Irwin Lazar
Irwin Lazar is the Vice President and Service Director at Nemertes Research, where he manages research operations, develops and manages...
Read Full Bio >>

Irwin Lazar | October 11, 2018 |


Microsoft Matures Team Strategy at Ignite

Microsoft Matures Team Strategy at Ignite Whereas 2017's Microsoft Ignite conference was disruptive, this year's event focused on execution.

Whereas 2017's Microsoft Ignite conference was disruptive, this year's event focused on execution.

Another Microsoft Ignite conference is in the books, held late last month. This year's communications and collaboration announcements were much more evolutional than in 2017, when the company announced that it was making its Teams app the core of its real-time collaboration strategy, even going so far as to say that it would eliminate Skype for Business within Office 365 and transition those users to Teams.

Since that 2017 announcement, Skype for Business customers, and those evaluating or planning to deploy the UC platform, have been in a bit of a scramble to revamp their go-forward strategies. Many Microsoft customers we work with have put the brakes on plans to roll out Skype for Business as they conduct due diligence on Teams. Those who planned on an on-premises approach are now forced to consider cloud as Microsoft has no intention of delivering an on-premises version of Teams. So what are the takeaways from this year's event?

At Ignite 2018, Microsoft announced several enhancements to Teams, most notably the ability to blur backgrounds in Teams meetings, as well as new capabilities to better manage home and shift workers. Given Microsoft had previously announced calling feature parity with Skype for Business, there wasn't much new to say on the telephony front. (Click here for a complete list of Teams-related announcements).

Microsoft also provided a number of futuristic demos showing Teams room integration with its HoloLens wearable augmented reality devices and an ability to perform real-time language translation during a live meeting in which participants speak in their native tongues. The later provided a clear example of Microsoft's ability to leverage its AI platform within Azure for competitive differentiation.

Most notable was the rapid expansion of Microsoft's third-party partner ecosystem supporting Teams. At Ignite, Polycom announced general availability of its cloud connector for enabling customers to bring their existing videoconferencing endpoints to Teams meetings, while BlueJeans and Pexip said they're going GA with their own solutions this month. Endpoint options continue to grow, as well: Crestron expanded its offerings to include phones and room systems and Plantronics introduced its new Elara endpoint that combines a headset with a mobile phone cradle, while HP, Lenovo, Logitech, and Yealink demoed new conferencing and phone endpoint options. Slower to come is a broad selection of Teams phones, with AudioCodes, Crestron, and Yealink providing the only options.

Nemertes 2018-19 study on team collaboration adoption found that 27.1% of the more than 600 companies studied were already using a team app, while another 31.8% planned to have one in place by the end of 2019. Microsoft was the clear leader, with a 32.9% share of those using team collaboration today, while Cisco Webex Teams (formerly Spark), Slack, and Google Hangouts Chat rounded out the top four.

Interestingly, just 8.5% of participants expected team collaboration apps to replace their existing phone systems, though 42.6% saw the possibility of that happening in the future.

For Microsoft to achieve true success in converting its customer base to a Teams-centric telephony/UC environment, it must address several outstanding concerns:

  • Support for Teams calling and meetings in virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environments -- Today, Skype for Business is widely supported by VDI vendors like Citrix, and on VDI hardware from Dell and others; I expect to see similar support for Teams in the near future
  • Third-party management -- Microsoft must deliver equal support for third-party management platforms from vendors like IR, Nectar, and Unify Square. Even though Teams is cloud-based, IT leaders we speak to tell us that they still expect to maintain an in-house capability to manage performance all the way to the endpoint (and increasingly, the headset), or procure management services from managed services providers
  • E911 -- I expect to see support for third-party E911 solutions from vendors like RedSky and West Safety Services, above and beyond capabilities already available in Teams
  • Broader endpoint support -- This should include a fuller range of phones for a variety of scenarios – for use in public areas, for example, and for vertical solutions like hospitality
  • Increased options for PSTN access -- This would allow customers to completely eliminate their own PSTN access services. Today customers tell us that calling plans for Teams are still too limited in availability, and too expensive to consider

At Ignite 2018, Microsoft demonstrated that it is well on the road toward fulfilling its vision announced in 2017 of making Teams the center of its unified communications world. Over the next year I expect to see even more advancements that bring Teams fully to the level required for enterprise phone system replacement.

Follow Irwin Lazar on Twitter!

Related content:


October 24, 2018

With disparate workplaces and ever-expanding volumes of information to manage, the challenges for collaborating effectively are only intensifying. Many critical applications are not integrated, and

October 10, 2018

Businesses are growing across international borders quicker than ever, but scaling operations to follow suit can be a harder, longer process.

This webinar focuses on scaling your next-generat

September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

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.