Last year Microsoft launched a new communication and collaboration tool as part of its Office 365 productivity suite. Microsoft Teams offers a wide range of functions, including instant messaging, videoconferencing, public switched telephone conferencing network (PSTN) networking, voice over IP, a shared workspace for Microsoft Office applications and a hub for virtual meetings. Bots are also built in to deliver further productivity benefits, such as the abilities to poll groups of colleagues, create scheduled reports from sources like Salesforce and so on.
The Skype overlap
Many of these functions will already sound familiar to users of Skype for Business, which Microsoft acquired back in 2011. Indeed, many of the new features added to Teams in the months after its launch seemingly focused on making it morelike Skype for Business – better calendar integrations, for example.
Of course, Microsoft is far too business-savvy to be intending to run two highly overlapping applications for long. The ultimate plan is for Microsoft Teams to evolve into a centralised hub for intelligent, integrated, unified communication, replacing Skype for Business altogether.
This makes sense. Since Microsoft Teams is now a standard part of the Office 365 suite, and since a significant proportion of organisations are shifting to Office 365 as part of a broader cloud migration plan, an evolution of Skype for Business into Microsoft Teams should ultimately mean that businesses have fewer moving parts to worry about. Furthermore, unlike Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams has been built from the ground up as a tool for group communication and co-working. It is truly a specialist enabler of collaboration, whether between groups within an organisation, or between that organisation and third parties.
What does your evolution look like?
That’s all very well if Skype for Business isn’t currently part of your organisation. Start using Office 365 (which you should be seriously considering anyway as part of a broader cloud strategy) and you will get Microsoft Teams as a matter of course. The platform is very much in development, so you will be able to enjoy new rich features and benefits over the coming months, as Microsoft brings its co-working, collaborative tool to life. This is the recommended course of action even if you have been seriously considering a deployment of Skype for Business, since the tool will ultimately become obsolete.
But what if you are already deploying Skype for Business?
From the launch of Teams, Microsoft began shifting Skype for Business’s backend servers to run a version of the platform. Whilst it is still deploying an on-premise version of the Skype for Business, now is the time to familiarise yourself with the Office 365 product roadmap, and consider when the best transitioning point will be for your organisation.
As Microsoft underline, the first course of action should be optimising your existing Skype for Business environment for Microsoft Teams, both from a technological andan organisational perspective. On the technological side, you need to carry out a network readiness assessment, identify any new ports or protocols you will require, and deploy the required Office 365 services, such as Exchange Online. On the organisational side, you need to consider the internal communications and training that will be required around the new deployment – just like any other IT change programme.
Next, you should pilot Teams alongside Skype for Business, probably in a select part of your organisation where you can mirror how your users already communicate and collaborate. A number of deployment scenarios are available for Teams, including running the two platforms side by side; a pilot will help you identify the most appropriate path.
Once you have enabled Teams throughout your organisation, it is critical to continue driving value through user adoption – promoting the new tool throughout your organisation, offering training, support and guidance wherever necessary, and setting up new workflows and practices where Teams offers relevant functionality. This phase of the evolution to Teams is actually likely to be the longest, and will typically require change management stakeholders to drive it through.
For further advice on the evolution of Skype for Business into Microsoft Teams, and what it could mean for your organisation, get in touch with us today.