George Lucas is a genius and well before his time with Star Wars. I know I wouldn’t be the first person to say that or the last.
It wasn’t so much the “not so” special effects, a young Harrison Ford cruising the galaxy in the fastest ship or even the Princess Leia outfit, but the productivity tools Darth Vader used.
Bear with me!
I know now that the Imperial force and the resistance all used unified communications and collaboration (very early betas!). I’d like to think Darth Vader was a stern CTO determined not only for the empire to use Office Communications Server but also to federate with the allies in a kind of good/bad federation way. After all, how else did he know when Luke was online? Some may say it was the force but I’m not so sure…..it's a well known fact that Darth Vader used SharePoint to report on the progress of the imperial invasion to the Emperor - well, you never saw him get in hot water for not keeping him up to date!
Seriously, coming back to the point, I do believe that everything in unified collaboration springs from presence and that that little dot (now square) that proliferates through applications is the centre of collaboration.
Agnostically, this is true for all unified communications platforms where people’s availability is shown but where Microsoft OCS and soon Lync has the advantage, is that this presence is built into the collaborative and business productivity stack "out of the box".
With the effortless installation of Office Communicator, presence bubbles start to appear in Office, SharePoint, Outlook, CRM and any custom applications you want to use the APIs to plug into. Don’t forget, it’s not just on your PC but also extends to your mobile phone and a web client. Infact, with Outlook WebApp, presence is available without communicator!
Personally, I find the most useful thing is to search for people and if they are offline, I can see who in their team is online and then choose to send an instant message (IM), email, PC to PC call (with or without video) or ring their desk phone.
Of course presence is also a cultural thing. I used to be guilty of signing into MSN Messenger as “Offline” so I could see people who were online but not be hounded. Problem with that is that everyone does it; you may as well not use it. So you have to be disciplined about it along with respect other people’s status. There is no point setting your status to “Do not disturb” or “With a customer” if people are still going to try an send you messages but then these are the people who usually just wander into your meetings anyway!
There is a great place for IM in a corporate world and most partners and customers I speak to can see it. Many people still use email as IM and expect an instant reply. Just stop to think of how many of those messages have ended up in expensive vaulting solutions!
So, next time you watch Star Wars and you see Darth Vader sensing someone's presence, have a look at his arm as he probably has a device with the communicator client on it!
And this goes to prove it - Darth Vader must have been very busy as his presence was always red whereas Luke's was green. Think about who won next time you sit on a busy status!