The Army's initiative to provide a collaboration service has culminated in offering Skype for Business to authorized Army business class users.

The emailed notification, from the office of Army Chief Information Officer Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, states Skype for Business has been approved as the official collaboration service for 1 million authorized Army business class users on unclassified and classified networks.

The email further states Skype for Business will allow users to send instant messages and chat with ease.

"It's a platform that will allow [users] to text-message back and forth and to have audio and video discussions with multiple people," said Mark Rogers, information management officer for the Fort Knox Garrison. "It's a collaboration tool that is a government-approved system, but it's not mandated. It's strictly optional."

Rogers said the program isn't needed by every office and therefore shouldn't be implemented by everyone.

"It will depend on your organization's plan for the system. It's something that you should have a viable need for before you bother to install it," Rogers said. "The jury is still out on how useful it is. There are offices that have to regularly communicate with people at different locations throughout the country or overseas, and we've used several different things in the past."

Rogers said in the long run the program might be more of a hindrance than a help.

"Loading software on your system just to have it is not a good thing. It takes up memory, takes time to start every day and wants you to log in every day," Rogers said. "It's one of those programs that once you load it, you can never turn it off. It's just another thing to bog your computer down."

With each program downloaded to the computer, Rogers said security is always a potential sacrifice.

"This is approved for the Army to use, and I hope that security is a major issue [why] it was chosen," Rogers said, "Skype users should take the time to understand the operations of the program, recording capabilities and understand the potential for misuse.

"Inherent software security is not something we control at the organizational level, but we can control how the software is used in the workplace."

He said anyone who needs the program may contact their organizational information management officer.

"Most users already have accounts that were created and pre-fielded," Rogers said. "Their organizational management officer can tell them if they have an account or they can coordinate with their IMO to have an account requested through [the] Network Enterprise Center."

Rogers said most systems don't come with microphones or webcams; therefore, organizations will have to provide them to their users as needed.

Training documents and tutorial videos provide an overview of the program and lessons at https://army.deps.mil/army/cmds/hqda_ciog6_Admin/UACRC/SitePages/Home.aspx.