At its launch event in New York City yesterday, Microsoft blared the trumpets for Office and SharePoint 2010, emphasizing that the new updates are designed to give users a choice of on-premise or cloud environments, calling the new releases an intersection of the PC, phone and browser.
During the keynote, Microsoft business division heads Stephen Elop and Chris Caposella highlighted Office Web Apps, new features in Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook and the integration of Office documents with SharePoint 2010. Elop also led a rapid fire Q&A with IT execs from large companies including GE and Del Monte.
One company already seeing the benefits of the Office and SharePoint 2010 medley is Global Crossing, a telecommunications firm that provides networking services such as VPN, video conferencing and VoIP in 70 countries to Fortune 500 companies as well as to carriers and Internet service providers.
Global Crossing was an early adopter for Office 2010 (read review here) and SharePoint 2010, taking part in the rapid deployment programs starting over six months ago. The company's IT managers say that the new and improved e-mail and social networking features are enhancing communication among the company's 5,000 worldwide employees.
[ For complete coverage of the Cloud Apps Wars including a complete guide to the business war, the competing products including Google Docs and Office 2010, the implications for users and IT, and more -- see CIO.com's Cloud Apps Wars Bible. ]
Steven Schafer, Director of Network Services at Global Crossing and Robert Wicklund, Senior Systems Engineer, sat down with CIO.com's Shane O'Neill at the launch event to discuss the features within Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 that are reducing headaches and improving Global Crossing's bottom line.
Conversation View in Outlook
Global Crossing is moving to increase the size of user's mailboxes, and by doing so the IT department wants to give employees the ability to manage their own inbox.
Schafer says users will benefit from a feature in Outlook 2010 called Conversation View, which although is not a new technology (it has been in Gmail for years) it is being fully utilized as an enterprise feature in Outlook 2010.
Conversation View takes e-mail threads and groups them into conversations based on the subject. This feature can greatly reduce the number of items in an inbox by grouping and hiding redundant e-mails that were part of the conversation. A thread of 30 e-mails can be reduced to one e-mail that includes the entire set of messages.
Shafer is also encouraging Global Crossing employees to use a tool called "clean up" to delete all redundant messages in a thread.
"If it's one continuous e-mail thread, the last e-mail in the thread has everything else in it. So all you need is that one."
Schafer says "conversation view" and "clean up" are helping Global Crossing put management of the inbox into the hands of the end-user.
"They can use the clean up features to rapidly delete enormous amounts of useless data," he says.
Co-Authoring Office Docs in SharePoint 2010
Global Crossing is making SharePoint 2010 available on the extranet and securely granting access to customers and partners and collaborate with them through the "co-authoring" feature.
Co-authoring in Office 2010 allows a user to invite a group of people into SharePoint to work on a single Office document together, rather than having people e-mail around different versions of the same document.
In this case, co-authoring through SharePoint 2010 on the extranet solves the problem of having 50-page documents from law firms or vendors go back and forth over e-mail, piling up multiple copies of large files within Outlook, says Schafer.
"Putting these documents out on the extranet so our internal users can collaborate with an outside legal firm or vendor on just one document with is a big improvement," he says.
Co-authoring in SharePoint 2010 also tracks revisions made to documents and collects metadata such as the content type, who's the owner, who made the last update and on what date.
"It gives us a lot more control," says Senior Systems Engineer Wicklund. "With e-mail there's a chance someone could save or send the wrong copy of an important document, and we'd rather not take that chance."
Global Crossing has been using social networking features in Outlook and SharePoint 2010 to improve communication and relationships among its far-flung workforce.
It starts with Outlook Social Connector, a new Outlook 2010 feature that provides the photo, name, title, IM and phone connection, and other information about an e-mail sender or recipient right from the Outlook inbox. OSC also filters in activity from LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace if a user choses to connect their account to Outlook 2010.
It's been surprising to Schafer what a difference it's made just to have current photos integrated into Outlook.
Schafer says that he was recently on a call with 60 people around the world and through an Outlook Social Connector feature called Gallery View he could see head shots of the people he was interacting with. There was one worker in Netherlands who Schafer has worked with for nine years but neither knew what the other looked like.
"She was like 'I've never seen what you look like!' She was happy. It was a big deal for her. So this feature helps improve communication."
Social computing also impacts the bottom line of the business by saving time, says Wicklund. To better prepare for a meeting, he can use the People Pane and Gallery View features to see who will be attending the meeting and can click on a person's picture to view a list of all the e-mails he and that person have exchanged in the past.
"It just allows people to work better together," he says.