This is a guest post written by Thomas V. Pind who is CEO of Futurecom Business Solutions, a Plantronics Strategic Consulting partner, specialized in helping customers improve communication and collaboration.

Unified Communications tools can greatly improve your effectiveness and teamwork in projects in general, but especially in internal projects.

This article gives you some simple tips and tricks for getting more effective using the Unified Communications technologies. You are very welcome to comment on the article, and give input to additional relevant tips for others to use.

1. Group your project team members on your instant messenger
A simple but very effective trick is to arrange all the members of your project into one group for each project. With this little trick you can always see the status of your project members, and easily initiate a chat, call, video meeting or online web meeting, which greatly improves the communication in your project.
E.g. if you are running an internal IT Windows 7 project, then create a group in your instant messenger contact list called “Project – Windows 7”. You can then add each of the team members into that group. This can be done by simply clicking on a person and select “add to group”, or by dragging and dropping while holding the “Ctrl” key to add instead of moving. By using “add to group” to a group, the contact person can appear in multiple groups on the instant messenger.

2. Use presence to track the status of your team members
In today’s global and flexible world, you might never really know where your colleagues are. They might be in a car on the way to a customer, in the airport, in the office or at home. They might work early in the morning or they might work late in the night if that fits into their personal and professional schedule.
With the presence status you can easily see if one of your team members is online or offline, and you can easily see if the member is in a meeting or available for a talk. If it’s late in the evening or night, you might not want to call a colleague, but if he is online and available it’s easy and not very intrusive to send the person a chat and ask if you can disturb.

3. Arrange regular online status meetings
With a web meeting tool like Microsoft Lync you can arrange online meetings where you can share documents, show presentations and see each other on video. One of the benefits with web meetings is that you can meet regularly across geographical boundaries and with much higher quality than just a phone conference.
You can use this very effectively in your projects to arrange regular status meetings where you
• Discuss the progress of the project
• Get input from each team member on their status
• Discuss any critical issues
• Agree on to-do’s and priorities
Web meeting is also a very effective way to keep your management informed on the progress. The information needed for the management is very often underestimated, and with an online meeting you can quickly give a high quality update.
The web meetings can also be used by each team member to hold online meetings with each other to discuss specific tasks in the project, e.g. two team members might go through documentation in a Word document of the backup plan for the Windows 7 project.


4. Use an online document library
In any project there is typically a large amount of e-mails going between the projects members. By using an online document library, you can reduce the amount and size of e-mails and you can ensure that it’s easy to always find the latest version of the documents.
With document libraries such as Sharepoint, you can additionally have a quick overview of the presence status of your team members and you can add elements like discussion groups and comments on your documents.

5. Use online meetings to educate and inform your end users
In any project there is typical some end-users that need to be informed and/or educated in the results of the project.
Without effective information and training the results and value of the project might very well be greatly reduced.
A very effective way to do this is through the use of web meetings. With web meetings you can have a large number of participants on the training at the same time. The participants don’t need to travel in order to participate and you can easily fit it into the schedule of both the trainer and the participants.
On a web meeting you can show both presentations and talk about vision, purpose, plans and implications for the changes, and you can show specific results, like a demo and introduction of the new Windows 7.