Microsoft Teams, Microsoft's strategy & what about Skype for Business
By Elliot Heath
Last week saw the first anniversary of the worldwide launch of Microsoft Teams. Throughout the last year, Teams has seen significant growth in its features and capabilities and user adoption, Microsoft says that nearly a quarter of a million organisations around the globe use Teams and cite some significant logo successes too with the likes of A.O. Moller-Maersk, NASCAR, Technicolor and more recently General Motors.
What is interesting about these big companies & Microsoft Teams, is that while the use cases may be different, Microsoft Teams is addressing a commonplace problem; Intelligent Communication and Collaboration.
Notice the term Intelligent Communication, sure we all communicate using instant messaging, telephony and more but its quite often siloed and stagnant, in recent years some excellent solutions have popped up; Yammer, Skype for Business, Whatsapp and Slack being some of the most commonly recognised and used. The new challenge, however, is that we are now shifting gears in our daily workflow and jumping between different applications, services and devices. What Microsoft is trying to do is bring all of this together into one central intelligent hub – a digital workspace for collaboration across your business and with external clients and suppliers.
Microsoft has made their strategy very clear, Microsoft Teams is where this will happen and where their focus will be, Teams will eventually incorporate all Skype for Business’s current functionality and a whole lot more!
Now take a breath before you start to Panic – we like Skype, and I do mean really like it, when we made our switch from Google over 3 years ago (as of writing this post) we were nervous as we had grown to love (and often not love so much) Hangouts, real-time collaboration in Google Docs, Sheets etc.
However we saw the potential of Skype for Business and invested heavily in it – today it runs almost all of our communications, from instant messaging, conference calls, webinars and traditional telephony – whenever you speak to us here at Appliant, we will more than likely be using Skype for Business to facilitate the conversation.
Moreover, are we worried or panicking about this change?
No, and let me tell you why;
While Skype for Business is a fantastic tool – it is still an isolated communication tool, we have used Yammer, Sharepoint, even Slack and Telegram as these are the tools of choice for some of our clients. The challenge is that each application serves a specific purpose and while some have more integrations than others, none a single hub or starting point for collaboration to get them working as a centralised hub is difficult, time-consuming and not that great of a solution.
Also, these modern tools do not work across the different generations and personalities in the workplace, some people prefer IM, others Email and some still like to pick up the phone and talk (yes we love that too). Moreover, so we have to resort to jumping in and out of applications and services which leads to weaker productivity. The workplace is changing at a rapid pace; businesses so often struggle to retain younger generational rising talent because they have not made enough of a cultural shift in more flexible working and leveraging modern cloud technology to collaborate, communicate and be productive.
With all this said you might be worried about Teams, some of the common concerns we hear from clients is the perceived lack of control as people start creating their own team's sites, channels and more. The reality is that more often than not your employees are already using tools that you did not implement or approve and the information is already being shared outside of your control. By using teams, you are providing a familiar toolset to your employees and retaining control within Microsoft Office 365. The workplace is changing at a rapid pace; companies struggle to attract and retain new talent one of the most significant challenges is providing a collaborative environment.
Microsoft Teams has integrations with a wide variety of third-party products and services with more being added continuously. It is worth noting that you still have full control of Teams and can turn on and off various services.
Looking at Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams Capabilities Roadmap, you will see that 2018 will eventually see a fully integrated collaboration and intelligent communications hub. Microsoft's vision for intelligent communication and collaboration is their Teams product. By the end of this year, we will see almost all of Skype for Business functionality integrated into Teams.
There is also an interoperability roadmap between Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams, so this is a great way of slowly introducing Teams into your business. Our advice if you're already using Skype for Business is to run Teams in tandem until it provides the Skype for Business functionality needed for your to make the switch. If you are not using Skype for Business, then we would strongly advise starting with Microsoft Teams. It's important to note Skype for Business is not being discontinued and Microsoft are still supporting it on-premise, and in Microsoft Office 365, however, Teams is the focal point of feature development, and new features will not be developed into Skype for Business.
We hope this article gives you a better understanding of Microsoft Teams and what to expect in the future, what do you currently use in your workplace? Are you considering implementing a tool like teams? Let us know in the comments section below.