The Future of Teams and Skype for Business

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Microsoft Teams was generally released to the public as part of Microsoft’s Business/Enterprise Licences in March 2017.  It was a message to Slack and Cisco that Microsoft wanted to play big in the collaboration game. Teams at the time was launched as the product that brings together people, conversations and content:  

  • Modern conversation experiences with persistent, threaded chat.  
  • A hub for teamwork and a rich and powerful collaboration experience which builds in Microsoft tools and services that we use every day such as OneNote, OneDrive, SharePoint, PowerBI and many others. 
  • The ability to customise and integrate with 3rd party tools. 
  • Built as an enterprise grade tool with security and compliance  

Teams has a great outlook but there is still work to be done (work which is on the roadmap) before it gets to the promised land.  Also, how precisely each customer will harness its benefits remains to be seen.  However, our experience from our limited pilots with developers and project teams is that they love it!    

 

So, what do we know?

  • Teams will be an integral platform in Office 365 and the home of ‘intelligent communications’.  Teams has a huge and rapid development focus. It will be getting the Phone System (formerly Cloud PBX) introduced in SfB Online in the coming months along with the Calling Plans. 
  • Microsoft strategy is a single client experience for Skype for Business Online and Teams. However, it is important to note, the SfBO client will continue to be supported into the near future.  
  • A new management tool will be launched enabling administrators to manage users in both SfB Online and Teams with extended analytics functionality 
  • Teams has been built on a new architecture that is the best of the existing Skype for Business infrastructure but is primarily based on the Skype Consumer Platform. This allows Teams to utilise the ever-expanding functionality of Azure Cloud to provide features such as real-time translation and automatic captions during conference calls and searchable transcription post conference calls. 
  • Microsoft understands that Teams will not be able to handle some of the complex workloads required by some customers such as a call centre and for that reason have extended the life of Skype for Business On PremisesA new version will be released Q4 2018 dubbed ‘Skype for Business Server 2019’.  This means that both on premises and more so hybrid deployments (some functionality is only available in hybrid) are here to stay for the foreseeable future. 
  • Skype for Business and Teams will interoperate and can be run individually or side by side.

If I am planning a Skype for Business Rollout should I stop and reconsider? 

  • Short answer.  No.  If Skype for Business ticks all the boxes required – then there is no reason to wait for Teams. You can always run the two services side by side to evaluate how Teams will further improve your collaboration experience at later date.
     

What about my existing SfB deployments? 

  • The services will continue to run in a supported mode by Microsoft. 
  • Microsoft has said that all existing deployment options (ie. Calling Plans and CCE) and partner hardware (SBCs, IP Phones, Skype Room Systems) will work with Teams in the future via software updates. 

 

Other Key Points: 

  • When rolling out Teams think about Adoption carefully.  Having now used Teams for some time and set up customer pilots, the look and feel is different to SfB.  Today both systems have a separate place in the work environment. 
  • Educating users on its application, and how it can be used is key so it’s imperative to have a robust Adoption Strategy and Plan
     

Grey Areas: 

  • The integration with SfB today is a little clunky but there are plans to make that more seamless. 
  • When there is a single client, its yet to be seen if certain features can be switched off by the client. 
  • The final architecture is still being decided, there has been rumour that Microsoft will support SIP direct into the cloud. 

  

In summary, the overarching message is this.  Teams is going to be a significant collaboration tool.  It looks to us that some user groups will exploit it’s capabilities and while others will continue to use the features they use in SfB today.  If you are deploying or thinking of deploying SfB today, there is no reason to stop.  As teams evolves you should evaluate it separately and integrate it into your environment when the time is right for your business.

 

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