OFFICE 365 12 MIN READ

Communicate with colleagues through chat on Office 365 from any device

Jasper Oosterveld
WRITTEN BY JASPER OOSTERVELD

E-mail is often misused as a communication tool. People tend to send short messages or start discussions. In my opinion e-mail isn’t the correct tool for this type of communication. How often have you received similar e-mails as mentioned below?

  • “Are you at the office?”

  • “Have you read my proposal?”

  • “What do you think of the new SharePoint 2013 Social features?”

  • “How was your weekend?”

I received quit a lot of these, to be completely honest…sometimes I am guilty of sending these type of e-mails (inset picture with look of shame here). Time to stop people! What is the alternative for these questions? This is where Microsoft Lync steps in. In my eyes Lync is the chat communication tool for businesses.

If you are just joining this series, be sure to check out my other posts as I am exploring all the ways we can collaborate with SharePoint on Office 365 from anywhere with any device.

The following figure shows an example of the Lync desktop client:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

Every colleague, including myself, is displayed with a status. I can be available for a chat, to busy, not at my computer or I don’t want to be disturbed. This is very helpful so you don’t “bother” colleagues who aren’t available. The Lync status is integrated with Outlook. You are in a meeting?

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

The following figure is a screenshot from our internal Team Site. We ask questions in a discussion board:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

I hope you notice that Lync is integrated with SharePoint? All the people columns display the Lync status. By browsing over the name I can see Frank’s business card. This enables me to immediately ask Frank a question about a topic he created in the discussion list. This is truly one of the biggest advantages of Office 365. All the services are integrated with each other.

I just love the usability of Lync, it’s very easy to use and self-explanatory. I can easily start a chat, call, share a video or share my monitor or applications. Lync can even be used for online meetings, I will talk a bit more about that later. Lync as desktop client works! What about tablets and smart phones? This time we will start with the Windows devices.

Surface RT

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

The home screen starts with a mention of your upcoming meeting. Another example of the integration between all Office 365 services. From here you are able to find a contact, start a chat, listen to your voicemails or view all your upcoming meetings. To actually see the status of your colleagues, you have to click on a group:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

It’s very easy to start a chat, just select a colleague and chat away:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

In combination with the type cover keyboard you can really get your work done with the Surface RT Lync App. Next stop is the Windows Phone 8, I have the Nokia Lumia 720.

Windows Phone 8

Although the Lumia has smaller screen, it doesn’t affect the usability of the App. I really like the overflow between the different sections. You can already see a bit of the text at the right side of the screen before you swipe to the right:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

This is standard Windows Phone feature. Very cool! The home screen allows you to enter a status update and if your are vein person, you can stare at your pretty face 😉 I am able to view upcoming meetings, that’s a feature available for every Lync App, but this gets interesting when a Lync Online meeting URL is included:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with LyncSharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

You probably know by now that I enjoy nifty features in the Office 365 Apps. I just found another one! Do you want to reply to a question? The most recent part of the conversation is at the top of the screen:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with LyncSharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

Features like these really improve the usability of an App.

iPhone

The iPhone home screen within the App looks a bit different compared to the Windows Phone 8:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

Your profile picture is a bit smaller, the option menu is present and you are able to change your status. The chat screen is very similar to the Windows Phone 8 and works as you expect:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

All smart phones have cameras these days to take beautiful pictures. The camera can also be used for video calls. I never use this feature but I do like the look & feel:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

The profile picture of your colleague caller is displayed in the whole screen. This means you can’t act surprised when you pick up ;-). The following figure shows an example of a video call:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

Although I wouldn’t necessarily use this feature, not a fan either, I can see the advantage when you want to show items in your surroundings.

iPad

The main advantage of a tablet is of course the size of the screen because more content is shown. Unfortunately the home screen of the iPad App isn’t great at all:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

I don’t immediately want to see the options in the right side of the screen. I would have preferred a look & feel comparable to the Surface RT. The chat screen is good and works:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

I just find the App a bit boring and expected a bit more of an iPad app. Where is the originality factor in the App?

To be honest, I don’t think a lot of people will actually chat a lot with Lync on their mobile devices. The real power lies with online meetings. You are able to connect with any meeting including a Lync Meeting URL:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

This is truly powerful and really enables your mobile device as an asset for every business. Just think of Sales Managers or Consultants. They are often on the road and not able to use their laptops but what do they have? Yes, a mobile phone and/or a tablet. Let’s quickly dive into the demos!

Our SharePoint department at Macaw organizes every three weeks knowledge sessions. These are sessions about new SharePoint features or customer/project experiences. Not every colleague is able to join the meeting at the office. To resolve this we create a Lync Online meeting with every session. I joined with my Surface RT tablet:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

My colleague Ruben shared his desktop and I am able to view his presentation. Ruben also did multiple demos. The demos were easy to follow with the App:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

The Lync App for the Surface RT is divided in three screens. The second one shows the participants of the meeting:

SharePoint Office 365 collaboration with Lync

The third part show the chat between the participants. This makes the App very interactive and user friendly. 

Conclusion

Lync is one of my favorite business tools for the communication between colleagues and online meetings. I really use Lync every day to collaborate with my colleagues. Your Office 365 global administrator can enable external communication, with specific domains or all domains, to chat with external people. A very useful and powerful feature to communicate with your customers, suppliers or partners. Just imagine using this feature in project scenario’s in combination with SharePoint. You store the project document in SharePoint and have your project meetings online with Lync. You have a question for the customer’s project member? Launch Lync and chat away.

Jasper Oosterveld
This article is a guest post by Jasper Oosterveld. A member of the SharePoint community, co-author of two books and speaker for many SharePoint Conferences and SharePoint Saturdays. If you are looking for Jasper, you'll find him working for Macaw straight from the Netherlands!

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