Jul 29 2011

Outlook 2010 and instant messaging


Outlook 2010 top 11 cool things – #7 IM

Now #7 unfortunately needs some additional products to work, unless you already have said product and then this is a real bonus! As with these products in place integration into Outlook is something that every Legal IT vendor with an Outlook addin needs to take note of!

The additional product is Office Communication Server (OCS) or Lync as it’s now called, the function it provides is Instant Messaging, Voice and Video communication. And with Outlook 2010 in place the integration is excellent.

First off there is a section that appears in the “organiser pane“. From here you can see your recent and other OCS/Lync contacts and initiate an IM chat or a voice call etc. It really saves having to go back into a separate application to view the online status of a contact or initiate an IM. The only thing I wish Microsoft would have done here is put in a simple search box like in the OCS/Lync client!

Also from any email, as well as being able to reply and forward you can also reply via IM.

Finally anywhere there is an email address or contact name (in the email, on a meeting etc) you can see there busy/free status indicated by the colour next to the picture and name. As well as being able to click to email the contact, IM the contact or make an OCS call to the contact just by clicking on the contact name.

OCS/Lync is integrated in all the right places in Outlook 2010. So much so you don’t realise it’s a separate product. Now if only a couple of Legal IT products, thinking of one for document management and one for document protection could integrate as nicely within Office 2010….. 😉


Jul 26 2011



Outlook 2010 top 11 cool things – #6 The organiser pane

I love the “organiser pane” or “right hand pane” in Outlook 2010, but you’ll need a nice sized widescreen monitor to really appreciate it!

I have my Outlook set up with the vertical reading pane (what you still use the horizontal reading pane?? That’s so Outlook 2000!). So I’ve got my traditional 3 panes. From left to right I’ve the folders list, then my email items view and then my reading pane. Outlook 2010 then brings me a fourth pane.

In here I can see a view of the current month with my upcoming appointment just below. Then under that I’ve my current tasks. And finally the people I’ve most recently IM’d (instant messaged using Office Communicator or Lync, more of IM integration in a later post).

So without having to jump into my calendar and tasks, in one view I can see all my recent stuff. Emails, Appointments, Tasks and contacts! It doesn’t sound much but it is one of the most useful features I’ve encountered in 2010.


May 10 2011

A Legal IT take on the Microsoft Skype news


You can’t have failed to hear the big news today, Microsoft’s $8.5bn purchase of Skype. I’ve read a fair few tweets this afternoon about how it’s a bad deal. That they’re playing catch-up with Google and Apple, they paid over the odds etc

But I think it’s a great deal for Microsoft and also for lawyers.

We all know Skype is huge in the consumer market, in Europe I’d say Google nor Apple have anything like the consumer share that Skype has. Microsoft today suddenly became the market leader in the consumer market place.

But that’s not why I think it’s great deal.

In legal I know of plenty of lawyers who also use it for business. Keeping in touch with clients and colleagues on international deals is made an awful lot cheaper when using Skype rather than traditional land lines. 

The key here is how Microsoft leverage the consumer dominance and usage in business into model that makes money. For that look to Lync. All of a sudden Microsoft have the ability to break the proprietary nature of Skype and enable the ability to federate all those customers into corporate Lync environments. Lawyers will be able to use Lync and all the benefits of a unified communications platform within their firms, but now also communicate to their clients who are using Skype. When a firm is evaluating which platform to go for and their clients all use Skype anyway, there is a compelling argument to go with the corporate platform that will work with Skype.

Then there is the Windows Phone 7 platform. Late to the party but a great OS that is getting better. The combination of the “Mango” release, the deal with Nokia and now Skype will give this platform a huge boost for both consumer and business. The integration that’s there already with Sharepoint, Office and  Exchange together with Skype linked to your corporate unified communications platform (instant messaging, voicemail, phone etc) could make Windows Phone 7 devices a good option for a corporate device.

As I said at the start of the year, IM and unified communications platforms are a big thing for legal. Great for bringing cross border teams together, great for keeping in touch with clients and great for bringing costs down. I think the Skype deal may put Lync in the corporate driving seat.


Jul 1 2010

Down to London for a look at “Microsoft 2010”


I spent the day today in London at an event hosted by Trinity Expert Systems. The event focussed on Microsoft’s 2010 stack of products and my reason for attending was to look at Office 2010 and the surrounding technologies (I was particular keen to see what SharePoint 2010 had to offer).

I thought I would blog about a number of other products that caught my eye, not all of them were new, I’d seen some before, but it was the possibilities that came to mind that interested me.

The first session was more on the “infrastructure” products. I use quotes as these were what they traditionally were, but as you’ll see from these two parts of Microsoft’s System Centre, the end user service is becoming more of a focus:

  • SCOM (Microsoft’s monitoring solution). The pictorial view of a systems health from a business service perspective and the possibilities to monitor client machines interested me, it took it beyond what I’ve seen in MOM (it’s predecessor). The possibilities of monitoring the iManage Document Management service end to end, for example. Not just that the physical server is up and running, but that the clients can connect, the IDOL indexer is indexing correctly, the SQL database and application servers are handling transactions nicely, applications load in a satisfactory time etc. For a support team you can see the health of the service as a whole rather than just the servers in it.
  • Service Manager. A new introduction and effectively a help desk system. What I liked here was the self service portal idea, allowing the end user to “do it themselves”. So for example, install an authorised piece of software just by selecting if from the self service portal.

A couple of interesting features of Windows 7 were mentioned that I wasn’t aware of:

  • AppLocker – in my opinion this allows you to lock down desktops in a much better way. Effectively giving a white list of apps you allow on your desktops, the users can install authorised apps themselves. No longer having to manage the crude Windows XP standard user v admin user, which inevitably leads to people having admin right and a proliferation of unwanted apps in the organisation. It also allows quick but controlled authorisation of new apps.
  • BranchCache – basically this is local caching of information. So files from remote locations are downloaded once by the first person and then subsequent requests for the file are from local PC’s rather than from the remote location. I don’t know too many of the technical details but it looks interesting.

Next up was unified communications, I use Office Communicator at work and blogged at the start of the year that I think this is the year for IM in legal. But the integration into Outlook 2010 will need some thinking about. For example, do you need a separate application for communicator? It isn’t necessarily required as it gets integrated into Outlook 2010.

Also something that struck me was whether there was a need for a separate “Person” database (usually found in all firms intranets) diminishes as contact information becomes richer and exposed in many of the 2010 applications (Office, communicator, SharePoint etc)

After lunch it was the turn of SharePoint 2010, this product interests me at the moment. Especially the possibilities for real time collaboration when integrated with Office 2010. The granular way that collaboration works sounds very good, the locking of a paragraph as one party edits it removes the chaos that you got in say Google Wave. Combine this with Office Communicator and real remote collaboration becomes much easier.

I think there is a lot of potential here for Document Management System (DMS) providers to leverage this functionality. Law firms aren’t going to abandon hard core DMS systems anytime soon, but I think there will be use of SharePoint with Office 2010. So there is the real need to control the checkout from a DMS and smoothly transition to SharePoint for collaboration before finally returning that document back into the DMS with version control and audit history (the later isn’t kept by SP2010 when collaborating).

As I start to look at Office 2010 I see more and more possibilities. It’s going to be very hard to scope the delivery of this version of office as it seems to integrate so well with the other Microsoft applications!

Finally at the end of the day we got a quick run through security and Direct Access. This allows seamless access into the business network from your firms laptop wherever internet access can be gained. No more convoluted token/password access! It also ensures that the laptop is covered by all your corporate policies, deployments etc whenever the laptop is connected.

So overall a good day. Plenty learnt about the new technologies from Microsoft. But now, from my point of view, we just have to work out how we avoid getting too carried away with the possibilities for Office 2010!