Delivering Real-Time Collaboration for Improved Productivity Is Easier than Ever

REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 25, 2005 – In today’s expanding global economy it is becoming more and more critical for companies to adopt business-savvy communications tools to remain competitive. Today’s workforce needs to communicate instantly and efficiently with geographically dispersed coworkers, partners and colleagues to make sharp decisions that place them ahead of the curve. Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 is designed to help relieve the stress associated with disparate workforces by enabling companies to incorporate real-time collaboration functionality into productivity and line-of-business applications.

Zig Serafin, General Manager, Microsoft Real-Time Collaboration Group

A key goal in the design of Live Communications Server is to create a platform upon which partners and independent software vendors (ISVs) can build integrated communications solutions. Today, Microsoft is introducing controls and sample code that make it easy to embed Live Communications Server’s presence and real-time collaboration features into custom applications, providing richer functionality. Live Communications Server can help eliminate the inefficiencies that come from disconnected workforces by enabling workers to see if someone is online and available while staying within the application in which they are working.

“We want to provide partners and ISVs with the tools they need to add real-time communication features into applications, making it possible for information workers to launch real-time collaboration sessions from within the tasks in which they are currently working,” says Zig Serafin, general manager, Real-Time Collaboration Group at Microsoft. “With these controls and sample code for Live Communications Server, we are making it easier for developers to build presence and real-time collaboration functionality into applications that today’s workforces use most and that work seamlessly across various networks and internal and cross-company business processes. And – thanks to the rich federation capabilities of Live Communications Server – partners can build solutions that work securely across networks and connect to public IM and presence services.”

Presence Controls Simplify Collaboration

Presence Controls for Microsoft Office Communicator, previously called Real-Time Collaboration Presence Toolkit, enable developers using Microsoft Visual Studio to easily insert presence icons into applications to provide the status information of contacts. In addition, the context menu within the icons enables integration with Microsoft Office Communicator 2005, allowing users in the application to launch Communicator’s IM conversation or telephone call window.

To consult with two colleagues working in separate remote locations, for example, there is no longer the need for the participants to search for phone numbers and place calls to have an audio conference. While working in the current application, a team member is able to see their contact list, with an icon providing information on each coworker’s availability. Right-clicking on the icon next to the name of the desired contact enables the worker to choose the preferred type of conference to use.

Role Agent and Customer Alerting Application Enable Quick and Effective Cross-Team Communication

Role Agent for Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 provides a sample implementation of role-based instant messaging and presence. The sample gives developers a way to assign a role name, such as “customer service representative,” to a group of people in order to create a public-facing entity that represents the presence of any individual currently in that role. Requests for an instant messaging session with the role can be dispatched to any or all of the available members in the group.

It might be difficult to benefit from presence awareness when you don’t know the name of the person you want to contact or that person doesn’t appear in an application. Perhaps they are part of a team that is known by function such as accounting or human resources, and therefore that team becomes a collective resource that can help you solve your problem immediately.

Also, in some cases, the members of a team change regularly, or perhaps the names of the individuals who are available to answer a question or provide real-time assistance should not be exposed. With the Role Agent, a role name can be used to represent a dynamic roster of individuals who are part of that role in the Active Directory group. Also, additional “bot” functionality can be written into the Role Agent application, enabling users to communicate with individuals and determine the best way to direct a task. This added functionality enables a team to be more efficient by quickly locating individuals who can perform the next task in a project or immediately answer a pressing question.

Customer Alerting Application Sample for Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 demonstrates how to build an application that enables team members to determine whether other team members are online and send an instant notification to those members. The application is integrated with Active Directory and Live Communications Server.

Imagine working on a team with another team toward a common goal. Both teams need to finalize the documents for the project, and yet it is possible that not all members of one team are familiar with those of the other team — and thus do not have a way to look them up and check their availability. With Custom Alerting embedded in the application, each member of both teams can be quickly identified, with their online availability known instantly.

Presence Controls for Microsoft Office Communicator as well as samples for Role Agent are currently available and can be downloaded from the Microsoft Office Live Communications Server Partner Solutions site.

Customer Alerting Application sample will be available this week.

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