A few days ago, my boss told me some of our prospective clients were confused about Presence.

She said the last few people with whom we discussed Lync didn’t get Presence. “How does that work? Is it useful?”

If someone’s never seen it before, I can see why Presence is a little hard to grasp. So let’s go through it, and work out a good clear way to explain Presence to someone new.

First, let me draw a parallel to a longer-used system: Instant Messaging. In IM clients like AIM or Yahoo Messenger, you get an indicator of when a person is online, offline, busy, away, etc.

Lync’s Presence system accomplishes something similar, but farther-reaching. Here are the basic codes for Lync 2013 Presence status:

Available Available
Away / Off Work
Busy / In a Call / In a Meeting
Do Not Disturb Do Not Disturb / Presenting

The same color shows up along the left side of your avatar image.

So we could start by defining Presence as:  Lync Presence is a system where you can see the status of another user.

But why would we want to know a person’s status?

To determine if it’s okay to contact them. If they’re set to Away or Busy, chances are they won’t respond to your message/phone call.

The same also applies to your own Presence. If you’re in a meeting, set to Do Not Disturb!

Does Presence convey any other information?

Yes. It also conveys (upon mouse hover) your current location and any note you’ve entered as you what you’re doing.

For instance, here’s a screenshot of my Lync 2013 client. I’ve set my status to Busy, written a note saying what I’m busy on, and set my location as the office. Took about 3 seconds.

Custom Presence is even possible, as we’ve discussed here in the past.

Let’s revise our definition: Lync Presence is an indicator of a user’s status, given to help advertise when it’s okay to contact them.

What if we’re not looking at Lync? Can we still see someone’s status?

Yep! Presence expands past the Lync client. (Big part of Presence’s value, right there.) You’ll also find the Presence icon in Outlook, SharePoint, Exchange, federated networks, Lync 365 on Office 365, Lync Mobile, Microsoft Dynamics software (like CRM), and related apps.

Here’s a partial screenshot of my Outlook window. You’ll see that one person is Unknown (external contact), one is Away, and two are Available. You can determine these users’ status at-a-glance by the Presence icon color.

What if I don’t want everyone to know what I’m doing – I just don’t want them to bug me?

The final value of Lync Presence is that Presence visibility is determined by privacy relationships. The relationships you set between yourself and your Lync contacts governs how much of your Presence status they can see (and vice versa).

There are four such privacy relationships in Lync by default (ordered from most open to least): Friends & Family, Workgroup, Colleagues, and External Contacts.

So for example, if you and I had a Workgroup-level privacy relationship, I could see your job title, work phone number and your SharePoint Site. But if we had a Colleague-level privacy relationship, I couldn’t see the work number or SharePoint Site. If we were External Contacts, I couldn’t see those either.

Here’s a full run-down of who can see what, by privacy level:
Control Access to Your Presence Information in Lync – Microsoft Office Website

A final definition of Lync Presence

With all of this, we can revise our definition of Presence again.
Lync Presence makes communication much more efficient, by showing who’s willing & available to communicate, where they are, and how you can contact one another.

Hope all this information makes it much easier for you (and us!) to explain Presence to others.

What’s the best way to explain Presence?

5 thoughts on “What’s the best way to explain Presence?

  • August 18, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Dear Insider,

    Is it possible to “add” an additional status or category to Lync’s Presence system?

    For a Federated Company, Company B, who wants to search/connect with a User in my environment, Company A, via Lync — could I add a Presence status that says something very specific about the Company A User?

    Something like:
    No Client (for Users who may be sip-enabled, but do not have the client installed)
    Not Provisioned (for temps/contractors who are sip-enabled, but are not allowed the client)

    I’m sorry if this isn’t the right article to post this question in.

  • August 18, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Basically, what I would like to do is change this message in Lync IM Window:

    “We couldn’t send this message because USERNAME is unavailable or offline.”

  • August 19, 2015 at 11:33 am

    Hey Chris,

    Thanks for the reply. I did see the article on that particular utility, which I think is actually great. However, the requirements are that you be online and in 1 of the 3 statuses – green, red, yellow | available, busy, away.
    What I was looking for was a way to configure the notification for when a Lync account is not online and the Sending Lync User is not aware of the Recipient Lync Users’ actual situation.
    This User is no longer with the Company.
    This User does not have Lync installed.
    This User is not allowed to receive messages.

    Instead of:
    “We couldn’t send this message because USERNAME is unavailable or offline.”

    … which, of course, is not specific enough for my Bosses. =)

  • August 19, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Hah! Yes, I understand.

    That’s a new one on me though. If someone has left the company or doesn’t have Lync, they’d show as Offline (or not at all). It seems that this is more the domain of Active Directory and Exchange than Lync/Skype4B.

    I’ll ask the rest of our team, see if they have an idea or know of an add-on. Thanks Trey.


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