Life-Changing Technology?

By Kent Cunningham posted 10-06-2010 15:13


Life Changing Technology

Recently one of the editor’s at AIIM asked me to share some personal insight on how we actually leverage Social Collaboration to do our daily business here at Microsoft. The reason for this inquiry is that many folks think of “social” as Twitter or Facebook, and while this may have value in some divisions of government and the enterprise, it is likely not viewed as the golden key to productivity. However, leveraging the right tools internally to network across the organization as employees need to find answers, resources, and available personnel within their geography can be simply amazing for productivity and helping an individual to scale across multiple projects.

I’m not much of a morning person so I normally avoid the phone before 7am and stick to other collaboration tools. So this morning during the second cup of coffee, I received a request via email to provide some technical background on a project which I knew nearly nothing about. While being asked to become the overnight resource on a new technology may seem scary or just plain weird to those outside of technology, let me assure you that in this field these requests are actually quite “normal” (relative term), and in many ways this is the epitome of the rapid pace at which many tech professionals thrive upon as we work to deliver the latest and great solutions to market. This seems to happen a lot with such a broad portfolio, and it’s impossible to know everything; especially when your first cup of coffee has yet to provide any neurological benefit.

In the past, the path to information was largely based on passive searches for content via email and phone calls, which lead to enormous threads of roping in others, and countless voicemails which sat unchecked for lengthy periods (sometimes days). This was fine when this technology was all that we had, but today it is simply an uncompetitive and restrictive way to do business in my opinion, and no one likes an unresolved email stream that has been around for over a month.

In order to fulfill the request become an “instant expert” that I mentioned above, I simply went to our internal portal and performed an intranet search for that term. However, unlike traditional search which only shows topics based on popularity, SharePoint FAST search allows me to sort data by date released, content type, author, or even sites on a particular topic. This vastly cuts down on my search time and quickly allows me to drill down on materials that are relevant to my specific situation. Perhaps more interestingly, once I find the content that interests me the most, I am also presented with the name of the authors and their presence status right within the search window. This morning I found the initial information which I needed rather quickly, but needed to verify if this was the latest content available and if I could share these materials with external customers. In order to determine this, I simply right clicked-in my browser on the author’s name, because their presence was shown as “available”, and this started an Instant Message with them immediately to dig deeper on my topic. In this case, the author of this document was a developer for the Office Communications Server team who wanted to show me an updated demo of our location based service which is integrated into our upcoming E911 service. During our IM conversation, the developer simply clicked a button in our conversation window marked as “Share”, and began a Web conference with me which included audio, video, and desktop sharing. I was able to see the remote desktop, speak with the developer, and visually meet them via my integrated webcam on my desktop using 720P HD resolution. Having the ability to instantly collaborate and find the “available” resource with the “right” knowledge is critical, and being able to chat with them in real-time allowed me to go from essentially no knowledge on a specific topic all the way to speaking with the company’s top expert in a matter of minutes. In fact, the entire process too less than six minutes including the desktop demo, and I am sitting in a Starbucks in the airport! Wow!

Luckily, these collaboration technologies extend across our entire Enterprise Platform including multi-user document editing in Office 2010, embedded Presence and Instant Messaging in Outlook (and Outlook Web App), and even allow me to federate with external partners and customers for simplistic and secure collaboration with these users as well. The impact on our business and our customer’s business because of this tight integration with standards based federation had been immensely transformational. Being able to manage all of this as a single platform is critical as well because we have the ability to grant users’ access to a single “Collaboration System” versus managing multiple disconnected platforms across the enterprise.

This is just a small portion of the way we use these technologies, and a sampling of the functionality that is out there in the marketplace today. When the efficiencies of such a system are seen, felt, and experienced in any given workday it becomes quite hard to imagine what we did back when we had to use email and conference calls to build remote relationships and build our network of project supporters, suppliers, and knowledge workers. Could the Four Hour Work Week really be true if we leveraged all of the tools at our fingertips?? I don’t know about that, but I can promise that you can get at least four hours back!

#webconference #microsoft #Collaboration