OCS and Communicator reviews

If you are a regular OfficeRocker reader you might think I've developed a bit of an obsession with OCS (FAQ here) at the moment and I really must start writing about other Office system topics but anyway.

An interesting review of OCS was posted by Shomik Banerjee who is a Industry Analyst with Frost & Sullivan.  Whilst he is critical of the way we articulate the benefits, he still makes it clear that he "endorse[s] the product" and that he thinks "OCS and office communicator 2007 launch will drive away competition from telephony vendors in the presence and user interface market."  He also describes OCS as "One of the secret treasures in Microsoft's arsenal is its voice management capability."

It is a tricky product to help people grasp without actually making them try it out for a while (and we thought the ribbon was hard to explain) and I've found it is necessary to explain how Communicator and OCS are better than Windows Live Messenger.

If you are still wondering what it is, this was a good summary that came round to the 300 or so of us that are trialling it internally:

Office Communications Server 2007 replaces Live Communications Server 2005 and brings the following to organisations and their employees:

Streamlined Communications:

  • Communicate with people from within applications. For example from within Outlook you will be able to call or IM one or all of the people in the email. It even includes the subject line so they know why you are calling.
  • OCS 2007 also enables anywhere access, allowing you to communicate over video, voice and IM no matter where you are in the world, no need to VPN anymore!.
  • Finally, multi party video and voice means that no matter if you use Communicator 2007 or Microsoft Roundtable, you can take part in a meeting without having to drive into the office.

Software-powered VOIP integration:

  • OCS 2007 works with existing telephony systems to bring VOIP (voice over IP) to the desktop without the need to ‘rip and replace’.
  • With OCS 2007, a phone is the thing of the past because you can take calls at your desk, at home, on your mobile or anywhere else with a network connection.

Operational control:

  • In many organisations, the team that sets up your phone is a different set of people to those that setup your email. OCS allows administrators to provision, configure and manage a users communications tools from a single interface while keeping it secure and compliant.

I kept a little list of things I liked and things I didn't as I began to use it.  However the 'dislike' column didn't get longer than one item (which was I wish my Katalina phone had a button to end the call) so it turned into a 'favourite feature' list instead.  So here are my verbatim top ten (alright 11) of my very first impressions:

  1. Liked that you can untag a contact when they pop up
  2. V v simple to set up and get working
  3. Like the cool new look of Communicator 2007 - very streamlined and efficient to use
  4. Easy to add a note next to my name
  5. Easy to call someone - one click on phone
  6. Clean looking phone on the desk takes less space
  7. Presence on a big email has everyone's globe on view at once
  8. Like the way the status bar flashes to a phone handset when there is voicemail waiting and like the search folder in Outlook for vmail
  9. The way it puts consecutive IM posts by the same person under the same heading
  10. The way it pauses and unpauses your music when a call comes in
  11. You can put a subject in a phone call

These aren't necessarily the top features or a benefits description but they are the first things that stood out to me as a user.  The other post about WLM has more of the top benefits listed.  Mark Deakin has a good post about his observations on his first month.

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