Bringing your workforce together

Article Jonathan Bray Jan 10, 2012

The challenges of the modern workplace are diverse and many, but none are more challenging than the increasing prevalence of teleworking. Many workers now have the right to request it, and employers are under a legal obligation to seriously consider such flexible working, but it doesn’t make integrating those workers into the day-to-day office routine any easier.

That’s what Lync Online is aimed at helping with. One of the key components of Office 365, Lync Online brings several different types of commonly used office communications tools and ties them up in one, integrated service.

What can it do?

At its most basic, Lync can be used as an IM tool, for sending quick messages back and forth between colleagues. But it’s much more than just that. In a matter of seconds, you can go from instant message to voice and even face-to-face video communications, just like Skype.

The system can be integrated with public IM, so your workers can talk, not only to colleagues, but also to customers using Windows Live Messenger.

It isn’t just a tool for one-to-one communications, though. You can use Lync to set up online meetings, complete with a virtual “whiteboard” – a shared note-taking area everyone in the meeting can type ideas into. Members of Lync Online meetings can even share their desktop – useful for presentations and demonstrations.

Even external contacts can join meetings – include them in your meeting request and they’re sent a link to join via a web client – and they can dial in on the telephone too, although this requires a Microsoft-approved, third-party service.

Integration

The real power of Lync Online, however, lies not in its features list, impressive thought that is, but in the way it’s integrated throughout the Office 365 suite. Want to set up an online meeting at a certain time in the future? You don’t have to set up the meeting in Outlook to remind all those involved and initiate the session in Lync separately – you can simply click a button in Outlook, schedule it, invite attendees, set reminders and check others’ calendars for free time, just as you would any normal appointment.

The same goes for simple one-to-one conversations, which can also be initiated directly from Outlook. Microsoft’s Presence system, meanwhile – a kind of traffic light system users can employ to indicate their availability for calls and meeting – also permeates the Office 365 system. If you receive an email from a colleague who’s out of the office or working from home, for example, a coloured indicator is displayed at the top of the message, so you can see instantly if that contact is available for a quick conversation.

Lync Online is a great way to provide communications within your business, and best of all, all these features are included as standard with all versions of Office 365, so it’s very cost effective. In effect you’re getting a full communications package included for a simple monthly per user tariff – all you need to add is an internet connection and a laptop or PC, and you’re ready to go.