Unconditionally contactable – no thanks.

This last week has been manic – hence the lack of blog posts… taking a day’s annual leave on Monday and then spending half of it catching up on my administration didn’t bode well, then there were two nights when I was up until 1am trying to write an infrastructure design document and the usual mix of travel, conflicting meeting requirements and trying to get some “real work” done.

“But Mark”, I hear you ask,”surely you use some of the technologies that I see you write about to improve productivity?”

The answer is that I do – I’m using Microsoft Office Communication Server 2007, the Office Communicator client 2007 and Live Meeting 2007 a fair bit – as well as our corporate conferencing service. Soon I’ll be linking all of that in to my voice mail to make use of Exchange Server 2007’s unified messaging capabilities. It’s a really good solution (especially when Communicator reads my calendar or Live Meeting status and sets my presence accordingly). But the technology is no panacea: sometimes something doesn’t work – I spent quite a bit of time this week waiting on a Live Meeting call as Microsoft struggled to get the audio working (they later postponed that particular meeting as even they couldn’t fix it); and other times there is no substitute for getting together in a room – like my main meeting on Friday which necessitated 4 hours travel (which could have been better spent doing something else) but resulted in the production of a migration strategy for a key customer’s messaging infrastructure – something which we had failed to do several times over the phone (and which I doubt even advances in video conferencing would have helped with).

As someone who struggles at times with information overload, and who was described by a friend and ex-colleague as “[sometimes] exhibiting workaholic tendencies”, I need to help myself to become more productive. As I already have a pile of books by the bedside, it’s probably time for an audiobook or two on Getting Things Done (or at least to check out 43 Folders from time to time).

As for unified communications (UC), Dave Bailey wrote an interesting comment for IT Week on the difficulties of getting away from it all – it was only a few days previously that, as I was busily IMing one contact, another team member started e-mailing me on the same subject and I had Outlook “toast” popping up as fast as I could type. Then I spent half of Friday afternoon this week reducing the size of my mailbox so that I could get below the system limits and send mail again (there is one simple answer – the delete key… but that’s not exactly productive either). As my colleague pointed out, it seems that UC really stands for “unconditionally contactable”. No thanks.

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