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Microsoft Teams: Looking Forward Into 2020


Picture of a brick wall being built
Image: Alexander Borisenko -
By all accounts and measures, Microsoft Teams is gaining momentum. In order to best understand what is likely ahead for Teams in 2020, it is useful to first look back.
2019 was a very good year for Microsoft Teams:
1. Number of Teams active users exceeds that of Slack
In July, Microsoft announced that Teams had 13 million daily active users (DAUs) and 19 million weekly users. The DAU number was most noteworthy because it exceeded the 10 million DAUs Slack had previously announced.
Teams went from zero to leading in its category in under three years — two years and eight months, to be precise. (Microsoft announced Teams on Nov. 2, 2016, and last year shared the DAU statistics for the first time — on July 11.)
In a somewhat weak response, Slack announced in October that the number of DAUs had risen to 12 million; at the same time, it claimed that Slack active users were more “active” than Teams users. Microsoft then pulled further ahead, announcing 20 million DAUs in November.
Beyond counting active users, Slack claimed that “more than 65 companies in the Fortune 100 use Slack” while Microsoft claimed that “Teams is now used by 500,000 organizations, including 91 of the Fortune 100.” Again the win goes to Microsoft. However, keep in mind that this is very different than having an organization standardized on a particular toolset. I have long contended that someone in a Fortune 100 or Fortune 500 company uses virtually every application.
2. Teams REALLY achieved feature parity with Skype for Business
The nuances between “scenario parity” and “feature parity” are subtle yet important. Microsoft earlier had been overly aggressive in declaring Teams as having capabilities that truly matched those of an on-premises Skype for Business deployment. It often would compare Teams to the lesser capabilities of Skype for Business Online, sometimes strategically (?) omitting the “Online” identifier.
And yet, despite any initial confusion, in 2019 Microsoft truly enabled Teams to provide the enterprise-grade capabilities required by most organizations currently using Skype for Business. This is a noteworthy accomplishment.
3. The Skype for Business community embraced Teams
Initially IT experts who had invested time and energy understanding first Office Communications Server (OCS) then Lync then Skype for Business, all deployed utilizing the standard and design-intensive, on-premises architecture, appeared reluctant to embrace the cloud-only Teams solution. I frequently chided my Skype for Business MVP colleagues, suggesting they sounded like the supporters of legacy PBXs (remember the Nortel CS1000?) when OCS first arrived on the scene.
Change is hard. Conformational and status quo bias is strong. But in 2019, the majority of the Skype for Business community transitioned to supporting and recognizing Teams as the future.
4. Key third-party vendors started integrating with Teams
The success of Teams led to an increase in the number of third-party platform providers — including some direct competitors — that announced integrations. This included many of the leading contact center vendors, Cisco with Webex, Zoom, and almost every meeting room hardware vendor (Poly, Logitech, Crestron, HP, Yealink, Lenovo, etc.)
Building on the solid foundation delivered in 2019, Teams is poised to excel in several areas during 2020:
1. Increasing enterprise-focused capabilities
This year Microsoft will continue to expand the broad capabilities of Office 365 and the specific voice and meeting capabilities of Teams:
  • Read receipts — when you send a message, you'll get a Seen confirmation icon in Teams to the right of the message
  • Phone system administration features
  • Additional local storage and compliance features
  • More flexible data retention periods — Compliance administrators will be able to set a Teams chats retention policy as low as one day
  • Enhanced conference options — Any user who schedules a Teams meeting will now see a new setting in Meeting Options page of a meeting to control the announcement sound when a PSTN/dial-in participant joins or leaves the meeting
2. More unique front-line worker features
Teams already provides unique capabilities for front-line workers (or firstline workers, as Microsoft likes to call them):
  • Managers can create, update, and manage shift schedules for teams. They can send messages to one person ("there's a spill in aisle 3") or the entire team ("reminder: fire drill in 20 minutes"). They can also send policy documents, news bulletins, and videos to staff.
  • Employees can view their upcoming shifts, see who else is scheduled for the day, request to swap or offer a shift, and request time off.
  • Verticals have unique capabilities, such as priority notification assist for Teams use in medical environments
Firstline worker capabilities will continue to expand in 2020, including a new push-to-talk function that provides the ability to have instantaneous voice communications among a defined group of users.
3. Teams as a development platform
Teams is designed to be deeply configurable and extensible so that it can serve as a “universal hub” while simultaneously honoring a philosophy that each team is unique in how it works and delivers results. I’ve always described Teams as foremost a platform that allows developers and non-developers to streamline business processes. This is what I’ve referred to as Teams’ superpower.
During 2020, Teams will continue to enable further capabilities via PowerApps (the no-code and low-code tools that help automate business processes).
4. Analytics and AI
For organizations that use the Office 365 bundle that includes Teams, the Microsoft Office Graph provides unique and unparalleled organization data. This includes MyAnalytics, and Workplace Analytics. MyAnalytics helps users understand their work patterns and learn ways to work smarter — improving focus, wellbeing, network, and collaboration. Workplace Analytics purports to provide a dynamic view into collaboration patterns, empowering organizations to act with agility, improve employee experience, and sharpen customer focus.
According to Microsoft, more than 90% of all Fortune 500 organizations have data in Graph.
From personal experience, leveraging the rich analytics available from Teams (and Skype for Business if you are still transitioning) is the secret to delivering world-class quality, reliability and user satisfaction.
Microsoft leverages the analytics available in Teams in order to deliver an increasing number of AI features, including real-time text-to-speech captions and meeting recording transcripts, both in an increasing number of languages.
By almost every measure, 2019 was a great year for Teams and 2020 appears to be shaping up to build on this momentum.
While Teams is not the right choice for every organization, almost every organization should take the time to consider its pros and cons as they evaluate their future communications and collaboration strategy.
If you are interested in understanding the latest Microsoft Teams capabilities and how to best leverage these capabilities to help you and your organization be successful, please join me at Enterprise Connect 2020 for my session, “Taming Teams: Making Microsoft Teams Work for Collaboration, Voice, and Meetings,” taking place Monday, March 30, at 2:00 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. You can use the registration code NOJITTER to get a discount off the standard registration fee.