This syndicated post originally appeared at Network World Zeus Kerravala.

This week, Polycom announced its video infrastructure
has been qualified by Microsoft for Lync 2013.

The concept of unified communications (UC) is still more of a vision than it is a reality. If employees want to collaborate, they need to use a number of different systems to actually pull off a virtual meeting, as “UC” today consists of a bunch of different tools from various vendors. This means that users often have to deal with complex or multiple scheduling systems, disjointed workflows, and numerous dialing methods. Any integration that’s done at a system level is likely custom and cost-prohibitive for most businesses. Despite all the advancements in UC, a tremendous amount of manual integration still needs to be done. If UC is ever to reach its potential, the user needs to stop being the point of integration.

This week, Polycom announced its video infrastructure has been qualified by Microsoft for Lync 2013. RealConnect for Microsoft Lync, which makes video collaboration through Lync 2013 much simpler, runs on this qualified technology. RealConnect is a solution that streamlines workflows for Lync 2013 users who are connecting with other systems. Scheduling and joining video calls and sharing content within multi-vendor video environments can now be done in a single workflow, with a single click of the mouse.

To help understand the benefit of integration, consider the collaborative workflow without RealConnect integration.

Step 1: The first step in launching a UC session is for an organizer to send out an invite, most likely Outlook if Lync is being used. At this point, the organizer must decide to schedule the session through Lync, a third-party system, or maybe both depending on which types of video systems the other users are using and from where they will be joining.

Step 2: Next, when it’s time to have a meeting, users must dial into one or more systems, most of which have to be manually dialed to connect. Again, this could include a Lync session as well as third-party systems.

Step 3: Engaging in the collaborative session requires the worker to now view one or more applications. Depending on the application, the worker may see different information in various layouts. For example, some workers may see a single video window showing the active speaker, where some may see all of the participants. Content may or may not work as intended.

Now consider a RealConnect-enabled workflow.

Step 1: An organizer sends out a single Outlook invite which is auto-populated with meeting details by clicking the “Lync Meeting” option. The invite includes a meeting link for Lync users to click to join, as well as the conference ID for non-Lync participants. This single invitation is sent to all participants regardless of their video system.

Step 2: Workers can join the video conference and meeting the way they normally would. Anyone using a Lync client, including those joining from mobile devices or web apps, can do so through a single click. Those not using Lync can join via a dial-in, but can do a “click to join” instead of dialing numbers. This can be particularly useful when mobile or in motion. I certainly don’t recommend doing this while driving, but if one wanted to, they could do so without having to key in a long access code.

Step 3: RealConnect brings a level of consistency to the collaborative session. All participants will see the native content and participants in the way that was meant for their system. For example, a Lync participant will see a gallery view of everyone in the meeting placed directly over the content, while a standards-based user, Polycom for example, would see the continuous presence of faces alongside the content to the left. Because of RealConnect, every participant can see everyone else and enjoy a much richer experience.

RealConnect enables a simpler workflow with a better experience. This creates a much more natural collaboration experience for workers versus the disjointed, more traditional experience we’ve all become used to. Microsoft Lync has easily been the fastest-growing UC suite over the past few years, but it’s far from ubiquitous. RealConnect ensures that Lync and non-Lync users can have a high-quality, unified experience, something UC has historically been lacking.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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