Skype for Business – Taking Communication to the Heart of Productivity

Microsoft announced towards the back end of 2014 that in the first half of 2015, the next version of Lync will become Skype for Business with a new client experience, new server release, and updates to the service in Office 365. Skype for Business will take advantage of the strengths of Skype and Lync, combining the superb end user experience with security you trust.

I wanted to add some further detail around how Skype for Business is built firmly with the end user at its core and furthermore, how it gives organisations the ability to reach hundreds of millions of Skype users around the world.

1. It’s Familiar and easy
Because you know Skype, using Skype for Business with your colleagues, partners and customers is effortless — requiring less training and support.

2. Available Anywhere, on any device
Conversations travel seamlessly with you from the meeting room to any mobile device, including OS X, Windows and Android.

3. Maximise Office
Turn an email into a meeting and escalate into a group call, thanks to improved integration with Office, Active Directory, Exchange and SharePoint.

4. Have face-to-face conversations from anywhere
Video and voice calling are more natural than ever — like you’re in the same room. Skype for Business is designed to deliver a high-quality experience for every conversation.

5. Even more control at your fingertips
You can now confidently manage policies, grant feature rights and govern external communications, even from the cloud.

Current Lync Server customers will be able to take advantage of these capabilities simply by updating from Lync Server 2013 to the new Skype for Business Server in their datacenters. No new hardware is required.  For Office 365 customers, it’s even simpler.  Microsoft will do the required updates.

For more information on Skype for Business why not join our one hour webinar on Wednesday March 25th?

A review from Seattle and Microsoft’s Global Education Partner Summit

Microsoft welcomed invited Education Partners from around the Globe to Redmond (WA) on February 2nd – 5th 2015 for the annual Global Education Partner Summit.

The conference facility at the Microsoft Campus was full of the leading partners and leading staff from Microsoft global and education team, all accessible and ready to engage in superb discussions around product releases, success stories and the changing landscape within he Education sector.

The following piece is a tiny reflection of my thoughts from a stunning, if not wet Seattle. – (I won’t mention the Super Bowl, I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it!).

#1 Expect More. Achieve More. Do More.

This was the message outlined in Anthony Salcito’s superb opening presentation. Anthony started at Microsoft helping build presentations for Bill Gates and his knowledge and passion for the education space is second to none.

His reflection of the current education landscape served as evidence to me that the connected experiences through (Azure), Office 365, Power BI, Social Listening, Dynamics CRM, devices and apps will soon become the industry recognised suite of solutions that can lead Universities to be empowered to do more, and their students to achieve more.

On that note (and this is relevant to us as a Dynamics CRM Presidents Club Member) did you know according to information released between 2008 and 2013 from the USICA CIS Survey Dynamics CRM has seen a market share growth of over 500% across Universities? And we feel that figure is still an underestimation as the survey does not cover all schools / faculties within a University or all the Universities in the UK.

#2 BI – “Basic Intelligence, not Business Intelligence”

I need to tip my hat to Amir Netz (Technical Fellow at Microsoft) who delivered possibly the best demonstration and discussion I’ve ever seen, showcasing the true “power” of Power BI.

A few things really stood out:
•This was all done using a free version of the product, reinforcing the unrivalled total cost of ownership offered across the Microsoft Productivity and Business Solutions Suite.
•We are in the midst of the data revolution, and the great opportunity lies in the fact we are only at the start.
•This latest evolution of BI should really mean we come to see BI as “Basic Intelligence” not “Business Intelligence”.

Power BI is built to deliver BI for everyone, evolving from solutions that not so long ago required IT managers or data scientists to run individual queries for users which, by the time they arrived were out of date.

As a consequence BI is now powerful enough to enable users to act on the NOW! Not purely as a reflective, reporting tool.From a Universities’ point of view they can spot trends and alerts in real time, minimising student dissatisfaction, course failings and even improve retention levels.

#3 The continual investment and evolution of Dynamics CRM

If you are a University using Office 365 (beyond just Exchange Online), Microsoft Dynamics CRM should be at the top of your list as the solution for improving student recruitment, retention, and the overall experience. The integration between Dynamics CRM and the productivity suite within Office 365 is becoming tighter with every release and the addition of Social Listening, Dynamics Marketing and Parature means Universities’ have a globally supported, industry ready solution (with a multi-million dollar R&D program) that breaks silos and empowers them to achieve more right at their fingertips.

As one client of ours once said “Students see our University as ‘one’, in reality we were 7 or 8 silo departments unable to collaborate and therefore always reacting to student’s needs. With Dynamics CRM we can now finally act as one, empowering our students and the University to achieve great things.”

#4 Windows 10

Windows 10 combined with the plethora of devices showcased left a wow factor amongst those around me. The update provides one true experience across platform and store. The expansion of Cortana adds a whole new dimension for the end user.

#5 What great company!

I wanted to end on a huge thanks to all the people across the UK (especially Matt and Mark), the Global partners and the Microsoft Staff in Redmond I spoke with over the week. The conversations and knowledge share will be invaluable as I look to further cement our marketing led strategy and leading position within the Higher Education space across Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Office 365.

New OneDrive for Business access for Mac and iOS

OneDrive for Business is no longer the preserve of Android and Windows Phone users as Microsoft has just announced new access and management capabilities for the Mac and iOS contingent.

Over recent months, new mobile experiences have enabled people on Android and Windows devices to connect to both personal and business One Drive storage from a single app. The release of an updated OneDrive app for iOS now offers the very same flexibility for Mac and iOS and completes the first stage in Microsoft’s investment in delivering ‘a single OneDrive experience across work and life’ for mobile.

According to Jason Moore of the OneDrive Blog, there’s a lot to like.  For starters, amazing new capabilities in ‘how you view, manage and share your photos’. Moreover, you can now connect to one or more OneDrive for Business accounts. Rather than using two separate apps for your personal and business files, he says, ‘you can access all your files plus all the files that have been shared with you. You can even access your most recent files plus recover accidentally deleted files from the Recycle Bin. There’s new features to upload files to OneDrive for Business and powerful search and share features. For iOS users this delivers a single mobile experience to truly manage everything in your life! ‘ … all safe in the knowledge that business files are secured, managed and covered by Office 365 enterprise-grade security.

Mac users also wanted to be able to easily access and take their OneDrive for Business files offline, so Microsoft has recently provided a preview of its Mac sync client for One Drive for Business, the first way to sidestep the browser when accessing documents and, as Jason puts it, ‘a simple and secure way for you to manage and sync your files through the familiar Mac Finder experience.’

Introducing Office 365 Video

With video fast becoming one of the most powerful and engaging communication mediums, it’s no surprise that Microsoft has announced a new video streaming service within Office 365.

Office 365 Video will, from early 2015, enable all Office 365 users to securely upload, post and share videos organisation-wide.  With its good-looking user interface and intuitive content management options, this ‘NextGen Portal’ promises to win over users and meet business IT requirements.

It’s powered by Azure Media Services (the provider used during last year’s Olympics to deliver 6000 hours of footage over 18 days) and thanks to adaptive smooth streaming technology, optimises video playback according to the device being used.

Office 365 Video


Take Four

According to Microsoft, there are four core elements within Office 365 Video that are worth exploring:

  1. Simplicity
    With drag and drop functionality, it couldn’t be easier for content owners to upload videos in a range of video file types. Standardised playback files make for fast and easy viewing.
  2. Discoverability and share’ability
    Videos can be found via Office Delve, a search service which draws on the Office Graph (a social graph based on a user’s connections and activity) to find the most relevant results. Users can also leverage Yammer, Microsoft’s business-oriented social network, to post videos and enjoy what is considers a ‘social, personalised experience within Office 365’.
  3. Mobile
    Phones, tablets… whatever device is in use, people will be able to view, upload and share videos within Office 365.
  4. Built in security and easy to manage
    Permissions can be set for the home page that lever the same Active Directory that powers authenticity Office 365-wide. Admins can manage permissions for each channel via the same governance model.

Encryption, both ‘at rest’ and ‘in transit’ ensures security by design – company videos can only be accessed by authenticated employees with the appropriate permissions.

See how Office 365 Video can enhance your business communications.
Contact Pythagoras for unrivalled Office 365 insight now.

Introducing Clutter from Office 365

How congested is your inbox? This month Microsoft rolled out Clutter, a feature within Office 365 that helps users focus on what matters by moving lower priority messages from the inbox to a new repository – your Clutter folder.

Using Office Graph, Clutter learns from your habits and preferences, based on documents read and shared and Yammer social interaction. It sifts through your mail, keeping what’s important upfront and sending potentially distracting messages into the Clutter folder for you to access at your leisure.

Don’t worry, if you’ve done the groundwork and already set up rules to keep your inbox tidy, Clutter won’t tamper with them. It’s also disabled by default, and if you don’t like your mail being screened, the feature can simply be turned off.

Clutter learns by example. According to Microsoft it ‘gets smarter over time, learning from your prior actions with similar messages and assessing things like the type of content and even how you are addressed in a message……The more you move, the faster it will learn.’*

The more you interact with Clutter – manually moving less important emails – the quicker it will get to grips with your inbox inclinations.

Common Question: “Will Clutter work in Outlook desktop clients?

Answer: Yes, once turned on by the user, Clutter is available and automatically added in your folder favourites.

More information on maximising Office 365 and Clutter? Contact our experts.

Microsoft and Dropbox – Another tick in the box for Office 365

On Tuesday 4th November Microsoft and DropBox announced a strategic partnership paving the way for users of Office 365 and DropBox to collaborate and work more effectively. This is the latest partnership aimed at strengthening the appeal of Office 365 to existing Office users.

“In our mobile-first and cloud-first world, people need easier ways to create, share and collaborate regardless of their device or platform,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “Together, Microsoft and Dropbox will provide our shared customers with flexible tools that put them at the center for the way they live and work today.”

“People around the world have embraced Office and Dropbox to empower the way they live and work today,” said Drew Houston, CEO and co-founder of Dropbox. “Our partnership with Microsoft will make it easier than ever to collaborate seamlessly across these platforms, giving people the freedom to get more done.”

Dropbox and Microsoft users can now do the following:

  • Access Dropbox from Office apps to get to their files and folders faster.
  • Edit Office files directly from Dropbox and sync them across devices.
  • Share new or edited files from the Office apps using simple Dropbox sharing functionality

The features will be available to Office users with a Dropbox account. An Office 365 subscription will be required for Dropbox for Business customers. For more information on Office 365 contact our experts today.