Microsoft's unified productivity killer

Microsoft is planning to ship Office Communications Server 2007 in October. There is nothing new about the idea of a single InBox for email, voicemail, faxes etc. It’s new to Microsoft and no doubt the company will make a big thing about how Office Communications Server will make us all more productive.

I’m not convinced. It includes the concept of Presence – the idea of being able to tell if someone is available. I used to use MS Instant Messenger and Presence is a genuine productivity killer.

Yes it’s fine to be able to know that someone is free, but it relies on the user having to update their Presence each time they walk over to the coffee machine, have a chat and a laugh with a colleague, go to the toilet, leave for the train, get home, go to the pub, have dinner, watch TV and go to bed.

It’s an infringement on our personal privacy. And if we dare say we’re “Not Available” or “Busy”, Presence status become a bit like the “DO NOT DISTURB” notice you put outside your hotel room when you’ve got lucky. Why am I still busy, why am I not available, what have I been up to all day?

Join the conversation


Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

I understand you are taking an extreme view to provoke some kind of reaction, but in so doing you are neglecting the possibility that "Presence" can be used as loosely as one is comfortable with. Does anybody really care that you are at the soda machine? So what if they walk to your office and have to stop back in 3 minutes? My point is that this type of software, by virtue of PC "queues" like locking your screen, automatically sets a "Presence". I am a strong Java/Unix supporter (Microsoft detractor), yet feel that such software has been a boon to our productivity.

Interesting post Cliff. You are right that the single inbox isn’t a new idea, but traditionally this only extends to voice mail, email and fax as you point out. The concept of unified communications is to bring all communications channels together such as: Instant Messaging - which is increasingly popular and relied upon – video conferencing and the telephone. There is good evidence as well too suggest that this does create productivity gains. Of course you’d expect me to say that and indeed, measuring these gains is always difficult. This is because whilst time saved across a year may be significant, it might only equate to a few minutes saved here and there across a day which is much harder to quantify.

There are other much more quantifiable gains to be had though. For instance, VoIP’s great benefit is the ability to cut call costs across an organization, but more and more employees are using their mobile because the numbers are stored and it’s easy. Thus any money saved is going into the pocket of mobile operators. However, by allowing staff to click on a contact and immediately call them from a desk phone, you take away a layer of hassle and start to wean staff of the mobile - realizing the cost benefits of VoIP in the process.

Not everyone is going like Presence, and not everyone likes IM, but it is something that I believe users will find incredibly useful and make their lives easier – especially as teams become more virtual and communicating with people across the world becomes ever more the norm. Its also worth highlighting that presence should be set using a combination of user interaction and system intelligence i.e. when I lock my machine its set me to away.