It’s human nature to get so used to a situation or routine that you miss signs that the status quo might be changing. For example: Many of us at Penton Media have for months endured a painful coexistence of our Lotus Notes environment and the Exchange Server 2003 environment of the organization that acquired Penton in early 2007. Forcing the two systems to coexist broke a Notes system that had worked, more or less, before the acquisition. As a result, the Notes side of the combined company—about 800 of us—started getting used to slow performance, lost messages, backed-up message queues, and the fairly regular loss of our email service. But after months of griping about email problems, suddenly we’re off of Notes (as of last weekend) and on Outlook Web Access (OWA) 2007—a transitional stage in preparation for a full-scale, companywide migration to Exchange Server 2007 and Outlook 2007 at the end of the year. The change feels great—but I’m amazed at how fast it happened.
I should say that the Penton IT team, led by CIO Cindi Reding, has performed admirably well under tough circumstances, dealing with multiple layers of problems with our Notes configuration and network infrastructure, as well as delays in delivery of new equipment that would have enabled the full-scale migration to happen sooner. They’ve also been diligent about keeping end users like me informed, even when the news wasn’t good. And, when they realized that our email problems were starting to have a seriously detrimental effect on our business, within less than two weeks from idea to implementation, they rolled out a transitional migration to OWA.
As a messaging professional, you’ve likely had experiences similar to at least parts of my story. Maybe you’ve had a migration delayed by unanticipated snafus, inherited a network rife with problems, or had to explain to end users yet another time why they can’t access their mail and when the problem will be fixed. And, I’m willing to bet you’ve had times in your career where the status quo changed, maybe dramatically. Perhaps you’re facing one of those turning points now, for instance, you could be evaluating a move to Exchange 2007 and how it (read: PowerShell) might change your job routine, or maybe considering scrapping your in-house email altogether because it demands too much of IT’s time and opting to use a hosted, managed email service instead.
Technology is constantly changing the status quo. Several months ago, I wrote a column about unified communications (see “Why Unified Communications Matters to You”) and talked about why messaging professionals need to take note that Exchange is now a UC product and how that might affect their job descriptions. Last week, I visited a company not far from Penton’s Loveland, Colorado, office—a 290-person microbrewery that’s rolling out a real, live UC system incorporating Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 and Office Communicator 2007, Cisco Systems VoIP phones, and Microsoft Live Meeting, with Exchange 2007 providing the messaging infrastructure. The benefits of an integrated technology that lets you switch from an email or IM to a voice call to a Web conference as needed were clear to me as I watched the company’s senior systems administrator use the UC setup. (Look for an article about the company's UC setup in December here.) The demand for UC isn’t just a possibility. It’s here, and it’s coming from people at all company levels who want to be able to easily switch among multiple communications modes from whatever computer or mobile device they’re using.