Microsoft, Partners Extend Skype for Business

With Enterprise Connect Orlando 2017 as the backdrop and an eye on advancing its "goal of putting communication at the heart of productivity with Skype," Microsoft today unveiled several enhancements and partner solutions for Skype for Business in Office 365.

The enhancements and solutions fall into several areas, including improved voice calling and meeting room experiences, as Ron Markezich, a corporate VP for Office 365 and Enterprise Connect keynoter, outlined in blog post. As a platform for meetings, video, and voice, Skype for Business is core to accelerating "how teams and people build, create or produce, whether it be documents or ideas." And these latest developments "drive greater productivity and simplified management" within Office 365 as well as for on-premises deployments, he wrote.

Internal Developments

For improved routing of incoming voice calls, Microsoft has announced availability of familiar advanced calling features for Skype for Business Cloud PBX -- auto attendant and call queues. These two new features are the latest in a series of voice-related moves Microsoft has made over the past six months, Markezich noted, specifically calling out improvements made to PSTN Conferencing and PSTN Calling, which the company made available in early 2016.

In efforts to create a "complete, enterprise-grade communications solution" in Office 365, Microsoft has delivered iOS CallKit integration and the Skype for Business client for Mac. It's also expanded PSTN Conferencing to more than 90 countries with dial-out to 180 countries, and extended PSTN Calling to France, Spain, and the U.K., with preview currently available in the Netherlands. Additionally, it is supporting connectivity between on-premises and cloud deployments via the Skype for Business Server Cloud Connector edition (see, "Looking at Cloud Connector for Hybrid Skype for Business").

For improved visibility for call support, Microsoft today introduced a preview of Skype for Business Online Call Analytics. From this new dashboard in the Office 365 admin console, IT administrators will be able to spot and address network, headset, and other issues users might have with their calls, Markezich wrote. Developed in response to customer requests for increased visibility into calling data, consolidated into a single system, the Call Analytics dashboard delivers real-time telemetry data IT will be able to use in troubleshooting, he added.

Meantime, Microsoft also has boosted security capabilities of Skype for Business Online, with a variety of authentication-related updates. For example, it now supports multifactor authentication for its command line and scripting environment PowerShell, certificate-based authentication, and custom policies for client management, conferencing, and mobility.

Partnership Push

Markezich also shared, in his post, news coming out of three partners: Polycom and Creston for video meeting rooms, and Enghouse Interactive for business process integration. Details are as follows:

  • Polycom has slated April 17 for general availability in North America of its RealConnect for Office 365 video interoperability service, which enables connectivity between an enterprise's existing video conferencing devices and Skype for Business Online.
  • Crestron is introducing a next-generation Skype Room System, the Crestron SR, which will deliver a full native Skype for Business experience while seamlessly integrating with the Crestron control and AV systems. This is the second next-generation Skype Room System to come to market, Markezich wrote, as the Logitech SmartDock began shipping in late 2016. (For more on this, see "Skype for Business Rooms: the Rigel Effect & Logitech's SmartDock.")
  • Enghouse has released its TouchPoint Attendant, an attendant console that uses Skype for Business for routing inbound customer calls. With TouchPoint Attendant, Enghouse has taken advantage of Skype for Business APIs and SDKs released into general availability in mid-February. (For more on Enghouse's partnership with Microsoft, see, "Microsoft Ignite: Skype for Business Cloud PBX Solutions a Key Focus.")

Enterprise Connect attendees can get more information on Skype for Business at Microsoft's booth, No. 504, during Expo hours (beginning today at 4:00 p.m.), and will hear directly from Markezich during his keynote address Wednesday, March 29, at 10:00 a.m., which promises to explore how enterprises can leverage communication and collaboration to empower people, IT, and organizations on their digital transformation journeys.

Follow Beth Schultz and No Jitter on Twitter and Google+!
@nojitter
@Beth_Schultz
Beth Schultz on Google+