Stay connected wherever work takes you
Stay connected wherever work takes you
As written on blogs.office.com
If you ever travel for business or work remotely, like 23 percent of U.S. employees do, you rely on communication tools to stay in touch with your partners and clients whether you’re inside or outside the office. You need the most up-to-date technology to ensure your work isn’t limited by location or circumstance, but what should you look for in your communication tools?
Here’s our list of five non-negotiable features:
You’re easy to get ahold of—Want to make it easier for people to connect with you no matter where you are? Use your email signature to let others contact you directly, be it cellphone, a remote office number or an online number. With Office 365, you can make your Outlook signature phone number link directly to your Skype for Business address. Your information will be linked automatically, so others can instantly communicate with you in real-time. Read this TechNet article to find out how to create a TEL:// or SIP:// link in your signature.
Take calls from the device that is easiest for you—While constantly on the go, collaboration isn’t limited to your office. You may need to start a call or presentation in your office before transferring to your cellphone to wrap it up on the road. Skype for Business allows you to do so without disrupting your workflow. If you’re on a call or presenting from your computer but have to leave the office, Skype for Business enables you to seamlessly transition your conversation across devices. You can either change the device connected to the PC or transfer to mobile.
Run presentations and share your applications with ease—Running a meeting with remote participants can be tricky, especially when you’re giving a presentation. You shouldn’t have to compromise a quality voice connection for a simple screen share—nor should you feel the need to run a meeting across multiple platforms. Skype for Business makes the process as simple as possible by letting you share PowerPoint slide shows directly in a meeting. No need to worry about sharing files and emailing links, you can just focus on your presentation.
Record meetings—Not sure about some of those key points that were mentioned during your call? Or was a colleague or partner not present? Multimedia recording features should always be included with business-class communication tools. With Office and Skype for Business, you can record and replay presentations and video, so any of those details that might have been missed are always a click away.
Communicate with those outside your organization—It’s unlikely everyone you talk to outside your company will use the same communication tools as you, so it’s important to look for a tool that offers ease of use for guests. Fortunately, connecting with non-Skype for Business users is not a problem. Accessing the conference or meeting as a guest is simple, and the security and robust features the host relies on remain standard.
Several barriers to communication and collaboration can arise when you’re working outside the office. Fortunately, Skype for Business can help. It’s more than just a video chat option; it has the features to keep you connected and make work as accessible as possible.
Yammer updates—from new user experiences to new IT controls
Yammer updates—from new user experiences to new IT controls
The Yammer team is continually delivering new capabilities for users and admins as well as deeper integration with Office 365. Today, we take a detailed hands-on look at updates to Yammer for enterprise social—from enhanced security and compliance to greater team productivity. Angus Florance, from the Yammer team, joins me to demonstrate new integrated experiences, including Office 365 Video and Delve. And for admins, we’ll show you new controls for merging networks, managing users and tracking usage.
If you’ve been using Yammer, you would have noticed constantly improving integration with Office 365. It not only shares common sign-in backed by Azure Active Directory and ability to get to Yammer experiences via the Office 365 app launcher, but Yammer also meets the same compliance standards as other Office 365 services.
Along with the work to update and integrate Yammer’s underpinnings, the team has also been advancing user experiences; it’s easier now to navigate conversations and move between unread messages across groups. Real-time notifications, which help you stay on top of activities and mobile experiences are now more robust. On the show, Angus highlights these points in a comprehensive demonstration then shows how external collaboration has been developed with clear indications of internal and external members—such as integrating Office experiences like co-authoring, and sharing content in Delve or Office 365 Video with your Yammer groups.
If you are an Office 365 administrator, there are now more controls. The previous global switch to either enable or disable Yammer is now more granular. You can enforce Office 365 sign-on and control access to Yammer services by user. There are also new controls to merge Yammer networks and new reports to track usage.
Efficiency hacks for IT: 6 tips for getting things done
Efficiency hacks for IT: 6 tips for getting things done
Use these tips from seasoned IT pros to re-architect your day for maximum impact with minimal stress.
By Mary K. Pratt as written on computerworld.com
Everyone is busy these days, sure, but research shows that most people are wasting chunks of time throughout their day, whether it's fiddling with the latest tech toy or responding to every email that lands in their inbox.
For those in the technology field, time management is an even tougher task, says Laurie Gerber, co-president of Handel Group Life Coaching. "IT people have this added thing that people constantly need them. It's always an emergency," Gerber says.
More importantly, Gerber says these folks are spending precious time on tasks that don't match up with their priorities and responsibilities.
If that sounds like you, it might be time to get tough -- with yourself. To enhance efficiency, you must set personal ground rules and stick by them, Gerber says. Here are six simple workday hacks from other IT pros that can crank up your productivity.
Focus on the biggest tasks
Joe Klecha, CTO at the Detroit-based tech firm Digerati and a fan of author Stephen Covey, says he follows Covey's advice to dedicate time first to "big rocks," followed by "pebbles," "sand" and "water" -- with rocks representing the highest priorities and water the lowest.
"If you reverse and start with water, you can't fit in the rocks, the big priorities," Klecha says. "So for me it's knowing that the most important things that need to get done are always in focus and always have my attention."
To move that strategy from theory to practice, Klecha says he has frequent meetings with other executives to ensure he's targeting the organization's most critical projects. And he evaluates unexpected requests for his attention as they pop up.
"A lot are those things that come in on a day-to-day basis and don't ever become a priority but have the potential to distract," Klecha says. "But they're not so immediate in their demands that they can't wait an hour or two or you can't shuffle them off to someone else."
Manage your response time
In the six years that Sri Baskaran has been IT director at Sun Orchard Juicery, the company has doubled its revenue. To keep pace, Baskaran has expanded the IT group, while working closely with his business-side colleagues to consistently meet their needs. Although he wants to be responsive to those he supports, he knows he can't be at everyone's beck and call.
"What I found is, if you answer email as soon as it pops into your inbox, you set the expectation that you're the person who can be easily reached," Baskaran says. Plus, he says, that kind of availability would drain away the time he needs to focus on more critical tasks.
So instead of constantly checking and replying to messages, Baskaran schedules time every day to handle emails and voice mails, a policy he says helps him avoid interruptions.
"If I have to get back to someone, I'll put it on my calendar, schedule time with them to have a conversation," he says, adding that people know -- and he reinforces it in his outgoing messages -- to call his cell number if they need to reach him for urgent issues
Pick the most efficient way to communicate
Although there are multiple ways to communicate with a global team, Greg Davidson, director of the information management services practice at the business advisory firm AlixPartners, says for him the most effective platform is videoconferencing. He points to research showing that most communication is conveyed through body language -- a nonfactor over the phone or through emails.
And video, unlike emails, allows for instantaneous collaboration. "There's nothing like being able to talk in real time with other human beings. It's much clearer, crisper. We get it right the first time if we can look at each other and communicate," Davidson says.
Bryce Austin, CIO at Digineer, a technology and management consulting company, also knows the importance of being a good communicator -- so much so that he's willing to invest in it. "I bought the best Bluetooth [device] I could find so I can have productive conversations and people can hear me," he says.
Get everyone in sync
One of the biggest challenges facing CIOs today, says Lawrence Bilker, senior vice president and CIO at Continuity Logic, is the speed of technological change. "The time from concept to implementation is significantly faster. You have to be aware of solutions, you have to be able to respond to strategies quickly, and sometimes the amount of time allocated to research has gone down," he says.
So, like other IT executives, Bilker says he focuses his team on the highest-priority items and makes sure everyone is on the same page. The leadership team gathers every day for a 20-minute scrum and keeps a shared calendar to track meetings so colleagues know who's available and who's not. And his team uses collaborative platforms such as Dropbox and Box to more quickly come together and hash out plans.
Analyze your time
Savvy CIOs get insight into their own schedules to guarantee that they're as effective as they can be with their time. Baskaran uses time-tracking software called Toggl which allocates time to various projects and lets him analyze how he's spending his time. He says he can then fine-tune his workday hours and "make sure my time is going into the right buckets."
Cletis Earle, vice president and CIO at St. Luke's Cornwall Hospital, takes a similar approach, looking at statistics and monitoring statements, such as network-incidence reports, for ongoing issues that he can get ahead of and free up time he would have spent responding to the same scenarios. "Being prepared for anticipated problems will keep you from being distracted," Earle says.
Handel Group's Gerber advises tracking your time over a few weeks to get a full picture of where you're expending your energy. "Most people aren't doing with their time what they say or think is most important to them," she explains. If your everyday schedule is out of out of whack with your ideal one, then it's time for an adjustment.
"We ask our clients if [their schedule is] in accordance with their vision," she says. "To do that, you have to ask: What's the best use of your time and energy? And you have to figure out why you're doing what you're doing. If you're getting on the help desk because you don't trust your people, that's a problem. If you're on the help desk for an hour a month to stay in touch with needs, that's great."
Don't forget to delegate
Earle oversees a 24/7 IT operation -- a typical scenario for many IT managers. That around-the-clock responsibility has taught him to be as productive as possible during normal work hours so he has ample time in his schedule for his family, including his four children. He says a big part of time management is delegating responsibilities, and that means training his team to handle pretty much any task in the department, including those of the CIO.
"At the end of the day, there's not enough time to do it all yourself," he says.
Case Study: Marquette University
Case Study: Marquette University improves communications with familiar voice and conferencing solution
Marquette University is a coeducational institution in Wisconsin with 11,700 students and 2,700 faculty and staff. The university prioritizes its commitment to providing students and faculty with comprehensive communication tools. As the next step to updating its voice, conferencing, and instant messaging solution, Marquette is moving to Skype for Business and anticipates increased collaboration, flexibility, and adoption, in addition to cost savings.
Marquette University is a private Jesuit college in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with 8,400 undergraduate students, 3,300 graduate and professional students, and 1,200 faculty. There are 11 different schools and colleges within the university that offer a comprehensive range of majors. Marquette is a nationally ranked institution with notable designations as a Changemaker Campus and the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.
Marquette is an early adopter of technology and aims to provide students and staff with comprehensive communications solutions that include voice, conferencing, mobile, and instant messaging capabilities. University students and faculty rely on these solutions every day: professors conduct remote classes; students from the business school interview for jobs out of state; the IT team works with vendors outside of the university; and various departments use videoconferencing for events and meetings. “We like to stay current on technology, if not on the cutting edge,” says Dan Smith, Deputy CIO of IT Services at Marquette University.
In 2012, Marquette deployed Microsoft Lync Server 2013 to begin hosting its own conferences. At that time, the university started to retire its private branch exchange (PBX) telephone system and installed voice over IP (VoIP) to reduce costs and provide a wider range of communication options to the campus community. Its goal was to complete the PBX migration by summer 2015.
The university also hoped to increase adoption of communication tools by providing a solution that was familiar to users. It wanted to improve flexibility and productivity with more mobile and video use and encourage students and staff to communicate more easily with people off campus. However, users were only able to use VoIP to communicate with outside partners who were federated in the same system.
“Trying to get solutions that let students and faculty communicate with people outside of Marquette has always been a challenge,” says Victor Martinez, Windows Team Lead at Marquette University.
Skype for Business was the natural next step for Marquette. It offered similar functionalities as Lync 2013, in addition to the intuitive interface of the Skype client that many students and staff were already familiar with.
In early 2015, the IT services department at Marquette began the process of upgrading Lync Server 2013 to the Skype for Business Server 2015. The migration went smoothly as the IT team mirrored the production environment, which included servers and full functionality.
“It was like spinning up a side-by-side environment with our current environment. We were able to move users as needed, and then add additional users as we became more confident with the new solution,” says Martinez.
The university has been working toward retiring its PBX system for the past three years. Now in its final phase, it began migrating users directly from the PBX system to the Skype for Business Server, and is rolling out the Skype for Business client to the migrated users.
Marquette currently supports 330 users on the Skype for Business client, and it has already prepared an additional 30,000 accounts that are licensed and ready for use—enough to support all current staff and students, and new enrollments for the upcoming academic year. Marquette also expects to support 4,000 to 5,000 phones on the Skype for Business Server.
Marquette sees the new Skype for Business client as a hybrid between the consumer Skype client and Lync 2013. “The changes aren’t as drastic as we thought they might be. The overall place where you go to do things or look for things has basically stayed the same. There’s a continuity that people will see as they go from Lync 2013 to Skype for Business.”
By moving to Skype for Business, Marquette anticipates increased user adoption and collaboration and improved flexibility. It also continues to reduce overall telephony costs by migrating users from its previous PBX system directly to Skype for Business.
Increased adoption and collaboration with familiar interface
Skype for Business offers the capabilities of Lync 2013 plus the familiarity that many users already have with Skype, meaning the campus community will be more likely to use the new solution.
“Some of the UI that you see within the Skype for Business client now mirrors the Skype interface on the consumer client,” says Smith. “We expect to see more widespread adoption as people can easily find and communicate with other Skype users and bring them into conversations.”
It will also be easier to collaborate with students, partners, and vendors outside of the university. “Now we can communicate with people worldwide who are using Skype while we’re on campus using Skype for Business—connecting this way is really powerful,” says Martinez.
Improved flexibility with mobile and video capabilities
Marquette believes users will start taking advantage of the Skype for Business mobile app that includes video, audio, IM, and content viewing and will provide the flexibility that students and faculty need to get work done anywhere, anytime. While desktop clients have dominated traditionally, that is likely to change at Marquette as many students are heavy mobile users.
“We’re going to see a lot more people use mobile and tablet devices to access Skype for Business for presentations and videoconferences,” says Martinez.
Recently, the IT department has received more requests for video support. Because Skype for Business provides messaging, audio, and video apps from a single solution, Marquette can offer students and staff new ways to collaborate, both internally and with users outside of the university. “A lot of external users already use Skype, which makes the experience of joining our meetings a lot easier,” says Martinez.
Continued cost savings
As part of Marquette’s migration process, it moved its telephony system from a physical connection to a virtual connection through Session Initiating Protocol (SIP). By moving to a SIP connection, Marquette saved approximately $125,000. “Disabling the ports on the PBX system saves us money as we continue to move this project forward,” says Smith. To date Marquette has saved approximated $95,000 in PBX costs.
Marquette is meeting its commitment to provide cutting-edge communications tools to student and faculty, without making additional investments in its IT infrastructure. The university was able to utilize its existing hardware for its new communications solution. “Skype for Business doesn’t require different hardware than what we currently have,” says Martinez.