can be a big difference between a solution that is good enough and one that is perfect. Also, given the pace of change, the bar of perfection is constantly being raised.
- The cost of doing nothing – While you’re waiting for the perfect solution, you are living without the benefit of the good solution you could have.
We looked at Microsoft Lync, and we looked at Cisco’s solution several years ago (before Lync was called Lync) and we chose Microsoft. Does Cisco do some things better? Who cares, Lync works for us.