Making it work
Last year, Montana updated its communications and collaboration technology to help its 12,000 employees located at 600 sites throughout the state work more effectively on desktop and handheld devices. The new system offers more messaging options for workers who access email remotely and on a wider variety of smartphones.
In 2007, Montana's State Information Technology Services Division (SITSD) tested unified communications (UC) technology — built on Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Live Meeting 2007 — and found that it cut email administration time in half, while bringing new communication capabilities to state employees. In late 2009, as SITSD was preparing to open a new central data center, the state decided to enhance its UC technology to increase telework capabilities for its growing mobile workforce.
Montana chose to upgrade its UC foundation to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and tested it in February 2010. SITSD began a phased rollout to the rest of the state in April, and by August 2010, the project was fully complete.
Today, Montana employees use several features of Exchange Server 2010 to telework. Microsoft Outlook Web App (formerly Outlook Web Access) gives teleworkers access to email, voicemail, instant messages and SMS text messages from their work inbox using any of the major web browsers. They also can group messages from a single conversation together, drag messages and folders, and scroll through a long list of email messages without loading separate pages. "In general, with every successive version of Exchange Server, it seems that more and more of the full Outlook client features are being added to or replicated in Outlook Web App," says Joel Hardamon, systems engineer for SITSD. "That has been a good productivity boost for us."
With the new technology, teleworkers no longer need to choose only BlackBerry mobile devices or connect to the state's network through BlackBerry Enterprise Server. With Exchange ActiveSync in Exchange Server 2010, employees can synchronize a variety of mobile devices to receive e-mail messages, calendar information, and contact and task data. They also can manage their automatic-reply settings and access the state directory from their smartphones. Mobile users can see a contact's calendar, view text messages on a mobile device and in their Outlook inbox, and preview text versions of voicemail messages delivered to their inboxes.
Montana's upgrade to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 is the foundation for a more robust UC system — slated for completion later this year — that will include Microsoft Lync Server 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010. The final UC system will include conferencing, instant messaging and presence for even greater collaboration among employees.
Project: Unified communications upgrade
Agency: State Information Technology Services Division
Vendor: Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft
Date completed: August 2010