At Microsoft Ignite, Microsoft presented their new vision for Intelligent Communications, which they say will transform “calling and meeting experiences for people and organisations around the world”. It sees Unified Communications utilising Artificial Intelligence in the shape of, for instance, bots and natural language processing, high fidelity content capture, speech and translation services, smarter video and much more. Key to the vision is Microsoft’s new central platform: Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft Teams becomes Microsoft’s central hub for work and collaboration
As announced by Microsoft, Teams will become Microsoft’s primary communications and collaboration client in Office 365, eventually replacing Skype for Business Online. The shift to Microsoft Teams provides more seamless integration of Microsoft’s communication capabilities, enabling users to have one single place for their conversations, contacts and content, and allowing them to benefit from various AI tools. For more information on Microsoft Teams, have a quick look at the videos from Microsoft below.
Microsoft Teams expected to outperform Skype for Business Online
Microsoft’s new roadmap for Microsoft Teams shows which features are expected to be added, and when. As announced during Microsoft Ignite, the roadmap clearly depicts that features of Skype for Business Online will be included in coming releases of Microsoft Teams. Microsoft’s aim is to reach full feature parity between Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business Online within the coming 12 to 18 months, as well as develop additional features for Teams. According to the roadmap, significant Skype features will be included in Teams by Q2 2018. Specifically, these include:
- Messaging: Screen sharing during chat and federation between companies
- Meetings: Meeting room support with Skype Room Systems and cloud video interoperability capabilities that allow third party meeting room devices to connect to Teams meetings
- Calling: Use of your existing telco voice line to activate calling services in Office 365
In addition to incorporating Skype Online features, future releases of Microsoft Teams will also introduce new features centred on AI, thereby eventually surpassing Skype Online. In a first step, these features will include call recording and storage in Teams, added transcription and the ability to search meetings for key terms. The features will be rolled out from the end of Q2 2018 onwards.
Skype for Business Online and Skype for Business Server will be maintained
The new focus on Microsoft Teams does not mean the immediate end of Skype for Business. Skype Online will, for sure, be maintained for a while. However, the focus of innovation for new features will clearly be on Microsoft Teams. That said, there will be an updated version of Skype Online in Office 2019, scheduled to be released in the second half of 2018. Also, Microsoft announced that they will release a new version of the Skype Server in 2019, guaranteeing its maintenance and support for at least five more years. It’s likely that there will be another release extending the product’s support by an additional five years, but this is not confirmed at this point.
So what does this mean for you and your business?
First of all, don’t panic! For now, you do not have to do anything. If you’re using Skype for Business Online you will eventually have to migrate to Microsoft Teams but you can decide when and how. It’s a journey you can plan, commence and complete at your own pace. And of course, as Office 365 experts, we’re happy to provide assistance wherever you need it.
Here’s some things to keep in mind once you get started:
1. Planning – There’s no rush
For at least the coming few years you have a choice: you can stay on Skype for Business or migrate to Microsoft Teams. When considering this, look at what makes sense to you, your business and your employees. Skype Server will exist for at least five more years, and Skype for Business Online and Microsoft Teams will coexist for a while, with no dates yet given for a definite withdrawal of Skype Online. Let us know your specific situation and our team will sit down with you and help you make a plan that fits your exact needs.
2. Deployment – You have options
Once you decide you’re ready to move to Microsoft Teams, you have full control over the deployment including scale, speed and complexity. Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams are fully interoperable, meaning you can use both at the same time within your business. This is true for both Skype for Business Online and Skype Server which can be integrated with Microsoft Teams in hybrid. You can thus pilot Microsoft Teams in small groups of employees alongside Skype for Business without any interruption of your internal workflows.If you’re satisfied with the pilot, you can move all employees from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams at your own pace, depending on your requirements. You could also elect to move to a hybrid deployment where Skype handles voice and Teams handles team collaboration. Our implementation team can assist you with any deployment regarding Office 365 as well as Skype Server.
3. Adoption – Your employees can choose
Just as you need time for committing to a new tool, so do your employees. Working with a communications tool like Skype for Business is fundamentally different from working with a team collaboration tool like Microsoft Teams – it requires a different style of working. The adoption of the new tool will therefore take time and requires proper change management. Microsoft Teams helps to smooth the transition by giving employees the option to host and join their meetings using Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams, while both solutions are available. To ensure a successful transition to Teams, it is vital to move the right people at the right time. Our organisational change management teams can help you with that.