Interview with Tom Jones

Tom Jones
Information Services Manager
College of Technology

 A member of the Lync deployment team recently sat down with Tom Jones to gain an "insider" view on Lync, his favorite features and how it has changed how he communicates. Jones asked to be migrated to Lync Unified Communications in advance of the College of Technology, which will be migrated under Phase 2. 

 
Big Picture

Q: What did you first think when you heard UH was moving to a different communications technology and your old tan phone was going away?

A: I was both surprised and pleased by the move toward such a new technology.  UH can sometimes be too conservative for my taste and it was gratifying to see UH take such a forward-looking view.

Q: How has your view changed now that you’ve been through the migration?

A: UIT appears to be putting significant resource into making the Lync transition go smoothly. With the implementation of any technology this new and cutting edge, you can expect some issues but so far they have been very minimal.

Impact on Department

Q: How do you think this technology will change the way your department operates?

A: I am hoping to get high adoption for the more advanced features of Lync such as presence, IM and video conferencing.  I know that my faculty will enjoy the webex-like video conferencing and desktop sharing that is possible both with internal UH people and external groups.  The mobile aspects of Lync will also be a big game changer as people are increasingly not located in one physical location and being able to take your “phone” with you from location to location should also greatly increase people’s ability to be productive.

Q: Lync is a unified communications technology, which means it has lots of features that work together as one, Instant Messaging, Presence (the ability to see if someone is online), integrated voicemail and email. What is your favorite feature so far and what feature do you think will have the most impact on you and your department in the future?

A: I am a huge fan of presence and IM, so that is my No. 1 favorite feature.  Being able to see at a glance if someone is possibly available and being able to send them an IM asking “do you have a second?” saves a ton of time and it often leads to more voice communications - instead of less - as people fear with greater use of IM and email.  Since Lync is unified, you can easily move from IM to voice to video and back in a very seamless manner.

Q: As a technology manager, you set the tone for how your people communicate. How would you like to see your faculty and staff leverage this technology to improve the way they work, study or do research?

A: It is my hope that faculty members see the advantage of availability and do not fear it.  A lot of people will be nervous of their presence being so public, but I think that if people embrace it and if everyone observes some basic courtesy (not assuming a green available light means they can give you a lot of time), having presence will help to increase communications and information sharing at UH.

Impact on the University

Q: UIT makes the case that this technology is well suited for a Tier One university. Do you think so and why?

A: I think that it is well-suited.  My research faculty has a great need to collaborate with external groups such as NASA or many others.  Having the webex-like web-based conferencing and desktop sharing will enable them to meet with these people without having to travel to off campus or even out-of-state meetings.  Also, being able to hold office hours with students from anywhere at any time will enhance our ability to support our academic missions.

Q: If you were to see into the future five or 10 years, how do you think faculty will be using Lync and unified communications?

A: Five years is a long time in the world of technology. I would guess that more and more of our use for technology such as this will be from mobile devices, thus allowing people to respond faster and to feel less tied to physical locations.

Operations

Q: Lync provides you with a lot of options. You can use a number of types of traditional phone devices, headphones, and webcams, and even forward all your calls to your cell phone. A few customers have told us they are giving up phones altogether and just using their computers’ speaker and microphones.  What is your preferred way to use Lync and do you see that changing over time?

A: I have played with both using a plastic phone and using just the computer software (soft phone).  Long term, I plan to give up the phone and only use the software on my computer and my mobile devices.  I have been using a Logitech wireless headset (H760) and I love the freedom to be able to move around while using it.

Q: What do you think of your device’s audio and voice quality?

A: I am very pleased with the voice and sound qualities on all the devices I have used.

Q: Have you experienced any problems with Lync? What do you think needs fixing, either with the work that UIT is doing or with Lync itself?

A: When I first moved myself to Lync, there were issues using long distance and with the mobile clients. At this time, I find that all those issues are either completely gone or mostly dealt with.

Q: Have you tried video and web conferencing through Lync? Do you expect to try it and what do you think will be the first thing you will use it for?

A: I have played with the video and web conferencing and have used them to good personal affect in dealing with real time issues. Several times I have moved from an IM with an IT staff member to a voice conversation and finally to video and desktop sharing to deal with a real issue.

Communication practices

Q: Would you say your productivity (ease in communications) has improved or declined?  What can we do to help facilitate improvements?

A: I would say it has mostly improved.  I am noticing that some people are unwilling to share their status real time and are disabling IM features, which I hope will not become a trend.  We need to help people look at this technology as an advantage and make sure people are not abusing the access and causing people to pull away from it.

For Lync related questions or problems, send email to LyncSupport@uh.edu.