So if you didn’t catch my last post, I said how I’d be dedicating the next few weeks to Exchange 2010 from both a technical and business vantage point. This post will be discussing the reasons why collaboration essentially sucks in most places. It pretty much comes down to a handful of things, people, productivity, and platform.
What are some common things people want to do when collaborating in the digital world?
- Share a file
- IM someone
- Check voicemail messages
- Access email when you are way
- Access email remotely
- Review an entire conversation
- Recover email when machine crashes
- Take calendar or task actions on long email threads
- Ignore irrelevant email conversations
- Look up a colleagues contact details
I will give a personal example from a non-profit project I am working on. I am a leading a Silverlight 3 based CMS project that currently has a team of nine developers and about 15 stakeholders from around the globe. All in all, there are about seven different timezones involved.
My technical lead and I currently waste about 20% of our available volunteer time dealing with non-technical coordination. We currently use Google Groups and Google Talk since most of us are personal Gmail users, but because we aren’t all on the same domain, there are obvious continuity problems. Live Mesh is used for file sync which definitely gives a peace of mind, but it’s still not ideal. At best we feel barely connected simply because the browser has its limits.
You could say a big problem is that we are all mixing business with pleasure by using our personal emails, but the problem is deeper than that. Being able to see other people’s calendars and workload is an important part of management and teamwork. Consumer tools are primarily suited for individual productivity rather than group productivity.
There is something to be said when you have different personalities with different work ethics, but at some point the workflow should be consistent. It wasn’t until I came to Microsoft that I began to get annoyed with non-Microsofties with regard to file formats, instant messaging services, file shares, and team communication. Before working here, I’d often have to waste time downloading “this” and installing “that.” If it wasn’t me, than it would be someone else or another machine. The web has definitely simplified a lot of complexity, but even the web has a problem of trying to manage and provision multiple independent web applications. How many usernames and passwords do you have to manage? What happens when people leave an organization?
A messaging and communications platform like Exchange is a foundational component of any business or organization because it brings everyone on the same page in terms of functionality. Email, address book, calendaring, task management, SMS, and voicemail all in a single interface is a powerful tool. In the past, platform standardization with Microsoft meant “lock-in” if you were to believe the critics. Later versions of Exchange tried really hard to ensure that people were able to work with an entire ecosystem of mobile devices and desktop clients. Licensing the MAPI protocol to Apple and Linux vendors as well as other 3rd parties has only enhanced this ecosystem. The latest version of Exchange makes a giant push offering Exchange Web Services garnering a new age of unhindered interoperability.
Microsoft gives me an IM client that gives me access to Hotmail, Yahoo, and AIM simultaneously in addition to fellow colleagues, they give me an email that doubles as my voicemail, and I have a peace of mind knowing that I can work at home or at the office with no difference productivity. There are real tangible benefits to standardized communication. The goal should be to have one or two devices that give me access to all my communications needs. With Exchange, this is possible.
to be continued….Platform