Microsoft Teams is Replacing Skype for Business: 5 Things to Know
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At the Ignite conference in late September, Microsoft announced, “Microsoft Teams is the fastest growing business app in Microsoft history,” serving 329,000 organizations across 44 languages and 87 of the Fortune 100 companies. Why are so many companies using Teams when Skype for Business Online has provided real-time unified communications for years? Why is Microsoft encouraging all commercial customers to transition from Skype to Teams? Can Microsoft claim “Teams is now a complete meeting and calling solution”? If your company has been waiting to switch, here are five things you should know before you make the jump.
1. Transition Earlier, Benefit Sooner
Microsoft has invested millions of dollars into Teams development. This level of dedication means Teams won’t be a short-lived product; in fact, Teams is central to Microsoft’s concept of personal cloud productivity. We often think of Teams as the app atop the stack of Office and SharePoint applications.
Microsoft intends to deprecate Skype at some point in the near future, and the company is starting to send communications around automated upgrades to Teams for organizations without dedicated IT resources. Sometime soon, every company using Skype will have no choice but to switch to Teams. Making this switch sooner rather than later allows you to leverage competitive advantages against your vertical over a longer period of time. While Microsoft isn’t forcing enterprise customers to move from Skype to Teams at this very moment, we recommend you make the shift on your own terms. Don’t wait until the day Microsoft stops supporting Skype to onboard your users to Teams.
Microsoft makes it easy to start by enabling Skype’s chat, calling, and meeting features in Teams and supporting different co-existence scenarios that allow early adopters or user cohorts to transition to Teams before others. This way, you don’t have to set up Teams from scratch, and business operations can be transitioned gradually.
2. Enhanced Calling Capabilities
Microsoft has already pulled Skype’s most popular communication features into Teams. For example, calling has drastically improved in Teams. There’s now a Call Queues capability that distributes incoming calls based on pre-set rules. The Auto Attendant feature allows organizations to create a voice menu system to divert callers to the correct departments. You can now set up an out-of-office message, call-forwarding to a group of numbers, and a do-not-disturb wall. And to top off the experience, employees can record meetings to the cloud and share them after the event via the Stream app.
Teams also sports unified presence (your status on your desktop is your status on mobile), federated chat (the ability to send instant messages to people from other companies and teams), background blur (for video calls in distracting environments), and even some translation features.
3. Improved Meetings for Everyone
Teams meetings can hold up to 250 participants, and they also have lobbies to screen dial-in callers. Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms now permit your employees to review files before meetings, write meeting notes during, and use voice recognition to create meeting transcripts. Because the company is using Skype’s new back-end infrastructure for Teams’ cloud, both products remain highly scalable, maintainable, and responsive. Users should be able to join meetings much faster, and Microsoft can continue to add more features in its AI algorithms and voice recognition options without sacrificing user experience.
About a year ago, we wrote about how we helped Children’s Hospital Los Angeles employ Skype for global telemedicine. We empowered doctors with the Armenian Eye Care Project to use Office 365 alongside OneDrive and Skype to transfer knowledge and demonstrate assisted surgery through live video meetings between Los Angeles and Armenia. Once upgraded to Teams, a solution this powerful can benefit from more cohesive meeting notes, allow for a patient’s family to call into the surgery, and enable doctors from all over the world to assist in operations.
4. Better Connectivity, Better Collaboration
Microsoft has adjusted the Teams interface over the last few months, displaying meetings, files, conversations, Office apps, and third-party integrations in easy-to-navigate vertical and horizontal tabs. Advanced working units can connect multiple third-party apps, like Asana, Zendesk, Trello, Dropbox, and much more. Your developers will love integrating with Visual Studio to share their commits and code ideas.
Teams brings even more connectivity than cloud-based document storage and Office 365 integrations. Simon Rilkoff, one of our Senior Change Management Consultants, says he’s seen a pattern with how companies use Teams. “[Teams] offers a single pane of glass over a user’s entire working environment so they can leave it on all the time and operate most of their communication, sharing, collaboration, and storage needs all with the contextual data required to be effective. Most Teams users operate with it on all the time as their main tool for anything related to connecting with others.”
5. Drive Team Performance with Intelligent Communications
Unified communications operates a centralized hub of third-party apps, internal communications, and federated experiences with out-of-organization clients and colleagues. Microsoft elevates this concept in its vision of intelligent communications, “going beyond traditional unified communications, enabling you to complete tasks more efficiently with minimal context switching, participate in more productive meetings that cover the entire meeting lifecycle, and better manage your everyday communications overload.”
Leveraging assets for AI, Microsoft Graph, and LinkedIn, Teams improves productivity and creates a more cohesive team-centric environment. Research also shows that successful adoption of intelligent communications tools results in a 19.2% increase in operating revenue.
Start Planning Now
Microsoft offers two options for transitioning: Upgrade Basic is for small organizations or those who don’t use Skype much; it upgrades all employees to Teams at once. The other option, Upgrade Pro, creates a personalized, multi-phase transition for enterprises or those heavily using Skype.
User adoption is the most difficult aspect of the transition process. Effective planning involves validating the technical readiness of your environment as well as the organizational readiness of your users. By running Skype alongside Teams and slowly introducing collaborative tools until each user cohort is ready to upgrade, employees can enjoy a phased journey to Teams.
Time is the critical resource here. To avoid speed bumps and roadblocks, start planning now, even if you won’t transition to Teams for another few months. Don’t underestimate the detailed operational processes your employees deal with every day. Some employees may not find the transition as easy as others, and it’s important to take everyone’s needs into account.