Brian Riggs
Brian is a member of Ovum's Enterprise team, tracking emerging trends, technologies, and market dynamics in the unified communications and...
Read Full Bio >>

Brian Riggs | February 14, 2018 |


The Road to Microsoft Teams: The Journey Begins

The Road to Microsoft Teams: The Journey Begins Replacing Skype for Business Online with Teams will take place over a period of months, or even years.

Replacing Skype for Business Online with Teams will take place over a period of months, or even years.

As you know by now, Microsoft Teams is replacing Skype for Business Online as the UC client for Office 365. Where Skype for Business Online today provides access to chat, conferencing, and PBX telephony features, Teams will provide access to all that plus Slack-like, Spark-like, Circuit-like, WhatHaveYou-like team collaboration.

But the transition won't happen overnight, either for Microsoft or for you. For Microsoft, there's a 12-month roadmap that the company has just started delivering on. So let's see what's in store for Microsoft shops that sooner or later will need to start in on their Skype-to-Teams journey. (And in this blog let's stay focused on Skype for Business Online. Skype for Business Server is on a rather different trajectory and integration with Teams will be different.)

Preferred UC App
First off, replacing Skype for Business Online with Teams won't happen suddenly for most enterprises. It will take place over a period of months, or even years. There'll be an awkward period where Teams will be first doing a little, then more, then most, and finally all of what Skype for Business Online has been doing UC-wise for the past few years. Eventually, the Skype for Business Online client will disappear and only Teams will remain. Until then IT departments can designate which telephony features traditionally part of Skype for Business Online will be available from Teams.

They'll do this via the new Skype for Business Online management tool called Teams interop policy. Via this tool, IT can assign either Teams or Skype for Business as the preferred app for chat and calling.

  • If Skype for Business is set up as the preferred app, it's pretty much status quo. Teams is available to the user, just like it is now, for things like persistent messaging. But incoming calls and chats route to the Skype for Business client, presenting users with their familiar, and comfortable, UC UI
  • If Teams is set up as the preferred app, then incoming calls ring the Teams client and incoming chats -- whether from Teams or Skype for Business users -- trigger a Teams popup. The Skype for Business client is still there to use, and in some cases -- at least in the near term -- it will be needed. But users are now being weaned off of it in favor of Teams.

IT can designate a preferred UC app on a per-user basis or across the entire organization. In the latter scenario, Teams can first be set up as the default UC client just for IT, letting IT test it and work out kinks as needed. Then IT can make Teams the default UC client for a pilot group outside the department, making sure users are comfortable with the app before making it the default client company-wide.

This is fantastic since different companies are certain to embrace Teams at different speeds. IT departments can give power users Teams complete with whatever Phone System features it supports, while holding off delivering it to employees who aren't ready for it.

Teams-Skype for Business Interop
With a mix of Teams and Skype for Business Online users in the cards for most enterprises, interoperability between the two will be critical. For now, Teams and Skype for Business Online users can:

  • Chat with each other
  • Set up point-to-point calls with each other
  • Forward and transfer calls to each other

Interop isn't just between Teams and Skype for Business Online. It can be between Teams and Skype for Business Server too... but only if Skype for Business Server connects to Skype for Business Online in a hybrid topology. So, if you have a big Server deployment and want it to work with Teams, you've gotta have Online in the mix. Because Microsoft wants all of you Server shops off of Server and onto its cloud toot sweet.

What a Teams user sees when YT-ing a Skype for Business user. (Notice that the Teams client shows Babek's presence state. I'm not sure what's going on here since Babek uses Skype and shared presence between Teams and Skype isn't supported yet. Maybe Babek also runs Teams and that's where the presence comes from?)

Other interop restrictions between Teams and Skype for Business Online mean users can't:

  • View each other's presence
  • Set up multiparty chats with each other
  • Escalate point-to-point calls to multiparty calls involving both clients
  • Transfer files to one another
  • Share screens

Further, when a Teams user chats with a Skype for Business user, that chat session isn't persistent. And a point-to-point call between a Teams and Skype for Business user can't be escalated to a multiparty call that includes a mixed set of users.

These restrictions may feel very... well, restrictive. But we should remember that in September 2017 Microsoft hit the reset button on its UC product strategy. Two years ago, the company was at the beginning of a long-term roadmap that led to Skype for Business Online Cloud PBX reaching (and possibly exceeding) feature parity with the richer set of Enterprise Voice features that have long been available in Skype for Business Server.

Microsoft has since scrapped that plan. Now Microsoft is at the beginning on a long-term strategy that leads to Teams Phone System reaching (and possibly exceeding) feature parity with the Phone System (nee Cloud PBX) features that have been available in Skype for Business Online.

Over the next several months we will see many -- perhaps even all -- of these restrictions melt away. And after that, as Teams takes the reins from Skype for Business Online and becomes Office 365's sole UC client, interoperability between the two will be a moot point.

Hopefully at that point Microsoft will start to address interoperability between Phone System and third-party PBXs of both the hosted and on-premises variety. Because with Phone System targeted at enterprises, not SMBs, complicated, multivendor telephony environments will be the norm. Certainly some will take an "out with the old, in with the new" approach to Phone System. But many more will need to transition more gradually -- as gradually as Microsoft is expecting businesses with Skype for Business Server Enterprise Voice to transition to Teams Phone System. So interoperability really needs to be about more than making old and new Microsoft tech work well together.

Editor's note: The screen capture in this article has been updated from the original posted.)

Learn more about Team Collaboration at Enterprise Connect 2018, March 12 to 15, in Orlando, Fla. Register now using the code NOJITTER to save an additional $200 off the Early Bird Pricing, which expires this Friday, Feb. 16, or get a free Expo Plus pass.

Follow Brian Riggs on Twitter and Google+!
Brian Riggs on Google+


June 20, 2018

Your enterprise may have adopted SIP Trunks, but are you up to date on how the latest technology is driving evolution in approaches?

In this webinar, youll learn how the new generation of SI

June 6, 2018

The two largest strategic vendors-Cisco and Microsoft-have been busy making changes to their enterprise communications roadmaps, incorporating collaboration applications as fundamental components.

May 23, 2018

If Cisco is a critical strategic supplier for you, then its vital for you to understand the most recent announcements around Webex Teams, and how to build your migration path for the next generatio

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.