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Improve your collaborative power with Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business

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Improve your collaborative power with Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business

Adam Bennett | SVP Workplace Productivity, CX and Workplace Productivity

Alex Bennett | SVP Workplace Productivity, CX and Workplace Productivity

Collaboration relies on frequent, clear and constructive communication. With this in mind, Microsoft has announced their vision for intelligent communications — integrating Skype for Business Online, with its communications focus, into the more collaboration-centric Microsoft Teams.

Depending on whether your Skype for Business environment is on-premises or in the cloud with Office 365, Microsoft is pursuing two different strategies:

 

  • Skype for Business Online will transition into Teams and Office 365
  • Skype for Business on-premise will stay the same, with a new Skype for Business Server coming in 2018

As more organisations incorporate Skype for Business into their day-to-day productivity toolset, they are now considering what this announcement will mean for the continued use or planned adoption of the service.

For companies who have invested in Skype for Business, and integrated the service into their business processes there may be some anxiety around how exactly the changes will manifest. And while the changes are not going to be immediate, organisations are looking for certainty to ensure that they have the appropriate plans in place.

Microsoft has outlined the roadmap for Skype for Business and Teams and how the integration will take place.

Marrying Teams and Skype for Business

Microsoft Teams is not replacing the Skype for Business service, rather it will integrate the functionality of Skype for Business into its capabilities into a new Teams client. The aim is that the Teams client will include all the features of the current Skype for Business client before the end of 2018.

It is expected that current Skype for Business solutions will continue to work at least until October 2020.

Microsoft are transferring Skype for Business Online’s conference calling and meeting capabilities into the Teams platform, alongside data incorporated from Microsoft Graph. Having been built initially on the Skype for Business Online platform, the meeting and conference calling functionality will be delivered on a new and modern infrastructure within the Teams. This will enable enterprise-grade voice and video communication — calls, instant messaging and private branch exchange services for Teams users, taking this offering to the next level.

Over time, Teams will evolve into the primary client for communications within Office 365, rather than Skype for Business Online.

While the name Skype for Business Online will eventually be replaced, it’s core will remain intact. Users may,however, see some functionality temporaily removed especially in the area of enterprise voice (for more detail consult this Roadmap).

Clients adopting the features from the cloud with Office 365 can expect to see the communication features of Skype for Business combined with the collaboration features of Teams, operating under the familiar interface of Office 365. Microsoft believes this will help drive the speed of innovation and improve communication between team members.

Your future communications scenario

You can expect a transition process as Microsoft realigns their core communications software platform. Depending on how you currently deploy Skype for Business, this process will vary:

  • Skype for Business on-premises

Microsoft is not planning on changing the on-premises version of the tool at all. They will continue to offer support for Skype for Business Server ‘for the foreseeable future’. A new version of Skype for Business Server is planned for release in the second half of 2018 for those that don’t yet wish to move their communications to the cloud. Microsoft usually offer extended support on their products for up to 10 years, so your investment is secure. It has been recommended that on-premise Skype for Business customers should keep their environments current to ease later upgrades

  • Skype for Business via Office 365

Microsoft will provide extensive support for users during the transition to Teams, and it’s suggested that all Skype for Business customers should start evaluating Teams. Organisations should already be considering how to approach change management and ease user adoption as well as preparing application validation for any line-of-business integrations.

The start of the move from Skype for Business Online to Teams is not scheduled until 2018, so you have ample time to prepare. More information can be found in this TechCommunity Roadmap.

Meet the new team

Ultimately, Microsoft’s decision to integrate Skype for Business Online into Teams is aimed at enabling ongoing improvements to improve collaboration and productivity in your business and with social collaboration platforms such as LinkedIn in the future.

If you haven’t yet explored the collaborative functionality of Teams, now would be a good time to start. The platform has seen several improvements since its launch at the end of 2016:

  • Meetings have been upgraded with Outlook integration and mobile functionality
  • Guest Access allows those outside your company to collaborate with you, and upcoming calling features will allow for inbound and outbound calls to PSTN numbers
  • Audio conferencing enables participants to join a Teams meeting by dialling a telephone number
  • Interoperability between Teams and Skype for Business will mean organisations can message and call between the two platforms.

The interoperability between Teams and Skype for Business, was announced at Microsoft Ignite in September. Platform integration is beginning to take effect and it’s time for you to take advantage of the future of intelligent communications.

For more information on how you can take advantage of Microsoft’s intelligent communications services, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today.