Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Microsoft Canada is hiring!

Are you an Exchange Specialist looking for a new opportunity and challenge? Microsoft Canada is hiring!

Please see for details on the Exchange Technology Solutions Professional position…

Technical Solution Sales at Microsoft

As part of our pre-sales team, you’ll work with enterprise customers to define their needs, and work with other technical and sales teams to meet them. Realizing the potential of their investment in Microsoft technology, you’ll articulate the value of our solutions to a range of customers - testing, demonstrating and illustrating how our technology could impact on their business. Then once agreed, you’ll help to transfer the project for development teams to deploy it across the organization. Fostering the eco-system surrounding the solution, you’ll collaborate with customer and Microsoft teams, as well as support partner sales pitches too - generating consulting revenue for our partners, and product revenue for us.

Apply today!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Free Lync Training!


Deploying, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Lync Server 2010

Literally hundreds of organizations are recognizing the cost savings and efficiency that results from empowering people with improved collaboration and cross-team communications. Once you learn about what Microsoft Lync can do for your office, as well as your resume, you'll never look back.

Microsoft Learning and the Microsoft Lync team have partnered to bring you an exciting opportunity to learn how to deploy, configure and administer Microsoft’s unified communications solution. Leveraging the popular “Jump Start” virtual classroom approach, two of the industry’s most gifted experts will leverage an accelerated, engaging and demo-rich learning experience to help attendees gain the knowledge and confidence required to prepare for taking Exam 70-664: TS: Microsoft Lync Server 2010, Configuring.

Here are the details:

  • Course: “Deploying, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Jump Start”
    - Accelerated, engaging, demo-rich virtual learning experience – no hands-on labs
  • Date/Time: April 17-19, 2012 from 9:00am – 4:00pm PST
  • Where: Live virtual classroom (online from wherever you are)
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Target audience: IT Professionals and telecommunications professionals.
    This is an accelerated course. Attendees should have at least three (3) years’ experience working with unified communications software, including knowledge of and experience with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2.




Planning and Designing a Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Solution

The demand for information technology (IT) professionals experienced enough to effectively architect Microsoft unified communications solutions with Lync Server 2010 technologies continues to increase. For those of you who have the Lync Technical Specialist certification (see below) or have equivalent knowledge and experience, this accelerated Jump Start may be for you—so keep reading! If you don’t have the experience with Lync required for this course, we encourage you to check out the prerequisite course, “Deploying Lync Server 2010 Jump Start” scheduled for April 17-19, 2012, first.
Microsoft Learning and the Microsoft Lync team have partnered to bring you an exciting opportunity to learn what you need to know to plan and design Microsoft Lync Server 2010 solution. Leveraging the popular “Jump Start” virtual classroom approach, two of the industry’s most gifted experts will leverage an accelerated, engaging and demo-rich learning experience to help attendees gain the knowledge and confidence to help prepare for Exam 70-665: PRO: Microsoft Lync Server 2010, Administrator, a required exam for the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP): Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Administrator. Here are the details:

  • Course: “Planning and Designing a Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Solution”
    - Accelerated, engaging, demo-rich virtual course – no hands-on labs
    - Level 300 content
  • Date/Time: April 24-26, 2012 from 9:00am – 4:00pm PST
  • Where: Live virtual classroom (online from wherever you are)
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Target audience: IT Professionals and telecommunications professionals.
    This is an accelerated course. Attendees are expected to have experience in hands-on deployment and day-to-day management of Unified Communications technologies for enterprise organizations and the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Microsoft Lync Server 2010, Configuring or equivalent knowledge.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Importance of User Experience: Part 2

As I mentioned before, I recently presented at the Know Your Alternatives conference in Toronto about the importance of a Simplified User Experience to user adoption and capturing a full return on your UC investment.

I previously touched on the negative effects of poor Adoption, including lost productivity and an altogether negative perception of IT and the value it brings to the organization.

Challenges in Communication

It’s not news that Information Workers are sending and receiving more and more messages from more and more locations…

“The average Information Worker gets more than 51 messages a day in up to seven different locations” – Harris Interactive

…and we communicate from many different devices and applications.

“Businesses average more than six communications devices and almost five communications applications per employee.” – Sage Research

Multiple disconnected systems leave us confused and wondering where to turn.


We know what we need to do, we are pretty sure there’s a tool somewhere to help, but we don’t remember where to go, who to talk to, which application to start, or how to use the application once we find it.

[PeopleOnConferenceCallStaringAtPhone[4].jpg]Once we do land on a tool that is actually useful for it’s purpose, it often comes with it’s own set of challenges and deficiencies.  Have a look at Quit staring at that conference phone and change the dynamic of your meetings for a prime example.


So why is Adoption a challenge?

There are many reasons why technology adoption is a challenge, but here a few in particular…


With the constant introduction of new technologies, new software versions, new work challenges, and the increased goal for employees to find a healthy work-life balance, users find it difficult just to keep up.


Many users find what they like and get comfortable doing what they do.  The introduction of new features and capabilities, regardless of how “cool” or seemingly valuable they are, does not correspond to the uptake and adoption because users aren’t compelled to change.


Similar to the above reason, user habits are very hard to break.  A good example of this one is people who still print everything before reading it, or who print presentation materials and bring them to a meeting, rather than leveraging their notebook PC and a soft-copy of the presentation.


Organizations sometimes don’t sufficiently consider personal learning styles, different retention capabilities of users, and the difference between training delivery and effectiveness.  How do you measure if training was effective?  Do you even try to?  Tough to expect healthy adoption if you don’t!


Finally, even if we’ve conducted thorough training and measured it’s immediate effectiveness, we often neglect the ongoing attention needed to ensure adoption continues.  As we move on to the next thing we forget to go back and evaluate effectiveness and adoption 3, 6, 18 months later.

These themes are at a high level.  Let’s bring it back to UC.  How can a Simplified User Experience help improve Adoption of a UC solution?

A Better Way

Microsoft Lync provides a single fully-unified experience that helps overcome many adoption challenges.


With Lync, new features and capabilities and intuitive and easy to understand and use.  User are empowered and unafraid to try something new!  Powerful communications are made available in context within the applications being used everyday such as Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint.  In many rollouts, users look over the shoulders of colleagues enjoying Lync and ask how they can get their hands on it!

Take a quick peek at this video and see how the Commonwealth Bank of Australia saw 60% adoption of Lync in just 24 hours!


Now, User Experience is critical to user adoption but there’s definitely more to consider to really get it right.

Strategies for Adoption

Microsoft has provided a free framework for Facilitating a Successful Rollout of UC solutions.  Even with a product as easy to use as Lync, having a well thought-out plan and team to guide the rollout is critical. 


In addition to process, tools and resources are important and invaluable in planning and executing on a successful rollout.  Microsoft also provides a free Adoption and Training Kit which includes:

  • Targeted content for IT pros, Project Managers, Trainers, Help Desk workers, and Users
  • Best Practices, Resources, and Strategies
  • Fully Customizable material
  • Planning workbook
  • Guidance and resources aligned to user roles
  • Troubleshooting script for level 1 support
  • Cost-effective training strategy for each user role
  • Custom Intranet Site


Poor adoption of technology affects everything from user confidence to the bottom line.  Microsoft Lync is a UC solution that is proven to be more readily adopted due to it’s powerful capability, ease of use, and integration into the Microsoft Office suite.

In addition to having the right technology, be sure to take the time and leverage existing resources to properly plan for and manage your rollout.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Importance of User Experience

I will be presenting at the upcoming Know Your Alternatives conference in Toronto on February 9, 2012.  If you’re in town I hope you can join me as I speak about the importance of a Simplified User Experience to user adoption and capturing a full return on your UC investment.  I will post again after the event with a summary of my presentation and links to some useful materials.

For now, a teaser…

Simplified User Experience

Two powerful advantages that Microsoft Lync enjoys over the competition are:

  1. An intuitive and easy-to-understand user experience
  2. Native and seamless integration into the applications we use every day, such as Microsoft SharePoint, Outlook, and the rest of the Office Suite.

This is a huge factor is ensuring better, faster, and broader user adoption.

Who Cares?

Technology adoption is a constant challenge for many reasons including difficulties breaking habits and keeping up with today’s fast pace of change.  Users can become frustrated quite easily … can you relate to this?


So What?

Poor adoption of new technology has many negatives effects extending from user frustration and confusion, to lost productivity, and ultimately leading to an altogether negative perception of IT and the value it brings to the organization.


How Can You Help?

Please come to my session and/or read my follow-up post for my thoughts on the importance of a simplified user experience, how Microsoft Lync provides it, and how you can get the most out of your UC investments.

Friday, December 23, 2011

‘Tis the Season for Snow Days … Will you stay Productive?

The season is upon us, in my part of the world, for “unexpected” snow storms and massive traffic jams, both of which lead inevitably to big-girl and big-boy Snow Days!  Woohoo!


I don’t know about you, but it’s been awhile since it was OK for a Snow Day to mean all-day TV and video games and no work for me.  Even though school does, business doesn’t stop for weather, or at least business owners certainly can’t afford it to.


So this means that Snow Days, and more specifically having employees stay home and not work, has a big impact on business.  Organizations can lose a lot in lost productivity.  Outages are common, such as for vacations, but those are staggered and there are usually backup resources in place.  On a Snow Day, an unusually large number of employees are all off work at the same time.

Microsoft Lync to the Rescue

I am fortunate to be equipped with the tools and capabilities of Microsoft Lync to do my job.  And this means that a Snow Day for me is just another day at the office, figuratively speaking of course.

A Day in the Life

For me, with Lync at my command, here’s what my Snow Days are going to look like this year.  Images are representative only…I’m not quite that handsome.

9:00 AM

I strap on my trusty wireless headset and initiate and accept high-quality phone calls with my Customers using my corporate phone number.  No need for my customers to know my home number, just because I happen to be working from home today.  I need a top-up of coffee – I go downstairs and fill up mid-call, without skipping a beat.


10:00 AM

I offer assistance to a Colleague after noticing via my Lync Activity Feed that she is working on something I can help with.  I notice she is Available because of the green status bar so I click to send an Instant Message to offer my 2 cents, for what it’s worth, which she suggests is closer to 3 cents.  Nice.



11:00 AM

I share a PowerPoint presentation in real-time with another Colleague, with rich Audio and Video, to review content for an upcoming Customer presentation.  With cool annotation tools we are able to communicate and collaborate effectively and in real-time.



12:00 PM

I’m hungry.  I always eat this healthy, I promise.



1:00 PM

I play a recently received voicemail, click-to-call to action it, and dial a number using the easily accessible Lync dial pad … the number is written on a piece of paper, that’s the only reason I don’t click!



2:00 PM

I am deep in thought, but accept an incoming call, knowing what it is about before answering because the topic is displayed on the toast.  I can read people’s minds!



3:00 PM

I receive an important file from a Partner for review, who simply dragged and dropped it into his conversation window in Lync.  We have real-time access via Lync Federation providing end-to-end secure communications and collaboration between his company and mine.



4:00 PM

The snow isn’t letting up so I schedule a Lync Online Meeting with a single-click where I will be able to present to my Customer, with my Colleague and Partner on audio and video, the PowerPoint presentation we created.  No need to put people in harm’s way on these roads.


5:00 PM

I reflect on the day, and how my activities are oddly timed exactly to the top of the hour, and I write a blog post about it.


So on my Snow Days, from home, with no additional preparation, and with only an internet connection and my notebook, I create secure, powerful connections with Customers, Colleagues, and Partners and remain as productive as if I was in the office … maybe even more so because I don’t have chocolate milk in my fridge.

Will you be this productive during your next Snow Day?

At my company this is how we work. I find it useful to stop and think about how spoiled we are by the tools we have at our disposal, and how easy it is to forget what life is like without them.

If you don’t have Lync, ask your boss why not.  And if you do have Lync, I’m guessing you have similar stories to share so please do in the comments section below.

Here’s to a safe and happy Winter Season filled with many productive Snow Days!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tip: Stop sharing your desktop for PowerPoint presentations

A very common scenario today is for a person to present a PowerPoint presentation to one or more remote attendees using some sort of web conferencing tool such as Live Meeting or Lync or Lync Online.

As a presenter, a quick and easy way show your presentations to participants is to just share your desktop…


Please don’t do this!  (For PowerPoint presentations, anyway)

Why Not?

I’ll address that, but first let me introduce the (better) alternative.  Now your tool of choice may not have this option, and sharing your desktop may be all you have, but with Lync you can upload the PowerPoint presentation into the meeting space…


Nice, but again, why not share my desktop?

OK, OK.  There are a number of reasons why I think sharing your desktop for PowerPoint presentations is not the best approach:

Privacy – Email alerts and Instant Message popups are all on display for the world to see when you simply share your desktop.  You may inadvertently reveal confidential information, or at best be embarrassed by something becoming public that was otherwise meant to be private such as “Hi Pumpkin-face, I miss you,” or the like.

Unprofessional Presentations – We often need to refer to other material or switch to different slides during the course of a presentation.  When your desktop is on display, these efforts are viewable to all.  As you drop back out of Presentation mode attendees see your slides and possibly speaker notes.  They see you browsing your file system looking for something.  You’re on display and feeling exposed so invariably it takes longer than it otherwise would and your mouse is hovering directly over the file in question but you can’t see it – everyone online is quietly pointing out the obvious and politely waiting for you to catch up.


Scrolling, Scrolling, Scrolling – When you share your desktop your screen resolution may not match those of the participants and therefore, without you realizing it, they have to constantly scroll to see your presentation.  This is very annoying and altogether unnecessary, as you’ll see later.


These are just a few of my thoughts on the experience of sharing your desktop for presentations.

So give me a better way!

Happy to.  With Lync, for example, if you upload the presentation instead of sharing your desktop you not only solve the problems noted above but now also enjoy the following benefits:

Annotations – Lync allows you (and optionally participants) to annotate the presentation adding a whole new dimension of real-time collaboration to your session.  You simply can’t do that if you are sharing your desktop.


Thumbnails – Need to jump ahead in your slides?  Instead of advancing through them in sequence or stepping out of Presentation mode, as you would have to do if you were sharing your desktop, you can see the list of thumbnails during your presentation and simply advance to the exact slide you want – the participants only see the slides you wish to share and don’t know if you are skipping slides or not.


Speaker Notes – What if you had speaker notes with important points to share?  Well, you could print them out or use some split-screen technology to hide them.  But with Lync it’s much easier as your speaker notes are available to you right on screen, and again, the participants do not see this.


Other Rich Content alongside your Slides – With a tool as powerful as Lync your online meetings may often include more than just a slide-sharing session.  If you share your desktop you must show only the presentation.  If you use the uploaded PowerPoint method you can continue to have access to the Instant Messaging conversation, Video, and the Visual Roster of participants.



So all in all you have a more controlled and feature rich experience as a presenter when you upload your PowerPoint presentations instead of sharing your desktop, and your participants enjoy a more professional and streamlined presentation.

Don’t get me wrong – sharing your desktop, or specific applications, is a powerful feature and should absolutely be used to its fullest potential but not, in my opinion, for presenting PowerPoint presentations.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lync Management and Operations: Monitoring and Troubleshooting Lync Calls

I’d like to call your attention to a very useful set of videos covering Monitoring and Troubleshooting in Lync Server 2010, posted by our friends over at NextHop.

Unified Communications, by definition, brings together a number of different communications tools and applications which can make nailing down issues a very daunting task indeed.

Lync Server 2010 includes intuitive and powerful monitoring and reporting capabilities to help make this easier, and Microsoft has released some very useful videos to guide you through it.


First of all, you should know about the Monitoring Server role in Lync Server 2010.  From TechNet

Monitoring Server collects data about the quality of your network media, in both Enterprise Voice calls and A/V conferences. This information can help you provide the best possible media experience for your users. It also collects call error records (CERs), which you can use to troubleshoot failed calls. Additionally, it collects usage information in the form of call detail records (CDRs) about various Lync Server features so that you can calculate return on investment of your deployment, and plan the future growth of your deployment.  For details, see Planning for Monitoring in the Planning documentation.

Lync Server 2010 also ships with ready-to-go SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) Reports that help make understanding the health of your Lync environment that much easier.

The videos go into great detail on each of System-wide Troubleshooting: Lync Call Connectivity, Help Desk Troubleshooting: Lync Call Issues, and Monitoring and Managing Jitter for VoIP, but for this post I wanted to call out a few things that I really like.


The base Lync Server 2010 Monitoring Server report is actually a list of available reports…


…and clicking into a particular report gets you to the goods…


Now, nice glossy reports that show me what I want are great, but invariably I’ll want to ask that next question … “OK, here’s the list of things I wanted, but I want more details on this one and that one!”

In this example, clicking on one of the columns in the chart on the right gets me to the underlying detail for that data.


You can continue to click-through and get more details as you continue your troubleshooting.  Very easy and very intuitive!


Reports that show lots of information are great, but sometimes they show too much information, or by their very nature can’t show everything.  In the interest of readability and consumption, headings and titles must be used to lay out the data.

But what if you don’t know what the headings mean exactly?  To have to leave the report and go consult a guide or website is counter-productive and time-consuming.  A lethal combination when users are complaining.

In Lync Server 2010, the headings are built with handy tool tips … just mouse over the heading and get a full description of what that data and/or value means!



So we’ve got the ability to get to the data easily and we have handy descriptions of what certain data sets are capturing.  But, and this is a big BUT, how do we know what the values mean?  Is a big number good or bad?  Same thing with small numbers.

You will build your expertise over time, but until then, Lync Server 2010 reports actually bring your attention to important data automatically by highlighting the data in the report!


To really take it over the top, mouse over the value and get a full description of, in the case below, the Diagnostic ID value that came back from the voice gateway…


Below you see another example of a report with lots of valuable data and the handy highlighting to help you focus on the most pertinent values to help you in your troubleshooting.  In this case, Lync Server 2010 is telling us that a value of 4% for Avg. concealed samples ratio is something that should be looked at further.



Lync Server 2010 Monitoring Server Reports include handy out-of-the-box features such as Drill-down, Tool Tips, and Highlighting that help make troubleshooting your Lync environment easier and more fun!  (As if troubleshooting wasn’t already fun, right!?)

So please do take a look at these videos as they give great return for a very short amount of time investment.  Enjoy!