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Lync to Become Skype for Business

Lync will become Skype for Business

Microsoft is rebranding it’s unified communication platform Microsoft Lync. Microsoft plans to retool their approach to unified communications, and launch under the name “Skype for Business” in 2015. Microsoft originally acquired Skype for $8.5 billion in 2011.

The Redmond, WA based software giant made significant strides into the Unified Communications space, offering a cost-competitive unified communications platform which included Telephony, Chat, Collaboration and Video Conferencing all from the desktop, laptop or tablet.

Microsoft made a splash, albeit a light one, last summer in the audiovisual industry when they bought a booth to the InfoComm Tradeshow. It seemed to be the culmination of a few years of product development centered around integrating Lync into the classroom, conference room and board room. Manufacturers from Crestron to Vaddio and Polycom to SMART were all developing peripherals as well as room systems built around the Lync platform. While any talk of Skype at these shows were purely relegated to the consumer space, and a consumer grade of product associated with it.

Poised to make a deeper run in the professional av/uc space, Microsoft’s main purpose in attending the show, it seems, was to gather feedback from customers, and perhaps ideas for future products and platforms. With more and more manufacturers chomping at the bit to get a piece of the Microsoft Lync pie, as Microsoft themselves don’t manufacture hardware solutions, it seemed Lync was going to be influencing the products to be revealed at InfoComm 2015, slated for June 13-19 in Orlando, FL.

There was some debate yesterday, mostly on twitter, about what, if any, impact this announcement will have on the audiovisual industry. In short, it won’t be ground breaking, but it will have some effect on the industry. The most notable effect it has on the industry is blending professional and consumer platforms into one hybrid platform that some might argue does nothing well and everything poorly. Time will tell what functionality from the two drastically different platforms will make it into the Skype for Business release in 2015, but reports are already hinting at the user interface changing to look more like Skype and less like Lync 2010 or 2013. Reports also indicate H.264 encoding adoption so Lync will finally be able to directly federate with Skype.

Besides the blending of the “professional” vtc (professional in quotes because Lync wasn’t close to competing in quality or market share with Cisco/Polycom/LifeSize). It will be interesting to see how this will affect hardware manufacturers. Will there also be a hybrid-level set of hardware coming down the pipeline? Something that sits between the logitech table top webcam and a professional camera which connects via, or converts to, USB? Will there finally be a usable product between the $1000 and $3000 price points?

Time will tell, for all factors, how this decision will play out in our industry, and whether or not it will be a success for Microsoft. One thing that is for sure, Skype for Business is one step closer to bridging the comfort gap that prevents technophobes from adopting any modicum of videoconferencing. Also, it will be funny to think about all the telecom professionals now having the title of “Skype Administrator”

What do you think this will mean for the industry? For your users?

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Technology

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Technology Leadership Series: Feedback

As a leader not providing a mechanism to receive feedback, or worse yet- solicit and not respond to feedback can be the most arrogant and self defeating action one could possibly take. The lack of opportunity to provide feedback has the potential to increase employee frustration and as a result decrease workplace engagement. Soliciting feedback, and ignoring it is perhaps the most self serving stunt a leader can engage in. It is important to earnestly seek and honestly respond to the opinions of your employees.

Certainly not all feedback given by employees will be unbiased, accurate and actionable; but it can all be useful and beneficial. It’s extremely important to be able to ask for- and fully accept- feedback regularly from a range of people you interact with, both above and below you. Fully accept and appreciate feedback; a culture of accepting feedback and proactively responding to it is the healthiest company culture around. Accepting and using feedback constructively engages and empowers employees.

All great leaders are great listeners, and by extension life long learners. Listening isn’t a skill a CIO, CTO or Technology Manager easily masters; it more involved than simply hearing and understanding what is being said. Leaders who listen well hear, understand, consider and act on what is being said to them.

Feedback requires flexibility. Depending on feedback that is received, either within the organization or from sources external to the company, a leader might need to deviate from their vision; or even decide to forgo it altogether if it is in the best interest of the organization.

Technology leaders need to rely heavily on feedback. Employee feedback informs the execution of the vision and the direction the department will head. A CIO/CTO cannot have a keep and expert understanding of all facets of their teams’ responsibilities. A great technology leader must solicit feedback to ensure the vision is appropriately tailored to what is possible, and in the best interest of the organization.

Leaders: don’t be arrogant ask for feedback from stakeholders internally and externally. Consider the feedback honestly and completely, adjust and make changes where appropriate. Use feedback as an opportunity to engage and empower your employees to share in the vision and the direction of the organization. Feedback is essential to the continued success of any vision; it creates a shared vision experience.

Each Friday, for the next several weeks, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to email me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

 

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Leadership, Technology

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Technology Leadership Series: Self Awareness

Leaders at any level, whether CIO, CTO or even lower management, need to have a firm grasp of their team’s pulse, as a result it is important for all leaders to have tremendous self awareness. It is important for a leader to have a good accounting of their own strengths and weaknesses drawing on strengths when necessary and avoiding pitfalls of their weaknesses when confronted by them.

Leaders must be able to take a complete inventory of the perception of themselves within their team(s).  All too often leaders don’t take this important step, preventing them from being as successful as leaders who accurately utilize introspection and awareness. Without being insecure, leaders must be able to use this inventory to ensure they are providing their teams with meaningful leadership, direction, vision and emotional intelligence; guiding them towards success and solidly supporting and empowering employees.

Another key component of leadership having exceptional self-awareness is to always be cognizant of ensuring leaders never blame others for team or department failures. I’ve heard it said one of the simplest keys to being a great leader, and having highly performing teams, is to avoid personalizing failures and actively share successes with your team. Self Awareness is also integral to another key concept previously discussed: building successful teams.  A leader needs to be aware of their deficits to ensure they build teams with complementary strengths, in order to be as complete and diverse as possible. Leaders who are not self aware, or actively taking inventory of their strengths and weaknesses are susceptible to failure in the blind spots. It is crucial to constantly be aware of how your attitude, actions and leadership affects others.

Each Friday, for the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to email me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

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Leadership, Technology

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Technology Leadership Series: Managing Expectations

As we’ve already discussed, one of the most important characteristics and skills a CIO, CTO or Technology Manager can have excellent communication skills. One of the ways great communication skills are manifested is in managing expectations, internally and externally.

A good CIO will be able to do internal marketing of their department’s ability to help a company reach their goals and objectives. A great CIO, however, sells the department without overselling it. There’s a subtle difference, but a great CIO must understand the limits of his or her team and set realistic timelines for project completion. The difference between a good CIO and a great CIO is the ability to understand limits and not to overcommit resources.

A great technology leader understands the best way to avoid overselling their department is to build a team capable of thinking fast on their feet, and able to develop solutions and strategies to help the organization accomplish its objectives. A great CIO must have the ability to inspire his or her team to provide a viable solution to every problem. On my team we don’t say no to any request, we offer at least one solution for every request allowing the customer to make an educated decision as to whether or not they would like to pursue it further. By constantly challenging team members with high expectations they know and understand what is expected of them, allowing them to focus on meeting deadlines and project requirements.

Each Friday, for the next several months, a new post will be released with another key characteristic of what it takes to be successful in technology leadership. These posts are in no particular order; I’d love for you to provide feedback and let me know if you think I’m missing something, or if you’d like to see a particular trait addressed please feel free to email me, or leave a comment. I’m hoping this will be a useful dialogue about what is necessary to become a successful technology leader.

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Leadership, Technology

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