Why Outlook offers a great case for cloud services

A mode of collaborative project team work called ‘Getting Things Done” extreme uses Microsoft’s popular e-mail service and extends unified communications capability. Here’s how

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If you are a business wondering what the cloud might offer you, one key example is a new service innovation we’re developing through our Canada Cloud Roadmap: Outlook Cloud Services.

This would be an add-on to products like UCaaS – Unified Communications (UC) as a Service, to then enable “Getting Things Done, Extreme!” – A mode of collaborative project team work.

Getting Things Done, Extreme!

With an intended benefit of improving the productivity of you and your team, we’ve designed this around the well-known time management methodology, Getting Things Done, by David Allen.

This helps individuals be more productive through a simple system for organizing your flow of work and action items. GTD is based on a simple framework that lets you relax about your working life by ensuring that i) you’re entirely thorough about inputting 100% of all of your tasks into one system, and then ii) ensuring you organize those tasks by modes of work (e.g. At The Computer, Making Calls) so that you work through them in the most efficient manner.

To expand the principles to work for a team I also combined it with Extreme Management, a software development practice for Agile team work, generalized to work for groups of any type. Hence Getting Things Done, Extreme!

Extreme Programming focuses the same principles at the important team level factors, like having a real pulse on how much work is Getting Done and by getting more work done effectively through faster throughput of smaller iterations.

Outlook Cloud Services

Implementing these best practices requires tools like the UC software and Microsoft Outlook, and these highlight how the cloud isn’t just about remote software. Indeed if you don`t have an Internet connection for whatever reason a hosted service is entirely unusable.

Hence local apps and synchronization is also a key feature of cloud services. This combines server-based powerful applications with user-centric and resilient client tools.

An example is Outlook Cloud Services, where we add software called virtualCONTACT to the UC suite so that it synchronizes your local Outlook contacts with a central server, which means that you can also access them via the web and further synch them with other devices, like your BlackBerry or cell phone.

This provides a core basic building block of boosting productivity of users so they don’t have to hunt around their many contact tools when they need a client’s details.

It also synchronizes your local files, and calling on other capabilities of the UC suite makes a team more productive through features such as:

  • File sharing: Creation of online team spaces for sharing these files, like a Decision Meeting Workspace, a simple collaboration forum that can be quickly formed from within Outlook. Files can be added through synchronization or simply posted by sending it via e-mail.
  • Task Management: Creating action item tasks within Outlook, which can be assigned to other team members, tracked in real-time and that can generate email notifications for progress status alerts. The acceptance of tasks by other team members is logged to a journal, so there is a clear audit trail of responsibility assignment.
  • Work Alerts: You can receive alerts when other team members upload files and make changes to tasks.

Enabling better team productivity via collaboration apps is an area often discussed but often goes wrong. Usually the mistake is to try and force in a large and complex application, which requires significant customization and user training.

The workday reality is that users have so much content flying past them that they rarely escape Outlook, so integrating a quick and lightweight toolset here is the smart move.

Outlook offers task management features that enable Getting Things Done type models, letting users rapidly process their inbox into tasks, and then to classify these tasks with Tags, add Reminders along with other time-saving tools, and then also by tapping into cloud services that enable further sharing with team mates as and when required.

Learn more about the possibilities by tuning into Allstream’s Webinar today, Oct. 24: Cloud Computing: Improve ROI on Your Data Centre Strategy.

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