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Collaboration possibilities with Lync 2013 preview release

Unified Communication (UC) platform provides a real-time collaboration experience for the enterprise and its customers.  Apart from unified messaging and presence notifications, a UC platform provides business process integration, conferencing capabilities and integrated collaboration tools. Microsoft's first major UC platform release was OCS 2005 and has recently announced the release of Lync 2013 preview along with the Microsoft Office 2013 suite of products.  See my previous blog on Microsoft's earlier release, Lync 2010.

Here we check out the new features available with Lync 2013 and also will see how these developments in the unified communication platform is going to change the way enterprises collaborate.

Lync 2013 Features

Lync 2013 has added many features on top of Lync 2010.

1. Multiparty HD Video and content sharing
    - Multiple videos and contents by different participants could be displayed.
    - Identifies the active user.
2. Federation with Skype
    - Lync-to-Skype federation is going to open up a new door for enterprises looking for collaborating with a larger consumer-base.
3. New Lync meetings features for the presenter
    - Multiple programs can be shared now.
    - Power point presentations with video clips are supported.
    - PowerPoint deck can reviewed privately and can then switch to presenter mode.
4. Lync Mobile with Lync client support for Windows Phone, iOS and Android devices
   - Collaboration capabilities extended to mobile devices as well.
5. Lync for mobile clients
    - Lync clients available for Windows Phone, iPad, iPhone and Android devices.
   - Doesn't require Virtual Private Network (VPN). Connectivity possible through corporate network or through the mobile service provider data channel.
6. Full IPv6 support
7. Persistent Chat rooms and topic feeds
8. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Plug-in
   - A user can sign-in to Lync 2013 client running on a virtual machine and participate in real-time communication.
9. Lync 2013 SDK includes
   - Unified Communications Managed API 4.0 (UCMA 4.0)
   - Unified Communication Web API.
   - Mobility Service

Collaboration Scenarios

Ever since OCS 2005, each newer release has added on features and collaboration capability. Considering the presence of other Instant Messaging (IM) technologies like Jabber, Google Talk, AOL etc...collaboration has indeed gained popularity as an end user expectation. In terms of today's technology trends, we are in a period where mobile computing; cloud computing and social networking is concepts that are attracting a lot of attention. Smartphones, tablets and social media are new channels of communication and collaboration. In the context of Office 365, Lync Online, Lync On-premise and the newer release of Lync 2013, the following would be some of the areas of interest as regards enterprise level collaboration mechanisms.

Within the Enterprise

Within the enterprise, effective collaboration enables a productive workforce. Many of the features in Lync 2013 are geared towards providing an enhanced collaborative experience.

  - Enhancements to presenter controls with  Lync meetings
  - Lync client application for Mobile devices
  - Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Plug-in
  - Unified integration of Lync with all office products
  - Enhancement over OneNote integration. Co-edit and sharing of notes with OneNote during meetings is possible.

Lync 2013 features enable to have collaborative software/applications for the enterprise. Team collaboration over unified communication would help geographically dispersed team members to work together. A collaborative custom application built over Lync 2013 can leverage OneNote integration and persistent chat rooms as well. Co-editing and tracking changes to a document in a Lync session by the participants will make group reviews, discussions more productive and efficient. Collaborative work would enable a group of people to work on a document or a work item together. It would also mean getting connected to your team on a single click from whichever application or environment you are currently in.Lync SDK would be supporting such application developments.

Within a mobile workforce

Establishing communication channels for mobile workforce of enterprises has always been a challenging task. This is one area where unified communication can be leveraged. Lync 2013 provides collaboration through federation that enables you to get connected to the enterprise network without the need of VPN.  An application built over UC can leverage this channel to enable the user to capture all his viewpoints and strategies from a business point of view. The same can be shared with corporate users of the enterprise on-line.

Expanding collaboration to Enterprise consumer base

There are many business scenarios where a consumer would want details on a single click in an application. Consumers get varied and a vast set of details from web as they browse for information.  Mostly these don't help them much in taking the right decision and in turn many enterprises lose the consumer to a competitor. What consumer would require is the latest information and that would be best served by the enterprise itself.  So enterprises need to find ways of direct collaboration with consumer and thus tap the potential. Unified communication enables one to build an application that can give options to a consumer to talk and share details on the information required. Lync 2013 SDK has Web APIs which could be leveraged to bring communication channel supporting text, audio and video capabilities in a web application. This channel can be leveraged by the enterprise to reach out to the huge consumer base. Plug in this communication channel to your web application, social media and smart phone applications, so that the consumer can reach out to the enterprise agent at any point of time.

A fully integrated unified communication platform within an enterprise is going to increase the productivity of the workforce.  Identifying the business scenarios for collaboration and building custom application over Lync is going to define the collaboration mechanism within the enterprise, customers, consumers and workforce. This is an area where enterprises should be more focused.

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